Reporting Luke McKinney
The sun god has abandoned us! We can only survive the darkening time with magical rituals. We must grind up the lives the sky gave us in better times, rot them in death, mix them in the prescribed rituals, then drink the resulting potion to gain the warmth of the sun itself. That’s right: it’s drinking time. Drink distills everything good out of nature, and delivers everything any religious ritual ever promised.
Winter cocktails aren’t just hot drinks with booze in them. Though there’s nothing wrong with those (in fact, they show a direct problem-solving approach to feeling cold and bad). What is wrong is the blizzard of Hallmark-grade seasonal crap, cliched concoctions based on formulaic words instead of real joy. Except actual cards would be easier drink. That’s why the Eggnog Martini aren’t on this list. It’s on another list we gave to a large gentleman with lots of scars but no fingerprints.
- 1 part brandy
- 1 part creme de menthe
- Shake with ice, strain and pour
The Stinger teaches the most important lesson of any winter cocktail: it’s gorgeous all year round. Anyone who tells you it’s the wrong time to be drinking something is either an idiot or a policeman – either way, you should arrange your life so that neither disturbs you when you’re enjoying yourself. Brandy is the big name from back when people understood that alcohol was medicine. If anyone fainted, the first thing people did was get a snifter of strong alcohol under their nose — the exact opposite of what many do now.
Crème de menthe was so classy Poirot drank it, although it’s a little bit “alcoholic toothpaste” these days. In the Stinger their powers combine: the warmth of brandy and cool flavors of mint combine into a drink that’s not just “feel good,” it’s an outright mood reset button for the whole day. No matter how bad things get, sit back with one of these and you’re suddenly cool and contain alcohol – just like the drink — and much better equipped to deal with everything. As far as fighting the weather goes, it’s dichotomic judo — the deep heat of the brandy fights the freezing, while the cool surface taste accepts how brisk chill actually makes you more alert. Besides, one-to-one cocktails are enormous fun to prepare, pouring both bottles simultaneously. The only possible mistake is pouring too much. And that’s no mistake at all.
- Hot coffee
- Irish whiskey
Both those adjectives are excellent at surviving cold conditions
If I need to tell you how to combine them, you’ve had enough, mate.
Irish coffee might seem a bit too easy, but so is breathing, and that’s essential for a good life too. It’s also worth correcting a in increasingly common mistake where people think an Irish coffee includes Bailey’s. Note how I said “people” not “bar staff,” because when you just read the bottle for the word “Irish” instead of tasting things you don’t deserve the professional title.
Irish Coffee benefits from the mildness of Irish whiskey. What can I say, my country is great at delivering alcohol in a friendly way. You can create an Irish Winter by adding Kahlua, a natural blending point between coffee and alcohol, with the added sweetness settling the drink for more timid palates. You can add Bailey’s if you want, which I’m sure has a name, but I’m not going to credit someone for “inventing” the idea of adding Irish Cream to Irish Coffee. Besides, it’s much better to keep things simple. Whiskey + coffee = everything you need to be happy.
B & B
- 1 part Bénédictine
- 1 part brandy
Pour Bénédictine into ice filled glass, pour brandy on top
We don’t agree with cocktail articles which assume that you have more bottles than a wall on a boring car trip. If we mention a new ingredient, it’s because it’s worth it. Most people don’t have Bénédictine in the house, but that’s because most people haven’t walked in from a freezing day to pour a B&B. The same way most people haven’t seen the face of god. Not a scary god either — we’re talking one of those friendly Hawaiian gods representing nature and sunshine, chilling out on a cloud while sharing sunshine and divine strength.
Bénédictine is another in the array of “herbal” liqueurs. Saying “herbal” is a flavor is like saying “used to be alive” is a type of meat. Herbs are an entire ecology of wonderful tastes, multiplied by mankind’s centuries of experience mixing things and drinking them. Bénédictine also used to be medicinal, and is still around because we no longer need the excuse. Though it really does make you feel better. The strong, thick sweetness can be a little much on its own, but over cooling ice and under burning brandy it’s a miracle potion.
Hot Buttered Rum
- 4 oz hot water
- 2 oz dark rum
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Nutmeg (and or cinnamon, cloves etc to taste)
Blend everything in a mug
This might look like a bit of a hassle, but trust me, no other drink offers such great rewards for the effort required outside of the Holy Grail. Plus it’s actually easy to make: shove everything in and mix it for fun and good feelings. That’s effectively what you’re doing with every drink anyway. The only difference is that here you’re mixing things in a mug before doing it in your stomach. It’s also a drink that really will make you appear more intelligent and attractive, not just think that you do. Mix a pot of this up for people at a party and their actual sense memory of you will be “hot, spicy, smooth and fun.”
To make a pot of batter, just scale up the solid ingredients (everything but the rum and water) and blend them in a heated pot. Chill until needed, then melt into the rum and hot water. A Hot Buttered Bourbon is also an excellent winter warmer, with an obvious recipe, while Hot Buttered Comfort substitutes Southern Comfort for a sweeter mix. These aren’t just antidotes to the entire winter, they’re reasons to love it.
- 2 oz Irish whiskey
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- dash orange bitters (or regular bitters for a Blarney Stone)
Stir with ice, pour into chilled cocktail glass
This is another version of the Manhattan, because every feature about any kind of great drink has to include one or be laughably inaccurate. (In my opinion a guide to the best red wines of 2012 should start with a lamentation that red wine can’t be used to mix a Manhattan). If a chilled drink doesn’t sound like the right way to warm up in the winter, my god, you’re going to have a spiritual experience when you finally try some whiskey.
The Emerald is built around Irish whiskey, the most effective central heating system in the world. The smooth whiskey allows the sweet vermouth a stronger effect, warming your gut and tongue together, while the orange bitters adds just enough edge to stop you shivering. The result is an extremely smooth whiskey delivery strategy. Your tongue would swear there wasn’t any strong alcohol at all, if it wasn’t already saying “oooh that’s nice” as gentle warmth circulates from your stomach.
With our standing rule of “drinks anyone can make,” you don’t need the orange bitters — regular bitters in the same recipe gives you a Blarney Stone. Just don’t call it that. It makes you sound like a damn tourist. And think about it: Blarney has a stone that tourists are famous for kissing, and like any small town, it surely has local teenagers who go drinking outside. After a bit of time that drink needs to get out. Teenagers do not have a very advanced sense of humor.
Of course, they’re still shivering outside drinking cheap lager. So have the last laugh with a warm fire and a real drink.