There’s nothing hotter than a cocktail on a chilly fall day — really.
As cold weather sets in here in Chicago, age old wisdom tells us to turn to porters and stouts. But the older I get, the harder it is on my stomach to enjoy a good beer. What’s a 30-something to do? Warm up her booze.
Drinking alcohol warm is an art that must be carefully practiced. You need exactly the right chemistry — literally — to make your cocktail concoction perfect. Follow these easy rules, though, and you’ll be warm and tipsy all winter long, just as nature intended.
1. Lean on big flavors.
One of my favorite party tricks is this warm whiskey cocktail, which I make time after time in the cold winter months. It’s simple as can be — I grab apple butter, pear butter, peach jam, apricot jam, or whatever else I have on hand and infuse it with fall herbs. The flavors here hold up well to heat, time, and booze. This fruity, spiced simple syrup gets mixed with whiskey, put in a carafe, and served up as the hottest drink of the season. It works every time.
2. Respect the classics.
A hot toddy is perhaps the best known example of a warm, boozy beverage. It’s in the name! A drink traditionally made with whiskey, water, honey, and lemon, the toddy is a drink that we turn to in our house on the days that the winter chill cuts through our bones or when we feel a cold coming on. It’s timeless for a reason, and taking inspiration from timeless drinks like the toddy, buttered rum, or a glass of mulled wine, is never a bad idea. Use fun, local spirits like Apologue Liqueurs or Amaro Cinpatrazo to add a local flare.
3. Don’t add dairy.
Besides being on the ever-growing list of things that my stomach struggles to digest, dairy is a hard sell for me when alcohol is involved for one reason: curdling. When milk or cream (including cream based liqueurs like Bailey’s) meets citrus, the pH of the milk lowers and causes it to curdle, making any drink instantly curdle. The higher fat content that the dairy has, the less likely it is to curdle, so if you’re determined to break some rules, opt for heavy cream.
4. Invest in a mug.
If you go to the trouble of making a nice, warm cocktail to keep away the cold, you need a mug to protect that heat. My husband and I each have a designated mug for our boozy winter cocktails so that the flavors don’t carry over to our morning coffees. Make sure to pick a mug that has a nice insulator — that way your cocktail stays warm while your hands don’t get burned.
If you are interested in learning how to make all of the must-drink classic cocktails for the upcoming holiday season, don't miss How to Make Classic Cocktails. It's our new hybrid format, so you can choose to join us in-person at the Merchandise Mart or virtually from your home.
- Register for in-person at the Mart on Friday, November 5 at 6:30pm
- Register for virtual on Friday, November 5 at 6:30pm CST