Nothing's better on a brisk day than a steaming mug of coffee, hot chocolate, or mulled cider. Actually, that's not quite true. What's really the best when it's freezing outside is coffee, hot chocolate, or mulled cider made with a little alcohol addition.
But there's more to hot cocktails than throwing a shot of whiskey into your cocoa. Warm drinks can be just as sophisticated as the icy kind—we make them with ingredients like herbal amaro, smoky mezcal, and even bacon fat. Ready to get started? Here are 15 of our favorite recipes for toddies, cocoas, mulled ciders, and other hot cocktails that'll keep you warm this winter.
Spiced Averna Toddy
You can certainly make a hot toddy by pouring brandy or whiskey into hot water and calling it a day, but you've probably been there before. If you like your toddy laced with a little more spice, this drink's for you. It's based on caramelly-rich Averna, an herbal Italian liqueur, combined with a peppery simple syrup. Since the drink isn't too boozy, feel free to have a couple on a cold day.
The Hot and Cold
Gin isn't the most common liquor for a hot toddy, but citrusy New Amsterdam is perfect for this version that's made with mint tea. A homemade cranberry syrup gives the drink a complex sweet-tart flavor and a beautiful ruby-red color.
This is a hot toddy with a distinct Mexican-inspired twist. It starts with a base of smoky mezcal and herbal Green Chartreuse. For even more of a kick, it's flavored with Angostura and mole bitters, cinnamon, and mint. A splash of ginger beer adds just a little effervescence.
Riesling Hot Toddy
This warming, lightly spiced drink walks the line between a hot toddy and mulled wine. To make it, simply heat up a bottle of Riesling, add a little brandy and honey, and steep bay leaves and toasted cardamom pods in the mixture. Garnish with lemon zest.
Peppery Ginger Cider
Mulled cider is one of my favorite winter drinks. I usually just go with cider and bourbon, but that combo is even better with sweet-and-spicy ginger liqueur and some rich Luxardo cherries. To really highlight the spice, finish the drink with freshly cracked black pepper.
Salty Maple Buttered Cider
A hot buttered rum turns outstanding with the addition of your favorite fresh apple cider. Maple syrup sweetens the drink and adds a little depth, while a lemon and Maldon salt rim helps balance everything out.
Spiked with applejack and flavored with the usual cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, this mulled cider is also spiced with coriander and black peppercorns. The drink gets a sweet-tart fruitiness from Granny Smith apples, oranges, and dried cranberries.
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Guinness, Whiskey, and Baileys Hot Chocolate
Guinness, Baileys, and Jameson are often sloshed together in a drink that we won't name here—we like that combination better in hot chocolate, anyway. To get a strong Guinness flavor, reduce the beer to a syrup on the stove before mixing it with the other ingredients.
Better Than Baileys Hot Chocolate
Sure, you could spike your hot chocolate by simply adding Baileys. But you'll have more control over the flavor if you add each of the component flavors—almond, coffee, vanilla, and Irish whiskey—separately. This recipe more than does the trick.
Salted Butterscotch Hot Chocolate
Rather than using commercial butterscotch in hot chocolate, we make our own out of sugar and cream. A shot of Scotch deepens the flavor, adding a wisp of smoke and a touch of vanilla. Top with whipped cream, a drizzle of the boozy butterscotch, and flaky sea salt.
Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate
Putting bacon in everything may be passé, but our bacon, bourbon, and hazelnut hot chocolate is so good, we don't care if it's trendy or not. Rather than just garnishing regular hot chocolate with a stick of bacon, we also emulsify the rendered bacon fat directly into the drink.
Tequila Mint Hot Chocolate
Cooling mint is wonderful in hot chocolate. Tequila brightens the minty flavor, emphasizing the hot-cool contrast of good cocoa and peppermint schnapps.
Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate With Chili, Cinnamon, and Mezcal
This bittersweet hot chocolate is spiked with earthy mezcal and spiced with dried ancho chili. If you don't have mezcal, you can also make this with aged rum or tequila.
Other Hot Cocktails
Architects and Kings
This cocktail highlights coffee's bitterness, making it a perfect after-dinner digestif. In addition to bracing rye and rich apple brandy, it's made with herbal Luxardo Amaro Abano and spicy Angostura bitters. Finish it off with a cloud of whipped cream.
The Varnish's Milk Punch
Clarified milk punch has roots dating back to at least the 18th century. This version is flavored with a zesty lemon syrup, then dosed with rum and cognac. Between separating the milk and prepping the citrus, this punch takes a few hours to prepare, but fortunately much of the work can be done ahead of time, and the results are impressive.