While most people associate the hot cocktail with holiday gatherings, I'm keeping the festive spirit alive well past the yuletide. I wanted to share some of the hot, strong beverages I've been cuddling up with on these cold winter nights.
Wine-lovers tend to look down on mulled wine as some sort of crime. But I see it as the opposite: A good mulling recipe can redeem cheap, bad wine. The restaurant Friedman's Lunch in New York's Chelsea Market serves an absolute stunner of a mulled wine (see below for the recipe). It's based on a Scandinavian glögg, and uses tawny port, an interesting and nutty twist. It smells great while steaming on the stove, and the brief boiling period burns off some of the alcohol, so it's not too boozy.
I've also been pouring myself quite a few hot toddies and hot buttered rums. These are the easiest hot cocktails to make. For a toddy, I just merge a mug of hot water with a shot of brandy and some honey and lemon. A hot buttered rum is just as easy: Simply mix hot water and rum with some honey, grate some nutmeg on top, and stir in a pat of butter. It's hard to stop drinking these.
Some people make a toddy with tea, and I've been experimenting with different teas and different spirits. For instance, a strong Earl Grey tea goes wonderfully with Bols Genever, a squeeze of winter tangerine, and a dash of honey. Try Don Julio blanco tequila with some briny green tea, a few drops of lime, and a pinch of sugar—it's delicious and full of antioxidants! Lapsang Souchong tea is smoky and savory and thus a natural partner for Islay whisky. I prefer it with the mellow smokiness of Bowmore or Caol Ila. It may seem odd, but this combo is very good with a dollop of milk and a touch of sugar. (For the record, St. George Spirits of Alameda, California, makes a wonderful and highly underrated Lapsang Souchong liqueur called Qi Black, which includes honey, spices, and barrel-aged brandy.)
If some of those combinations seem a bit intimidating or exotic for your tastes, after much experimentation, I can confirm that brandy works with just about every form of tea, especially with a little honey. It's especially delicious with my favorite tea, rooibos, from South Africa. The other nice thing about boozy tea is that you can look like you're being homey and responsible when, in fact, you're getting a buzz from the alcohol, sugar, and caffeine. Four Loko, step aside.
Grandma Agnes's Mulled Wine Recipe from Friedman's Lunch
2 bottles tawny port
1 cup apple cider
1/3 cup brown sugar
8 cinnamon sticks
1/2 whole nutmeg, grated
3 star anise
2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 ounce ginger, peeled and grated
1 orange, cut in round slices
In a pan over high heat, stir together all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and steep for 10 minutes. You can strain it if you want. It is now ready to serve.