Spiked hot drinks make your holidays merry and bright

Winter Warmers


In the realm of holiday drinks, nothing quite straddles the line between cozy and festive like a spiked hot drink. These winter warmers-think nogs, toddies, Irish coffee, hot buttered rums, and hot chocolates – are the Christmas sweaters of the drink world: cheery, a little silly and total party mood-lifters.

Embrace this fleeting time of year by mixing up as many as you can: at home, for parties—toddies even travel well in Thermoses for outdoor caroling.

And you’ll be in good company: hot drinks have a long history. Eggnog is thought to date back to the medieval era, when “posset” a sweetened mix of milk, wine or ale, and spices, was popular. The toddy – a mix of hot water, liquor, and honey – is commonly thought to have originated as a cold remedy in 18th-century Scotland.

Getting back to the present day, here’s the thing to remember during the busy holiday season: hot drinks can be as easy – or as complicated – as you want. Take something like eggnog as an example. On the simple end of the spectrum, one can add a shot of whiskey to the store-bought stuff. But for the traditionalist, nothing short of whipping egg whites and making a custard base will do.

For a hot toddy, the basic rendition involves honey, lemon juice, and bourbon in hot water. To make something more ornate, consider exotic herbal teas, citrus wheels, or whole spices such as cinnamon sticks or star anise.

Another benefit to making hot drinks is that the recipes tend to batch well – meaning, you can just as easily make them for a couple people or a crowd. The recipe for hot buttered rum below is an especially good choice for a large gathering.


Picture 1 of 4

Hot Toddies call for quality maple syrup to sweeten the drink, like Crown Maple’s Amber Color photos courtesy © Crown Maple, LLC

Serves 18-20

Is there anything sexier than a glass of melted butter mixed with warm golden spirits? Gout be damned, this hot lipid – laden drink is a cold-weather panacea that resulted from colonial New Englanders’ penchant for putting rum in everything. Americans have been whipping up a spiced butter batter and dousing it with rum and hot water since before they were Americans. This fancified version, created at the Boston cocktail bar the Hawthorne, brings the winter warmer to its full velvety potential with the crucial addition of ice cream and black tea.

2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup vanilla ice cream
1½ tablespoons cinnamon, ground
1½ tablespoons nutmeg, ground
1½ tablespoons clove, ground
1½ tablespoons allspice, ground
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Dark rum
Black tea, hot
Garnish: star anise, optional
Glassware: mug or rocks

Add first 10 ingredients to a mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer. Refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve, warm the mugs by filling with hot water. Let stand for a minute or two and discard. Add 1 tablespoon of batter to each mug. Top with 2 ounces hot tea and stir to mix. Add 1 ounce of each rum and then top with 2 ounces more hot tea. Rum will form a ¼-inch cream over the top of the drink. Garnish with a whole star anise.

Serves 1

Though today the word “toddy” almost always refers to any alcoholic beverage served hot, this wasn’t always so. Once of the ancestral drinks of the cocktail world, the toddy likely originated from a number of different traditions, but it loosely meant a base spirit (usually rum or whiskey) plus a sweetener, served either hot or cold. Such a combination was often considered medicinal, especially when it included citrus. Today the word can be used to refer to a wide swath of drinks, from the most basic recipe of a base spirit plus sugar to more complex iterations with cream, egg, fruit, liqueurs, spices, and garnishes aplenty.

1 ½ ounces bourbon or rye (or any dark
spirit including aged rum or Cognac)
¾ ounces honey or maple syrup
4-5 ounces hot water
Garnish: lemon wheel and
a cinnamon stick
Glassware: mug or rocks

Add spirit and honey or maple syrup to a mug or rocks glass. Top with hot water and stir gently to dissolve honey or maple syrup. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a cinnamon stick.

Reprinted with permission from The Essential Bar Book, by Jennifer Fiedler, copyright 2014.
Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC

photos courtesy © Crown Maple, LLC
photo courtesy Michelle Lettrich, browneyedbaker.com
photos courtesy Gustav Holland, Casey Fox, Gianluigi Fiori

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