Top 5 Cold Weather Cocktails

cocktail-1705561_1920As much as it depresses me to admit it, especially after the two weeks of balmy, summer-like temperatures we just had here in the Hudson Valley, it looks like we’re in for a cold weekend. But don’t disappear into your blanket cocoon just yet, because nothing helps to keep out the chill like a strong, boozy, winter cocktail.

Don’t get me wrong – no one is saying you can’t drink a Manhattan on a 90-degree day, but sweating profusely over a glass of bourbon is as deeply unpleasant as it is a great way to give yourself a headache. Cocktails like the ones I’m about to mention are best enjoyed while sitting by the fireplace after shoveling the driveway or after a long day of cross-country skiing.

Anyway, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are 5 cocktails that are perfect for when it’s too cold to do anything but sit inside and have a drink.

Manhattan
Having been around since the 1800s, the Manhattan is about as classic a cocktail as you can make. There’s a lot of debate about which whiskey and which vermouth make the best Manhattan – some swear by rye whiskey, while others use bourbon for a slightly sweeter cocktail. Then there’s the question of whether it’s wasteful to make a cocktail with top-shelf whiskey. The bottom line is cheap whiskey won’t ruin your Manhattan, but good whiskey will make it that much better.

Ingredients
2 oz. Rye whiskey (Tuthilltown Spirits Manhattan Rye is fantastic)
1 oz. Sweet vermouth (extra points for Carpano Antica Formula)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry (optional but highly recommended)

Directions
Combine the rye, vermouth, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake or stir well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. (Variations: swap out the rye whiskey for scotch, and you have a Rob Roy. Use 1/2 oz. sweet and 1/2 oz. dry vermouth and it’s a Perfect Manhattan.) [Recipe from Chowhound.]

Suburban
I stumbled across this cocktail while researching variations on the Manhattan, and by the time I finished drinking my first Suburban, I continued to stumble for the rest of the night. This heavy hitter got me through the brutally cold winter of 2014 and is still one of my favorites.

Ingredients
1 1/2 oz. Rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Dark rum (try it with Albany Distilling Co Quackenbush Stillhouse Rum)
1/2 oz Port
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Directions
Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. (Variations: none. It’s perfect – don’t mess with it.) [Recipe from Esquire.]

Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Buttered Rum might be the quintessential winter cocktail, right after Robitussin in Gatorade and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. While it’s delicious in its classic form, the nice thing about it is that you can replace the rum with pretty much whatever brown spirit you have in your cabinet.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)
2 cups water
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup dark rum (Myers, Gosling’s, or Appleton Estate work great)

Directions
Combine water, butter, brown sugar, and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the rum. (Variations: replace the rum with bourbon, rye, scotch, brandy, or añejo tequila.) [Recipe from Epicurious.]

Moscow Mule
This spicy cocktail is especially effective at getting the chill out if you use a good, spicy ginger beer, like Reed’s Extra Ginger or Natural Brew Outrageous Ginger Ale.

Ingredients
2 oz. Vodka (Peace Vodka from Catskill Distilling Company is a great option)
1/2 oz. Fresh lime juice
3 oz. Ginger beer
Lime wedge for garnish

Directions
Combine vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a mug filled with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime slice. [Recipe from The New York Times.]

Lagavulin, neat
While not for everyone, Lagavulin is undoubtedly one of the quickest ways to warm up on a blustery winter night. This cocktail is by far the most challenging on this list to make, so read the directions carefully.

Ingredients
Lagavulin 16 (amount may vary)

Directions
Pour Lagavulin 16 into your favorite glass. Add nothing. Sip slowly. [Recipe from Ron Swanson.]

Is your favorite winter cocktail missing from this list? Let us know in a comment or give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter!

Spirits Review: Industry Standard Vodka

Let me start this review by saying that before this past year or so, I wasn’t overly fond of vodka. More accurately, I hated, feared, and avoided it at all costs. My first experience with this spirit was all-too-typical – I drank way, way, way too much of it when it was mixed with a terrible combination of other ingredients, which I will not mention here. This experience kept me far away from vodka for several years, until, as luck would have it, I found a job at Stone Ridge Wine & Spirits.

Since then, vodka and I have reconciled. In the last year, I’ve tried quite a few vodkas, ranging from the classics, like Absolut, Ketel One, and Stolichnaya, to slightly more obscure brands like Tito’s, Sobieski, and Russian Standard, to the ultra-small-batch, boutique vodkas, like Tuthilltown Spirits‘ Indigenous, Harvest Spirits‘ Core, and the subject of today’s review, Industry City Distillery’s Industry Standard.

I won’t go too much into this vodka’s background, since its creators did such a great job of detailing it on their beautifully designed website, but I will say that it is distilled in Brooklyn, New York from American-grown sugar beets. I’ve heard of vodka being made with wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, and even apples, but this is the first I’ve heard of sugar beet vodka, so for me, this was a must-try.

Stats

Packaging: 750ml bottle

Proof: 40% alcohol (80 proof)

Price: $37.99 + tax

Appearance

As with pretty much any other vodka, Industry Standard is perfectly clear. A quick swirl coats the glass and produces slowly descending legs. Worth mentioning is the bottle, which looks like it should be used for lab chemicals rather than vodka.

At first glance, this looked a bit like a warning label.

At first glance, this looked a bit like a warning label.

Aroma

You have probably never had a vodka that smells like Industry Standard. This vodka exhibits a candy-like nose with hints of butterscotch and vanilla bean, with just enough of an alcohol burn on the finish to remind you of what you’re about to drink.

Taste

The first sip is remarkably smooth – almost so smooth that you could mistake it for water, if not for the pepper that begins building on the tongue after a few seconds. Following the pepper are lasting notes of vanilla and fresh fennel, which finally give way to a clean, mineral finish. I find that a lot of different vodkas just taste like, well, vodka, and only for a second, and then they’re gone, almost as if you’d never taken a sip in the first place. This vodka’s viscosity allows for its flavors to hang on a bit longer than a lot of its peers, making it a perfect slow sipper.

Final Thoughts

If you really like vodka, you should definitely try Industry Standard. If you don’t really like vodka, you should try Industry Standard. I’ve had vodkas that were smooth, delicious, and even some that were unique, but I’ve never had one that was this complex. As for how to serve it, I have to agree with the recommendation on the bottle – “Try it neat.”

Our next installation of “let’s drink the things you’ve been scared of since college” will be a triple review of the Blanco, Reposado, and Añejo offerings from Arrogante Tequila.