Photo: djblock99, Flickr.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa and clove -- perennial holiday spices -- pop up in dozens of warming cocktails not just because they are wonderfully aromatic, but because they relieve upset stomachs. Coffees, teas and chocolates are noted for their antioxidants as much as their terrific flavor versatility; you can easily make them extra sweet, spicy or boozy. And whiskey and rum, the usual go-to ingredients in warm cocktails, have long been known to soothe the soul.
The ten hot drinks listed after the jump represent both specific libations and general cocktail categories. Serve in mugs or snifters -- they warm the hands too.
Whiskey, hot water, sweetener -- that's all you need to make a toddy, though you could swap in gin, rum or brandy as the central spirit. Purists prefer bourbon over Scotch or rye and sugar over honey (and Demerara sugar if you can find it). Dip a lemon peel strip into the drink and you have what's known as a "Whiskey Skin." Cinnamon and clove make it even more festive.
Folklore suggests that a bartender made this variation on a toddy for a group of stranded American tourists in an Irish airport: Pour black coffee into a mug, then whiskey and sugar, stir and -- here's the key step -- pour chilled whipping cream slowly over the back of a spoon into the mug.
Tom & Jerry
Eggs form the basis of this legendary cocktail, which has been a holiday staple since the early 1800s. The drink even predates famed bartender/writer Jerry Thomas, who was a huge fan (he claimed he invented it). The recipe: Add sugar to eggs, then brandy (or rum) and milk (or water), and spices (allspice, clove, cinnamon). Serve in a "Tom & Jerry" mug, which you can almost always find on eBay.
This classic winter warmer requires some time -- and cooking -- to prepare. To faithfully reproduce the drink, one must roast an orange with cloves (90 minutes), then combine with port and simmer for a while. If you're looking for aromatic and attractive, this is it.
What a history: The coffee-based cocktail, a bit of boozy drink theater, is said to have been invented at Antoine's in New Orleans. To make a long (and dramatic) recipe short: Combine brandy and Grand Marnier (Triple Sec); add sugar, cloves, cinnamon, orange and lemon peels, and butter; and then simmer for a few minutes. Light the concoction on fire and pour into a silver bowl by ladling slowly down a long orange peel. Add coffee; whipped cream is optional. Hoot and holler.
Hot Spiced Buttered Rum
You can add butter to any spirit, or even beer or cider, to get a rich, throat-coating elixir. Mix in spices -- brown sugar, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg -- heat it up and you get a complex balance of sweet and spicy. Finely minced lemon rind adds citrus notes.
Technically, hot cocoa is made from cacao bean powder while hot chocolate is made from bar chocolate with added sugar and cocoa butter -- though people use the words interchangeably these days. Either way, you get more than just a tasty drink: Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants, making it a healthy refreshment. Tastiest when prepared with milk instead of water.
No other drink, besides water, is consumed as often as tea. During the winter months, it's common to see esoteric variations -- like tea with ginger, mint or chamomile -- pop up on digestif lists at restaurants. But tea works with almost anything, from artichoke to amaretto liqueur.
Take the fresh raw juice of fruit, most notably apple and pear, and you get cider. Pasteurize or filter it and, according to some laws, you have plain simple juice. Let it ferment and you have hard cider. Heat it up and you have a delicious drink on its own or mixed with spices or spirits. Cinnamon, allspice and cloves are the usual additions. Rum, tequila and Calvados (apple brandy) give it a pleasing bite.
The recipe has been around for centuries, though there's variation on the wine, fruit and spices (Glögg is the Nordic version of mulled wine). Most folks use red wine -- Merlot works well -- oranges and a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, though you can add vanilla, almonds, raisins and/or ginger too. Mix and heat on the stove, but not to a boil since you need the alcohol to balance the other flavors. Or do it the old-fashioned way: Simply stir the ingredients with a heated poker.