11 Hot Cocktails for Cold Winter Days
Some people love winter. Some people also do “polar bear plunges” for fun. While it’s not our place to tell anyone they’re right or wrong on matters of opinion, this article is for those who think the best part of cold weather is hiding from it, and keeping as warm as possible while looking out the window at a winter wonderland and saying to themselves, “Not today.”
We’ve compiled a list of 11 of the best boozy concoctions to keep your core temperature up until spring arrives. From classics like Hot Toddy and Hot Buttered Rum (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it), to spiked hot chocolate and marshmallows, global variations of mulled wine and boozy coffee, these cocktails are guaranteed to light a fire in your belly all season long.
As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While the Hot Toddy often acts as a blank canvas for whatever variety of boozy ingredients its creator feels like customizing it with, the basic recipe is still a surefire classic to start experimenting with warm cocktails.
It’s a flexible rubric. Maker’s Mark and Jameson are popular choices, but they’re far from your only option. Try it with rye, Bourbon, rum, or the brown spirit of your choosing. The best whiskey to use in a hot toddy is the one you have on hand.
Do hot toddies work? Will they cure a sore throat, sinus infection or winter cold? While we don’t profess to be experts in the medicinal benefits of honey, lemon and brown liquor, this throwback remedy is known to provide relief when cold days leave you feeling a bit under the weather.
- 1½ ounce brown liquor such as brandy, whiskey or rum
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- 1 cup hot water
- Lemon wedge, cinnamon stick and star anise, for garnish (optional)
Combine the first four ingredients into the bottom of a warmed mug. If desired, garnish with the lemon, cinnamon stick or star anise.
Recipe courtesy Carrie McCabe-Johnston, co-owner, Nightingale, Minneapolis, MN
Carrie McCabe-Johnston, co-owner of food and cocktail lounge Nightingale in Minneapolis, has included mulled wine on her winter menu since 2013, and has seen its popularity grow.
“I had a woman call in October to see if it had hit the menu yet. It gets so cold in Minneapolis in the winter months that [mulled wine] is a perfect warming drink, ” McCabe-Johnston recently said on a day when the temperature was -13°F.
- 4 bottles Spanish Grenache
- 3 oranges, zested and juiced
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 cup Cointreau
- 8 cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole aniseed
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 canela sticks (or substitute cinnamon)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced
Simmer all ingredients together about 15–30 minutes, until well-seasoned and flavored. Strain before serving.
Winter can be an endless, freezing drag. Luckily, nothing helps melt through seasonal malaise like a cocktail classic: hot buttered rum.
This hearty, warming drink is pure cocktail comfort food. Have a favorite wintry ingredient? Try adding it to the mix. The vanilla extract in this recipe brings a delicious depth to the drink, but substituting sarsaparilla or ginger will yield a completely different (and delightful) flavor profile.
Hot buttered rum is also a great excuse to use some of those liqueurs gathering dust on your bar cart—if you’ve still got that bottle of Drambuie or Galliano that’s been taking up space in your liquor cabinet since 1983, this is your opportunity to throw in a splash and put them to work. Endlessly customizable, we encourage you to use this base recipe as a springboard to cocktail creativity.
Thirsty yet? Lets get mixing.
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ounces dark or aged rum
- 6 ounces hot water
- Cinnamon stick, for garnish (optional)
In mixing bowl, combine butter, vanilla extract, sugar, spices and salt. Beat until well combined.
In heat-proof glass or mug, combine aged rum with 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) spiced butter mixture. Remaining batter can be stored in airtight container in refrigerator for future use.
Top with hot water and stir until ingredients are well incorporated. Garnish with cinnamon stick if preferred.
Nothing says “warming winter flavors” like the taste of classic chai spices. Cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and cloves meet golden Assam tea and a touch of cream for a latte-like beverage that pairs perfectly with a healthy splash of brandy. For good measure, try preparing this chai hot toddy with one of the new spate of American brandies hitting the market—these bottlings will add a unique dimension to your drink, in addition to being great in a snifter on their own.
- 3 ounces brandy
- 4 ounces steeped black tea, preferably Golden Tip Assam Black Tea
- Chai spices (per serving, 3 crushed cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder, 1 slice fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves)
- 1 ounce heavy cream
Combine brandy with hot, steeped tea. Add the chai spices and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid, reserving cinnamon stick for garnish. Add the heavy cream, stir and serve.
Recipe courtesy St. Regis Aspen Resort, Aspen, Colorado
“The St. Regis Aspen sticks to the formal, traditional German Glühwein, which is made with red wine and spiced with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus and sugar,” says Tobias Rimkus, director of catering and event management at the resort. “Though some families in Germany prefer a variant called Feuerzangenbowle, which is when a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and allowed to slowly drip into the Glühwein.”
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 8 whole allspice berries
- 1 star anise pod
- 2 oranges, halved
- 10 cloves, whole
- 8 juniper berries
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1½ bottles Cabernet Sauvignon
- Orange twists, for garnish
- Cinnamon stick, for garnish
Combine water, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice and star anise in a pot over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce to a mild simmer.
Juice the orange halves into the simmering liquid. Stud the remaining rinds with the cloves and gently place into the pot. Add juniper berries. Next, juice the lemon into the simmering liquid, and place the halves into the pot.
Reduce the mixture to half of its original volume, add the Cabernet Sauvignon and heat until just below simmering. Ladle into glass mugs. Garnish with orange twist and cinnamon stick. Serves 8.
Maple syrup, baked apples and cinnamon? No, this isn’t a recipe for brunch pancakes, but a warm Bourbon cocktail for those looking to upgrade their classic Hot Toddy (though it might not be bad idea for brunch either). A touch of amaro helps temper the sweetness of this drink with an herbal punch, with apple bitters ensuring balance between the ingredients. If apple bitters prove difficult to find, standard Angostura can be substituted in a pinch.
