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8 Essential Winter Cocktails to Warm You Up

8 Essential Winter Cocktails to Warm You Up

It’s shaping up to be an unseasonably frigid winter for most of the contiguous 48, and it seems most of us have given up on trying to find any real way out of it. Luckily, when finding real solutions to life’s impossible problems doesn’t work out, we can always rely on a good cocktail to help ease our frustrations.

But what should we be tossing back? We obviously can’t start downing pitchers of margaritas (Technically, we can always start downing pitchers of margaritas, regardless of the weather), and a mint julep just doesn’t make sense in 5-degree weather.

Luckily, there are a lot of cold-weather options to hold us over until the world thaws out again. Here are 8 Essential Cocktails to Keep You Cozy This Winter

Hot Toddy

The Hot Toddy is a drink everyone has heard of, but not one people actually drink on the regular. For the life of us, we don’t understand why.

The classic Hot Toddy is exceptionally simple to make, and includes little more than hot water, whiskey, honey, lemon and a bit of cinnamon if you’re feeling a little spicy. It’s served hot, and if you’re sick, is a perfect way to ease congestion and clear out the sinuses (and get some sleep). Of course, it’s also just an excellent alternative to boring old tea on those frigid far-below-freezing nights ahead. All you do is heat the water in a saucepan or teakettle, pour it into a mug, and then add whiskey, honey and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with lemon slice and cinnamon stick. Boom!

  •      ¾ Cup of water
  •      1 ½ Ounces of whiskey
  •      Honey to taste (2-3 teaspoons)
  •      Lemon juice to taste (2-3 teaspoons)
  •      1 lemon slice
  •      1 cinnamon stick (Optional)

The Martinez

One of those really old turn-of-the-century cocktails, The Martinez made its first round sometime in the 1880s, and gained popularity and notoriety as not quite a Manhattan, but also not a martini. This cocktail uses gin and vermouth like a standard gin martini, but sweet vermouth instead of dry, which gives it an entirely different feel. The sweet vermouth, mixed with the bar spoon of maraschino and dash or orange bitters gives it a distinctly Manhattan-esque flavor, but the gin keeps things lighter and crisp. It’s the perfect cocktail to sit inside and sip on one of those painfully bitter cold nights, and it’s simple as hell to make. Stir the ingredients together with ice, strain into a coupe glass and serve garnished with an orange twist. That’s it.

  •      2 Ounces of gin
  •      ¾ Ounces of sweet vermouth
  •      1 Bar spoon of maraschino
  •      1 Dash of orange bitters

Vanilla Cider Cocktail

We’re not big into the frilly-foo-foo drinks, but this is a very tasty bulk cocktail that can be served up for groups on those chilly nights around the fire. Prep time is a joke, and the finished product is superb. Heat non-alcoholic cider in a pot over medium heat. While that’s going on, pour an ounce or two of vodka into your mugs, followed by a quarter bottle of the alcoholic cider of your preference. Once the regular cider is heated up (you don’t want to boil it; just get it to a simmer), combine it in the mugs. Top with a dab of whipped cream, and enjoy. It might sound a little weird, but trust us on this one—don’t knock it ‘til ya try it!

  •      2 Cups apple cider
  •      4 Ounces vanilla vodka
  •      1 Can/Bottle of hard apple cider
  •      Whipped cream

The Manhattan

When most people think cold weather cocktails, they usually end up with something brown. That’s why you’ll see The Manhattan on damn near every winter cocktail list out there—and we are no exception. Not for lack of effort, but because it really is the quintessential winter cocktail. And it’s easy to make at home, whether you’re an experienced mixologist or just a guy looking to warm up from the miserable cold.

The setup is very similar to The Martinez, ironically enough. In fact, they’re practically the same cocktail, save for some maraschino and the whole gin thing. Combine your rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of angostura bitters in a glass with ice, give it a good stir, and then strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish it with a cherry, and call it a day. Of course, if you feel like borrowing a nod from The Martinez, you could add a little maraschino to it for a little more sweetness, too—your choice!

