Holiday cocktails

Hot Holiday Cocktails (That Don't Include Egg Nog)

When egg nogg won't do the trick, here are alternative easy cocktail recipes

With colder weather comes the drinking progression into hot cocktails. While hot cider had its moment in the fall, and love-it-or-hate-it eggnog will inevitably show up at a range of functions, there are better ways to build heat. “I think over the past few four or five years, as more cocktail bars have opened, the availability of warm cocktails has really come to the forefront,” says Pam Wiznitzer, beverage manager at Henry in the Life Hotel in New York, New York.

Infallible standbys like hot toddies are given buzzy new twists. Flaming concoctions, like the blue blazer, where a fiery arc of whiskey alights between two mugs, have trained mixologists adding a theatrical flair to the glass. Bartenders are also pulling from personal backgrounds for their creations. “My dad would make this holiday tea when I was a kid,” says Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at The Dorsey at The Venetian Las Vegas (recipe below). “It had black tea, cinnamon, lots of ginger, persimmon, star anise and pine nuts. He would make a big pot of it. I always thought this would be awesome with cognac or whiskey.”

You can heat up almost any liquor, says Wiznitzer. “Spirits that are barrel-aged—Cognac, whisky, aged rum—tend to do a little bit better than those that are un-aged, like vodka, gin, and tequilas,” she advises. “The [toasted] notes of the barrels really shine through.” Liqueurs with a bit of sugar, “like a Grand Marnier or Cointreau, which is foolproof and has sugar already added to it, is phenomenal,” but she warns against heating creme-based sippers, a stomach-turning proposition.

Some steamy libations, like glühwein, are best prepared in batch. “As spices sit in a pot for a while, they expand and mull,” says Wiznitzer. “It’s actually better to prepare a drink like that ahead of time.” Similar to its hot-weather brethren the punch, “you want [it] to sit so the flavors integrate.” For parties, “it’s great to have a big crock pot and just let it warm up.” However, “the biggest thing you have to remember is a hot cocktail only has a short shelf life once it hits the glass,” says Wiznitzer. “Once it gets room temperature the allure wears off. So when you’re preparing something like an Irish coffee, you do it as a single serving because it only has a certain amount of time in front of a guest before it’s no longer hot and enjoyable.”

Like any craft cocktail, looks do matter—especially during the most festive time of year. Some libations, like the Schümli Pflümli below, beg for a clear glass so you can see the sumptuous, creamy layers. Practicality also comes into play. “You definitely want a mug—or something with a handle—because the last thing you want to do is to try to pick up your drink and it’s so hot you can’t even hold it in your hand,” warns Wiznitzer. And although it sounds obvious, make sure the glass is heat resistant; not only does it hold the warmth, but it won’t shatter.


Kang’s Saengang-cha

By Juyoung Kang, Lead Bartender, The Dorsey, The Venetian Las Vegas

4 bags of black tea
8 cups of water
1 whole ginger (peeled and sliced)
1 ginseng root (raw)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 dried persimmon
4 star anise
2 orange peels
8 pine nuts

Brew on low heat for a couple hours. Add either dark rum, whiskey or cognac. About 1 oz to 1.5 cup of tea.


Schümli Pflümli

By Leo Robitschek, Bar Director for Make it Nice Restaurant Group, EMP Winter House, Aspen, CO

.25 Angostura
.5 demerara
.5 clear creek blue plum
.5 zwack plum
2 oz hot chocolate base*
4 oz hot coffee
Build in a Jono cappuccino mug
Float 1 oz whipped cream
powdered chocolate on top

Place all ingredients in a mug and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream and cocoa powder.

*Hot Chocolate Base (makes 3.5 quarts)

2 quarts cream
8 oz water
150g sugar
200g 55% chocolate
260g 72% chocolate
4 vanilla beans

Heat the cream and water in a saucepan, stirring constantly to make sure the cream does not boil or burn (it just needs to be hot enough to melt the chocolate).

Place the rest of the ingredients in a heatproof bowl and pour over the hot cream and water. Mix well and chill completely—allow the vanilla to steep for a day or two for extra flavor.


Trendy Toddy

By Ambrose Burke, Bar Manager, Eastside, Minneapolis

1 oz Old Overholt rye
1 oz Cynar 30 proof
.25 oz cocchi americano
.25 oz lemon
.5 oz honey simple
3 oz hot water

Mix together and serve.

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