As a kid, cold days meant warming mugs of hot chocolate and mulled cider. I still reach for cocoa and cider when it gets cold, but nowadays I often open up the liquor cabinet, too. While there's nothing wrong with adding just a shot of rum or whiskey to your mug, remember that you can treat hot drinks just as you would any other sophisticated cocktail. So if you want to warm yourself up with a little flair, check out 17 of our favorite recipes for hot toddies, boozy ciders and cocoas, and other warm cocktails.
Spiced Averna Toddy
At its simplest, a hot toddy is just brandy or whiskey poured into hot water. There's a lot more you can do, though. For a more interesting toddy, try using caramelly, herbal Averna and a peppery simple syrup. The drink isn't super boozy, so don't feel bad about having a few.
The Hot and Cold
Most toddies are made with brown liquor, but here we turn to citrusy New Amsterdam gin instead. In place of plain water we make the drink with mint tea, and add a homemade cranberry syrup to give the toddy a sweet-tart flavor and a ruby red color.
This Mexican-inspired drink combines smoky mezcal, Green Chartreuse, Angostura and mole bitters, cinnamon, and mint. We top everything off with a splash of ginger beer to give it a little sparkle.
Riesling Hot Toddy
This comforting winter sipper falls somewhere between a hot toddy and a mulled wine. You start by steeping bay leaves and toasted cardamom pods in a mixture of Riesling, brandy and honey, which is then strained and garnished with lemon zest. It's a lightly spiced drink that's perfect for a cold day.
Peppery Ginger Cider
Mulled cider with a shot of bourbon is one of my go-to winter drinks But just like a hot toddy, there's a lot of room for variation with spiked ciders. Here we start with the cider and whiskey, but we add sweet-and-spicy ginger liqueur and, for balance, richly sweet Luxardo cherries. To complement the ginger's bite, we garnish with freshly cracked black pepper.
Salty Maple Buttered Cider
This recipe mashes up spiked cider with another winter classic: hot buttered rum. Earthy cider is a natural match for the dark rum, and maple syrup provides a complex sweetness. To bring all the flavors together we serve the drink in glasses rimmed with lemon juice and Maldon salt.
We triple down on the apple in this cocktail, spiking the cider with applejack and adding in tart Granny Smiths. We amp up the fruity flavor with clementines and dried cranberries and spice it up with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, and black peppercorns.
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Amaro Hot Chocolate
For this drink we make the hot chocolate with cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate chips, and then add bittersweet amaro. For a final sophisticated touch, we top the cocoa with homemade whipped cream that we have flavored with Angostura bitters.
Better Than Baileys Hot Chocolate
Baileys is a classic choice for spiking hot chocolate. But if you're willing to put in some extra effort, try breaking out each component flavor and using Amaretto, espresso powder, vanilla extract, and Irish whiskey. This has the advantage of letting you control the ratios—I'd recommend trying extra whiskey.
Guinness, Whiskey, and Baileys Hot Chocolate
The combination of Guinness, Baileys, and Jameson is well known, thanks to a drink we don't need to name here, but it tastes even better in hot chocolate. The beer will get lost if you pour it straight into the cocoa, so we reduce it into a concentrated syrup on the stove to preserve that great Guinness flavor.
Salted Butterscotch Hot Chocolate
We go homemade here, too, ditching commercial butterscotch in favor of a fresh version made with sugar and cream. We pour a shot of Scotch straight into the butterscotch to add a hint of smoke and vanilla. Most of the boozy butterscotch gets mixed into the hot chocolate, but save a little to drizzle on top (after adding a generous helping of whipped cream, of course).
Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate
Bacon and chocolate may be an instance of taking the bacon craze a little too far, but the combination is just too delicious to ignore. We don't stop at garnishing a regular cup of cocoa with a piece of bacon, either—we emulsify bacon fat right into the bourbon-spiked hazelnut hot chocolate to make it rich and smokey.
Tequila Mint Hot Chocolate
This more restrained recipe simply spikes hot chocolate with tequila and peppermint schnapps. The bright, cooling mix-ins give the cocoa a wonderful hot-cold punch. Garnish with whipped cream and fresh mint leaves, which provide a fresh herbal aroma that complements the schnapps.
Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate With Chili, Cinnamon, and Mezcal
Sticking with the Mexican influence, this complex, bittersweet hot chocolate is spiked with mezcal and spiced with dried ancho chili. The smokiness of the mezcal goes great with the chili and cinnamon, but if you don't have any you can replace it with aged rum or tequila.
Other Hot Cocktails
Hot Ward 8 Cocktail
The Ward 8 is an old-school cocktail made with rye, lemon and orange juice, and grenadine. Because this hot version is already diluted with boiling water, we replace the citrus juices with an intense oleo-saccharum, plus a couple of ounces of orange curaçao for depth. We also mix in pomegranate juice for a brighter alternative to grenadine.
Architects and Kings
This cocktail combines an after-dinner cup of coffee with dessert by mixing the coffee with spicy rye whiskey and Angostura bitters, rich apple brandy, and herbal Luxardo Amaro Abano. Homemade demerara syrup and a dollop of whipped cream smooth the drink out nicely.
The Varnish's Milk Punch
Clarified milk punch might seem weird today, but it was a big hit a couple hundred years ago. For a taste of the 1700s try this version, which we make with lemon syrup, rum, and cognac. Be warned that this recipe takes a couple of hours—fortunately, most of the work can be done ahead of time.