Some Like it Hot

by: Kevin Stanton

As the leaves begin to change color and the cold north wind starts blowing, we turn our attention from refreshing summer cocktails to something a little more comforting. Hot cocktails have been a staple in many different cultures. Whether you are in need of a soothing tonic, a nightcap on a cold winter’s eve, or something a little more festive, there is a drink for you.

When speaking of hot drinks, the first one that comes to mind most often is the ubiquitous Hot Toddy. There is a bit of debate over the etymology of the word Toddy. While some believe it refers to the fermented palm wine consumed throughout warmer climates around the world, others argue that its roots originate from the Irish doctor Robert Bentley Todd, who prescribed a hot drink of brandy, cinnamon, sugar syrup and hot water to help combat symptoms of the common cold. I prefer to believe the latter.

Hot Toddy

Whether you are making a Hot Toddy, an Irish coffee or a mulled hot cider, the most important part of the process is tempering the spirit. The type of spirit you use in your drink isn’t that important. The first recipe for a Hot Toddy used brandy.

Tempering a spirit is just warming it up so you aren’t pouring a room-temperature liquid into your hot drink. There is nothing worse than having to gulp down a lukewarm drink. They are neither comforting nor pleasant to consume.

You will need a bowl, a small glass like a Collins glass and a tea kettle. Make sure you have all your mise en place ready before you start tempering the spirit. Pour hot water in the bowl and place the glass with your spirit inside the bowl. Let the spirit heat up while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Hot Toddy

  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice 1/2 ounce honey syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Lemon peel studded with cloves Cinnamon stick
  1. To make the honey syrup, mix equal parts hot water and honey, stir and set aside. The syrup helps it integrate with the rest of the drink more easily than using just honey.
  2. Measure out two ounces of your spirit of choice. I like to use Bushmills Irish Whiskey, and temper.
  3. Add lemon juice, honey syrup and two dashes of Angostura bitters into your glass.
  4. After the spirit is tempered, add it to the honey/lemon mixture. Top with hot water, mix with a bar spoon to integrate, add a cinnamon stick and lemon peel studded with cloves and enjoy.

Irish Coffee

  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey 2 sugar cubes
  • Coffee
  • Whipped cream

An Irish Coffee is one of the easiest hot drinks to make. I must confess it is an early-morning indulgence I usually make for the holidays, typically Christmas morning. Making your own whipped cream, which couldn’t be easier, gives your guests the impression you went above and beyond. When I make my whipped cream I opt to cut the sugar in half so it isn’t as sweet.

  1. Make the whipped cream: Place a metal mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. After it is chilled, add one cup heavy whipping cream and one tablespoon of sugar. If you want it sweeter, add two tablespoons of sugar. Whip until peaks start to form. You can make the whipped cream ahead of time and store in an airtight container for up to 10 hours.
  2. An important aspect of this drink is the coffee. I like to get whole roasted beans and grind them myself, typically medium to dark roast with notes of chocolate.
  3. After the coffee has been brewed, temper the spirit. Add two sugar cubes to the glass, add tempered whiskey and top with coffee. Use a bar spoon to mix and help dissolve the sugar. Top with a heaping spoonful of whipped cream.

Hot Mulled Cider

  • 1/2 gallon apple cider
  • 4 cinnamon sticks (broken into pieces)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 6 star anise
  • 4 lemon peels
  • Garnish with an orange slice studded with cloves

One of my favorite parts of the fall on Nantucket is going to Cisco Brewers, getting a hot cider spiked with some of its Nor’easter Bourbon, and hanging with friends by the fire pit. Since we live in New England it isn’t hard to find local apple cider this time of year. I tend to use the cider from Carlson Orchard of Harvard.

Making mulled cider couldn’t be easier. The real trick is heating your spices in a pan on low heat until they are aromatic, releasing their essential oils, before adding any liquid. Spices like cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, allspice and cloves are commonly used when making mulled apple cider. The recipe below is just a suggestion and I urge you to tinker with it and make it your own.

  1. Add cinnamon, cloves and star anise to a pot and heat at medium until aromatic.
  2. Add cider and lemon peels and bring to a boil. Once the liquid has reached a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Ladle into cups, removing any spices. Garnish with an orange slice studded with cloves. 3. To make the adult version, add the spirit of your choice.

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