The weather outside is frightful, and it’s the season for drinks that warm the body with winter flavors and cozy spices. These seasonal cocktails are made with ingredients that evoke the flavors and aromas of the season—such as cinnamon, ginger and cranberry—and can be served hot or cold with spirits like whiskey, rum or brandy.
It is believed that hot toddies first appeared in Scotland in the 1700s as a medicine or as a way to defeat the cold weather. Warm and toasty, the hot toddy is a classic hot cocktail that is very simple to make. The basic recipe is whiskey, honey or simple syrup, lemon juice and hot water. Most hot toddies also include spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger, or even cayenne pepper to help clear sinuses.
Brown Sugar Old Fashioned
The old fashioned is a classic and elegant cocktail that dresses up whiskey in a simple way. This classic drink has been served since the mid-1800s, and while it has evolved into many variations today, it is still as popular today as it was back then. Made with bitters, sugar and an orange slice, it’s an excellent way to experiment with any style of whiskey. A little brown sugar makes this classic cocktail extra warm and cozy, and a hint of caramel or maple syrup adds a sweet spin and makes this drink feel anything but old fashioned.
Hot Buttered Rum
Hot buttered rum is essentially the original butterbeer. Add in rum, butter, brown sugar and a healthy dose of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and you have a decadent drink perfect for a chilly winter night.
This traditional holiday drink is a warming, boozy beverage to cozy up with as soon as the weather gets cooler for yourself or even to serve a crowd. Making mulled wine couldn’t be easier. Combine a bottle of red wine such as Merlot, Malbec, or Cabernet Sauvignon with traditional warming spices, brandy, honey and orange slices, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
The sidecar is made with orange-flavored triple sec, lemon juice, and either bourbon, cognac or brandy. Finish off by adding an orange twist for the garnish or even a sugar rim. This cocktail offers the right amount of citrus for a delightful sour kick, thanks to the lemon juice and orange liqueur. It’s the perfect cocktail for winter days when you want something bright and fresh.
Lovers of the negroni will enjoy this 1920s cocktail made with bourbon instead of gin. The boulevardier is described as spicier than a negroni, making this drink a must for the winter weather. Made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari and ice, and finished with an orange or lemon peel as the garnish, the ingredients create a delicate balance that brings a European twist to the American spirit. Serve this classic drink before a seasonal dinner party—it’s known as an “apertivo,” or a drink to have before dinner.
Winter Aperol Spritz
An Aperol spritz is a classic summer cocktail, but with just a few simple and seasonal touches, it becomes a winter version of the popular cocktail. A traditional Aperol spritz is made from Aperol, prosecco, and sparkling water poured over ice and garnished with an orange wedge. Simply add either cranberry or pomegranate juice and garnish with a sprig of rosemary or a few pomegranate arils to give this cocktail its wintery vibe.
Created in Ireland in the 1940s, Irish coffee is more than just spiking coffee with a shot of whiskey. It’s a simple, yet well-planned coffee drink that should be mixed with care like a latte. The drink requires just four ingredients: Irish whiskey, hot coffee, brown sugar and a touch of freshly whipped cream. An Irish coffee makes an excellent after-dinner drink that is perfect for a chilly evening. It’s cozy, delicious and incredibly easy to make.
Ginger Gold Rush
This easy, three-ingredient ginger gold rush cocktail is a fresh spin on a classic drink. A traditional gold rush cocktail is made with bourbon, honey syrup and lemon juice. Swapping out the honey syrup for fragrant ginger liqueur gives this ginger drink an instant upgrade in flavor. Made with just spicy ginger liqueur, bourbon and tart lemon juice, a glass of this spicy and smooth ginger drink is sure to warm you up on a chilly winter evening.
Spiked Hot Chocolate
This mug of liquid cocoa is rich and creamy, with an intense depth in chocolate flavor. A hint of a dark caramel-flavored liquor, and it gives it a warming complexity with notes of vanilla and oak. Common types of alcohol include bourbon, rum, whiskey, Baileys or Kahlua. Add cinnamon and cayenne for a subtle kick. You can use a purchased hot cocoa mix, but of course, the best way to make this drink is with homemade hot chocolate. Nearly every spirit works quite well, with each lending the drink different notes and characteristics.
As the weather gets colder, winter flavors are more comforting than a bright, citrusy cocktail. Mimosas are the brunch cocktail, so adding cranberry juice instead of orange juice is the perfect winter twist on the classic. Try adding a few frozen cranberries and an orange twist to garnish.
A sibling to the Bloody Mary, the Bloody Maria substitutes tequila for vodka and is perfect for a holiday brunch or game day watch party. Combine tequila with tomato juice, lime juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, horseradish and ground black pepper. Despite its longer ingredient list, the Bloody Maria is a highly adaptable and easy-to-make cocktail. The tequila gives the drink a distinctive and smokey flavor, and tomato juice, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce give it a savory and umami flavor.
Eggnog is a classic cocktail that is always a hit around the holidays. Rum is one of the better options for the liquor because it adds a sweetness that contrasts the drink’s egg flavor, but it also pairs perfectly with brandy or bourbon. Spiked eggnog is usually served with small appetizers rather than with dinner, and it can also double as an adult dessert or as a beverage to serve with sweet treats.
Sangria is the perfect make-ahead cocktail to serve a holiday crowd. The fruit-filled punch recipe can be made with red or white varietals and can be endlessly customized with your favorite combinations of fruits. Give this classic pitcher drink a seasonal spin with the addition of fresh cranberries, apples and oranges, as well as orange liquor and Campari.
There’s no better way to celebrate the season than with one of these boozy winter cocktails that make the most of winter’s best-loved spices and flavors.