- 2 ounces hot water
- 1½ ounces Bourbon
- ½ ounce Amaro Abano
- ¼ ounce maple syrup
- 3 dashes apple bitters (Bar Keep Baked Apple Bitters recommended)
- Cinnamon stick, to garnish
Combine all ingredients except garnish in a heat-proof glass. Stir well, and garnish with cinnamon stick.
Recipe courtesy Bacari PDR, Playa Del Rey, California
Coffee and cream? Yes, please. This eye-opener is usually made with coffee from Bacari PDR’s sister venue, Nature’s Brew. A pinch of cardamom accents rye whiskey’s spice as well as the robust coffee.
- 4 ounces fresh-brewed coffee
- 1 ounce rye whiskey
- ¾ ounce Amaro Montenegro
- ¼ ounce simple syrup
- ¼ ounce coffee liqueur
- ½ ounce cream
- Pinch of ground cardamom
Combine all ingredients in an Irish coffee mug or standard coffee cup. Stir well with spoon or straw. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.
Recipe courtesy Colicchio & Sons, New York City
This hot toddy variation balances the fresh, bright flavor profile Irish whiskey with touches of pumpkin, walnut and blackstrap molasses. The key ingredient here isn’t actually the whiskey, but nocino—a liqueur native to Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy, made from green, unripened walnuts.
Previous hard to come by in the U.S., imported bottlings have begun to pop up at shops around the nation. But increasingly, American distilleries have begun producing their own versions of this classic digestif, with liquors ranging from vodka to rum acting as the base spirit. Look for domestic offerings from Skip Rock Distillers in Washington State, Watershed Distillery in Ohio, and Wood Hat Spirits in Missouri, for an updated take on an Irish Whiskey Hot Toddy.
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey, preferably Jameson or Powers
- ½ ounce nocino
- ¼ ounce lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin purée
- 2 ounces hot water
- Lemon twist, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a mug and stir until well incorporated. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Recipe courtesy Visit Norway
Though the first culture to heat up sweetened wine before spiking it with spirits and spices were the Romans in the 2nd century, it’s hard to argue that the Nordic countries have become known for perfecting it. Mulled wine in Norway, locally known as gløgg, is a matter of particular regional of pride. What sets apart authentic Norwegian gløgg is the use of the country’s national spirit, aquavit, to spike the base.
Harald Hansen, public information manager at Visit Norway, says of aquavit, “It’s a potato-based spirit commonly flavored with savory herbs like dill, fennel or coriander.” He lends us his recipe for Norwegian gløgg, telling us, “This is the way my family in Norway serves it, and most of my friends.”
Make sure to take a look at our guide to aquavit for more information about this regional favorite and recommended bottles you can pick up stateside. Already familiar? Try tracking down one of these special-edition Christmas aquavits for a bold new taste.
- 1 bottle of red wine
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 large sliced cinnamon stick
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
- 12 ounces white sugar
- ½ 750-ml bottle of aquavit (or substitute vodka or Cognac)
- 3½ ounces raisins
- 3½ ounces sliced almonds
Heat the red wine slowly in a saucepot over medium-high heat. Put the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger in a spice bag and add to the pot. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.
Remove the pan from heat and let cool, approximately 2 hours. Add the aquavit to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Heat until just before mixture reaches a boil. Add raisins and almonds. Transfer mixture to a punchbowl, remove the spice bag and ladle into large glass cups with little spoons, scooping up raisins and almonds. Serves 8.
This Hot Toddy variation gains complexity from use of Amaro Montenegro, an Italian bitter known for its 40 herbs and botanicals. Demerara sugar, spiced rum and two types of bitters—including one aged in whiskey barrels—yield a drink that’s perfect for drinkers who find plain Hot Toddys to be thin, and prefer a bit more depth. If you’re a fan of big, bold red wines and dark beer, this is the Toddy that will bring the flavors you’re looking for.
- 2 ounces spiced rum
- 1 ounce Montenegro Amaro
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- ¼ ounce Demerara sugar syrup
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 1 dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters
- 4 ounces hot water
- Orange peel, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except the garnish into heat-proof mug. Garnish with an orange peel.
Recipe courtesy Erin Sullivan, head bartender, The Third Man, New York City
If you like Mexican hot chocolate, here’s your winter drink. Bold Bourbon is balanced by cocoa and the kick of cayenne. The name refers to Fernet Brancamenta, a bitter amaro softened with mint.
- 6 ounces hot chocolate (made with powdered cocoa mixed with equal parts water and sweetened condensed milk)
- 2 pinches cayenne, plus additional for garnish
- 1 ounce Fernet Brancamenta
- 1 ounce Four Roses Bourbon
- 1 mint sprig, for garnish
- 1 marshmallow, for garnish
Heat hot chocolate with water, condensed milk and cayenne. Pour into mug. Add the Brancamenta and Bourbon. Garnish with the mint sprig and a marshmallow sprinkled with cayenne.
- 1The Classic Hot Toddy Recipe
- 2The Nightingale Mulled Wine
- 3The Original Hot Buttered Rum Recipe
- 4The Chai Hot Toddy
- 5Learn How to Make Glühwein, the Traditional German Mulled Wine
- 6The Yule Tide Toddy
- 7Venetian Coffee
- 8The Ichabod Crane, an Irish Whiskey Hot Toddy
- 9How to Make Authentic Norwegian Gløgg, a Mulled Wine Treat
- 10The Toddy Montenegro
- 11Hot Mentha Mess