Nothing says “I’m embracing winter this year” better than sipping a perfectly balanced mulled wine or boozy hot chocolate, perhaps on the porch (or in a Thermos during your evening walk? We won’t tell). Hot cocktails are the liquid equivalent of comfort food but, despite their appeal, often get short shrift in cocktail books. That can leaving us guessing when it comes to the important questions, like exactly how much rum we should be adding to our toddies.
To fix that, here are six updated classics to help you tighten up your winter warmer game and get into the spirit of hygge.
Hot Ginger Cider
Any rye whisky will work in this mulled ginger cider, but Lot 40 has a nice spicy kick to help punch back the cider’s natural sweetness.
- 2 oz farmhouse apple cider
- 2 oz Grace ginger beer
- 1¾ oz Lot 40 Canadian rye whisky
- ¼ oz Aperol
- 3 dashes orange bitters
- 2 allspice berries
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 orange twist
Instructions:Gently warm the cider, ginger beer, allspice and star anise over low heat for two or three minutes. Pour whisky and Aperol into a heat-proof, clear mug. Remove ginger/cider mixture from heat and add to the mug, straining out spices. Add bitters and garnish with an orange twist.
Tequila Hot Chocolate
A lot of drinks and dishes claim to “transport” you to some faraway place, but this rich, spicy and not overly sweet tequila chocolate drink fully delivers on the flavours of this traditional Mexican treat.
- 1/2 cup milk or non-dairy substitute
- 6 tablespoons Soul Chocolate Mayan Hot Chocolate Mix
- 1 1/2 oz Maestro Dobel Tequila
- 1/2 oz Ancho Reyes Liqueur
Notes on Ingredients: There are other Mexican hot chocolate mixes available, but we used Soul Chocolate, which offers two recipes for making the hot chocolate—full-strength and hyper-chocolate. We used the latter, which is thick and luscious and only suitable for real dark chocolate lovers. If you don’t like to drink your chocolate with a spoon, cut the chocolate in half to three tablespoons per half cup. Any blanco tequila will do but Dobel has a pretty intense vanilla taste, so it plays well with chocolate.
Instructions: Heat milk and chocolate in a saucepan on very low heat, stirring regularly until chocolate is fully dissolved (3-4 minutes). Pour tequila, ancho liqueur and melted chocolate into heat-proof glass mug. Stir well. Garnish with a nice marshmallow—toasted if you wish.
(serves two). This hot gin punch is based on a Victorian recipe, but the orange gin and a few other modern touches bring this light, aromatic and super-seasonal punch into the modern age.
- 3 oz Beefeater Blood Orange Gin
- 3 oz fino sherry
- 3 oz cranberry juice
- 1 1/2 oz water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 6 dehydrated lime wheels
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 dehydrated orange wheel
Notes: We chose the Beefeater orange gin, because it’s pretty widely available and, unlike some orange gins, isn’t sweetened. Botica Valencian and Whitley Neill Blood Orange are also both great and contain little to no added sugar.
Instructions: Heat all ingredients slowly on a low temperature for three or four minutes. Serve in a teacup with a dehydrated orange wheel for garnish.
Hot Buttered Rum
This old-timey drink sounds complicated but is, in fact, dead simple. Make a “butter batter” (really just ice cream, butter, sugar and pumpkin spice) in advance. Keep the batter in the freezer whenever you feel like a warm treat, just heat up some water and rum and stir in a couple of teaspoons of batter.
- 2 oz Kinsip House of Fine Spirits Dark Waters Rum
- 4 oz boiling water
- 2 teaspoons butter batter, see below*
- Grated nutmeg (for garnish)
Notes: We chose a Canadian independent for patriotic reasons, but any dark rum will do for this recipe. In fact, so will most spirits—we’ve tried whisky, brandy and even tequila, with great success. Just steer clear of spiced rums and whiskies, since they often contain sugar and there is such a thing as too much nutmeg.
Instructions: Scoop butter batter into a pre-warmed coffee mug. Add boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add rum, stir again, and garnish with a dusting of fresh nutmeg.
- 1 cup vanilla ice cream
- 1/2 cup butter, softened but not melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground clove
- 1/4 tsp salt
Instructions: Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and cream together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Store in freezer for future hot buttered drinks.
We realize most people have a pretty good idea as to how to add whiskey to coffee—but the first time we were served this style of boozy coffee, with thick cream carefully spooned on top, we never looked back.
- 4 oz good coffee (we use a long shot of espresso)
- 2 oz Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey
- 3 oz thick cream*
Notes: We picked Black Bush here because it’s a really great value and hidden gem in the Irish whisky category. Truth is, though, that almost any whisky does the trick—as do a lot of other spirits. You just can’t call it “Irish” anymore.
Instructions: Pour whiskey and coffee into clear, heat-proof coffee mug. Carefully spoon thick cream on top to make an even layer.
*Thick cream is really just sweetened whipped cream that’s not fully whipped and is still a little runny. To make, add three ounces of 35 percent cream, one teaspoon of fine granulated sugar, a tiny pinch of salt and a couple of drops of vanilla to a bowl and whip until thick but not stiff.
Mulled White Wine
(serves two)Not to knock mulled red wine (which we love), but a nice hot white wine punch is a nice change: it’s a little brighter than its rich and heavy counterpart.
- 1 cup Creekside Pinot Grigio VQA
- 2 oz The Hare Vidal Ice Wine
- 2 oz Grand Marnier
- 4 slices raw ginger
- 4 cloves
- 10 cranberries
- 2 orange slices – skin on, so wash it well
- 2 dehydrated citrus wheels (for garnish)
Notes: Again, don’t get hung up on the wine labels—these are just the ones we used.
Instructions: Slowly heat up all ingredients (except dehydrated citrus) over a very low temperature. Serve in two thick, heat-proof rocks glasses and garnish with a couplewith couple of the cranberries and a dehydrated citrus wheel.
Originally published in 2020; updated in 2021.