Prepare for festive season entertaining at home with these perfect wintertime classic cocktails.
As the nights arrive earlier and the days are cooler, we tend to change what we drink. We say farewell to summer-time punches and tall, heat-beating cocktails, and instead, look for libations that warm us from within. Winter is a great time to gather friends together over good food and a few well-made drinks, and the cooler weather is the perfect excuse to conjure up concoctions you wouldn’t think of through the rest of the year.
Here are some of our favourite wintertime cocktails and what you’ll need to prepare them at home.
There were these beautiful Russian twins…sounds like the beginning of a great story, and while the Black Russian is a great drink for summer’s shoulder seasons, when winter arrives it gives way to the White Russia, a cocktail that traces its origins to California in the mid-1960s. Made with coffee liqueur (30ml) – while Kahlúa and Tia Maria are the tried and tested, don’t discount high-quality newer arrivals like Mr Black – good vodka (60ml), and a spot of dairy (30ml), which can range from skim milk all the way to whipping cream, you might remember this cocktail as the go-to favourite of The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Easy to make, even easier to drink, it’s a cool, sweet hug in a glass.
It doesn’t get much more winter than a Hot Toddy, a drink that’s dead simple to make and which has been enjoyed, in its many forms, across Russia, Europe, and the US for generations. While we think of the Hot Toddy as Irish (potentially because of its advocate, Irish physician Robert Bentley Todd), the name actually derives from India, where fermented palm sap was mixed with hot water, sugar, and spices and was consumed as a cure-all.
You don’t need to wait until you catch a cold to benefit from this healing dram; simply combine a whisky (45ml) that’s not too smoky (we suggest something Irish), with a teaspoon of honey or brown sugar, a dash of lemon juice, and piping hot water. Of course, you can elevate this timeless libation with everything from a cinnamon stick, and coconut sugar, to maple syrup, and even cloves or star anise. And if you do have that head cold, there’s little wrong with throwing a packet of Lemsip in for good measure.
If you’re looking for an elixir to fend off the seasonal chill, you can’t go past the Boulevardier, a classic cocktail from the late 1920s that’s enjoyed a renaissance of late. Made with bourbon (45ml) – we rather like Buffalo Trace – sweet red vermouth (30ml), and Campari or Del Professore Bitters, this long-lost cousin of the Negroni is built over ice, shaken, and strained over new ice in a rocks glass, with a generous citrus peel. The bourbon lends a warmth, while the bitters has a spicy, tart kick that helps balance the drink to perfection.
Talk about a modern classic, the Penicillin only came into being in 2005 when bartender Sam Ross first served it at New York’s iconic Milk & Honey bar, but since then it’s proved its worth with bartenders the world over. This is where that bottle of smoky Scotch comes in; said to have the same medicinal effects of the Toddy, the Penicillin (the inspiration behind Hong Kong’s first closed-loop cocktail bar) benefits from a more robust whisky (60ml), like a Laphroaig 12 years from Islay, the smokiness accentuating the flavours of the honey-ginger syrup (22ml), which can be made with honey, water and a piece of ginger beforehand.
Simply combine the whisky and syrup with freshly squeezed lemon juice (22ml) and shake over ice before straining over new ice. If you’re not a massive fan of smoky whisky but still want the real Penicillin experience, use a Highland Scotch for the cocktail and top with smoky whisky (7ml) once it’s in the glass. This way you get the nose without the palate. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger if you’re feeling adventurous.
A nice alternative to a Manhattan, and one that’ll keep you toasty, the Rob Roy was created by bartenders at the Waldorf Astoria in New York in 1894. While Manhattans were traditionally made with rye whisky, the Rob Roy is exclusively made with Scotch, although it can be made ‘sweet’, ‘dry’ or ‘perfect’ depending on if you use sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, or a combination of both. A dash of Angostura bitters and a duo of maraschino cherries helps establish a balance of flavours, making it a timeless seasonal libation.
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