  •      2 Ounces of rye whiskey
  •      1 Ounce of sweet vermouth
  •      5 Dashes of Angostura bitters

Harvest Moon

We’re kinda-sorta cheating with this one. It’s considered more of an autumn cocktail, but we really believe it’s good any time the temps dip. Anyway, the Harvest Moon incorporates two of our favorite booze on the planet: Rye whiskey and calvados. Calvados is an apple brandy produced in France, and it’s a wonderful way to infuse some of the more seasonal apple, vanilla, and spice notes characteristic of chilly winter/holiday drinks. It also features a bit of Meletti (an Italian Amaro), and a cacao tincture (the cocktail does just fine without it, but we’d be remiss not to make note). It takes a little work to put together, but the end result is truly something fantastic:

Take your rye and calvados, and mix it with the Meletti and the cacao tincture. Combine it into a mixing glass with ice, give it a stir, and strain it into a rocks glass—preferably with one large cocktail cube. Garnish with an orange peel, and enjoy!

  •      1 Ounce of rye whiskey
  •      1 Ounce of calvados apple brandy
  •      ½ Ounce of Meletti
  •      8 Drops of cacao tincture
  •      Orange peel garnish

As per the original recipe, making the cacao tincture is actually pretty easy: Combine 1 ounce of raw cacao nibs and 3 ounces of a neutral grain spirit in a small, sealed jar. Let it sit for a few days, shaking it for a little bit each day. Start tasting it in the second day, and once it has the cacao flavor you want, strain it and store it in a small bottle.

The New York Sour

We tend to think a traditional whiskey sour an all-season cocktail, but this particular twist on it is something we’d only enjoy in the colder winter months—and enjoy it, we do.  To make your Whiskey Sour a New York Whiskey Sour, you top it with a fruitier red wine—like Beaujolais or Shiraz. The wine melds well with the bourbon and the lemon juice to offer something delightfully familiar, but with a distinct wintry twist to it. And once you get the pour right, this approachable cocktail makes for a beautiful looking drink to show off at parties, for dates or among friends.

You simply take the bourbon, simple syrup and lemon juice, shake it and strain it over ice into an old fashioned glass. Then, very carefully, you take a spoon, place it over the rim of the glass (as close as you can get to the liquid already in the glass), and gently float the red wine on top.

  •      2 Ounces of bourbon
  •      ¾ Ounces of lemon juice
  •      ¾ Ounces of simple syrup
  •      Red wine to float

Applejack Sazerac

The traditional Sazerac is a very complex and interesting classic cocktail that, if we could describe in few words as possible, would call interesting and not for the weak of heart. It’s simple enough, and involves whiskey, sugar, two different types of bitters and even absinthe to lock down right.

The Applejack Sazerac, however, is one of our absolute favorite cold weather cocktails and, while we’re not the biggest fans of absinthe, all the ingredients pair exceptionally well. It’s made with the typical rye whiskey, simple syrup, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, and a small bit of absinthe (a tiny barspoon’s full, just for cracks), but the sugar cubes are replaced with maple syrup, and the rye whiskey shares its space with some Laird’s Bonded “Apple Jack” Brandy. Laird’s is a real tough sort of brandy (also not for the weak of heart), but in this cocktail, it gives things just enough of the apple undertones to really accentuate the maple flavor, the lemon twist and the bitters.

We’d also go far as saying the absinthe plays such an insignificant role in this recipe (it’s literally just used to coat the glass), that you are free to omit it, if you’d wish.

Anyway, once you have all the ingredients together, the drink is easy enough. In a mixing glass, add bitters, maple syrup, rye and Laird’s Apple Jack, along with a copious amount of ice. Stir vigorously. If you want to use absinthe, take a barspoon’s worth, toss it into your empty old-fashioned glass, swirl it around to coat the glass, and then immediately discard it. Strain the mixture into the coated old-fashioned glass, rim the glass with lemon peel and either discard or use on the side as garnish.

  •      1 Ounce of rye whiskey
  •      1 Ounce of Laird’s “Apple Jack” Brandy
  •      ¼ Ounce of maple syrup
  •      2 Dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
  •      2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters
  •      Barspoon absinthe
  •      Lemon twist

Irish Coffee

Last but not least, you know there was no way in hell we’d be putting together a wintry cocktail roundup without including the quintessential manliest winter “cocktail” in history: The Irish coffee.

You’ll find them served a bunch of different ways with all types of unnecessary frills and thrills, but we listed quite a few recipes like that above. Instead, we’re going to keep this one basic:

Coffee, whiskey and some brown sugar. If you really want to do it up a bit extra, you can add a little cream or whipped cream to the mixture, but that’s optional.

  •      4 Ounces of your favorite strong coffee
  •      1 ½ Ounces of Irish whiskey
  •      2 Teaspoons of brown sugar (Yes, it must be brown)
  •      1 Ounce of lightly whipped cream (optional)

Enjoy responsibly.