It's still practically shorts weather where I live in California, but the folks at Serious Eats World Headquarters in New York assure me that it is, in fact, winter. Back when I lived in places that actually got cold, winter meant hot drinks—hot cocoa and mulled cider when I was a kid, hot cider and hot cocoa with booze when I got older. There is more to the world of hot drinks than pouring a shot into whatever's in your mug, though. If you put some thought into them, hot drinks can have all the class and sophistication of cold cocktails. To show you what I mean we've rounded up 22 of our favorite hot toddies, spiked ciders, cocoas, coffees, and other hot cocktails.
Spiced Averna Toddy
Next time you're craving a hot toddy think beyond mixing whiskey or brandy with hot water—here we change it up by using caramelly, herbal Averna instead and adding a syrup made with brown sugar, cinnamon, and black pepper. Getting rid of the hard liquor keeps the alcohol content down, so you can keep refilling your mug throughout the evening.
The Hot and Cold
We make this toddy with citrusy New Amsterdam gin instead of the brown liquor you more commonly find in the drink and replace the water with mint tea for extra flavor. A sweet-tart cranberry syrup gives the cocktail a festive ruby-red color.
Moving even further from a traditional hot toddy, this smoky, Mexican-inspired drink is made with mezcal, Green Chartreuse, Angostura and mole bitters, cinnamon, and mint. A splash of ginger beer complements the spicy notes in the drink and adds a pleasant fizz.
Riesling Hot Toddy
This drink may be more mulled wine than hot toddy, but it's a crowd-pleasing option no matter what you call it. To make it we mix together Riesling, brandy, and honey, then steep in bay leaves and toasted cardamom pods before straining and serving.
Hot Caramel-Popcorn Bourbon Apple Cider
Anyone can pour a shot of bourbon into their hot cider—for something more interesting try infusing the liquor with sweet, toasty caramel popcorn. Once you've made the infused bourbon (which just takes a few minutes on the stove), all you need is the cider and a little butter to float on top of each drink.
Salty Maple Buttered Cider
Not so sure about popcorn-infused bourbon? This butter-topped cider goes with dark rum instead, getting its sweetness from maple syrup rather than caramel. To contrast the rich, deep flavors of the drink we serve it in glasses rimmed with lemon juice and Maldon salt.
Peppery Ginger Cider
We don't infuse the whiskey for this spiked cider, but we do give it an unexpected twist (or three) by stirring in sweet-and-spicy ginger liqueur, pouring it over rich Luxardo cherries, and finishing with freshly cracked black pepper.
Apple cider just not apple-y enough for you? Here we triple down on the fruit by adding Granny Smiths and applejack and mix in clementines and dried cranberries for even more fruity flavor. To balance all that fruit we turn to a slew of spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, and black peppercorns.
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Amaro Hot Chocolate
The best boozy hot chocolate starts with the best hot chocolate, so ditch the store-bought mixes and make it from scratch with unsweetened cocoa powder, semisweet chocolate chips, and sugar. Once the basics are done you can doctor the drink up as you'd like—here we mix in a shot of amaro and top with homemade Angostura whipped cream.
Better Than Baileys Hot Chocolate
I wouldn't say no to a cup of cocoa spiked with Baileys, but you can make a much tastier drink by separating the liqueur into its component flavors—Amaretto, espresso powder, vanilla extract, and Irish whiskey—and adding each one individually. Not only are the ingredients going to be better, but you can adjust the ratios to your liking.
Guinness, Whiskey, and Baileys Hot Chocolate
I'm sure you're familiar with spiking Guinness with Jameson and Baileys, so why not use all three to make boozy hot chocolate? You can add the Bailey's and whiskey straight, but in order for the flavor of the beer to come through you need to reduce it into a concentrated syrup on the stove first.
Salted Butterscotch Hot Chocolate
Forget commercial butterscotch—it's easy to make your own with sugar and cream. Despite the name butterscotch isn't made with Scotch whiskey, but we add a shot in anyways because we like the notes of smoke and vanilla it adds. We use the butterscotch two ways—most of it is mixed in with the hot chocolate, with the last bit being drizzled on top.
Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate
The all bacon everything craze is well in the past, but the combination of bacon and chocolate is tasty enough to be more than a fad. To give this hazelnut hot chocolate as much bacon flavor as possible we emulsify rendered fat right in before garnishing with a strip of fried bacon.
Tequila Mint Hot Chocolate
Not all boozy hot chocolate recipes have to be quite so involved—this one just requires spiking the cocoa with tequila and peppermint schnapps. Garnish each mug with mint leaves to complement the schnapps and give the cocoa a fresh, herbal aroma.
Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate With Chili, Cinnamon, and Mezcal
You could use tequila in this hot chocolate too, but if you have mezcal on hand then try that instead—its smokiness wonderfully the dried ancho chili and cinnamon that we use to give the cocoa a kick. You can also use dark rum, which will give the drink some extra richness.
Just-Do-Ya (Hazelnut-Spiked Irish Coffee With Chocolate Whipped Cream)
There's more to spiked coffee than the classic Irish coffee—this Nutella-inspired variation replaces the whiskey with Frangelico and is topped with chocolate whipped cream. We also add a tablespoon of simple syrup to each mug to take a little of the edge off the coffee.
Everything Nice (Spiced-Rum Coffee With Butterscotch Whipped Cream)
We think that the sugarcane sweetness and slight kick of spiced rum make it an even better partner than whiskey for coffee, so we use it in this Irish coffee variation topped with butterscotch whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg. We make the whipped cream with malted milk and brown sugar to simulate the slow-cooked flavor of traditional butterscotch.
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (Fernet-Spiked Irish Coffee With Lemon Cream)
Full disclosure: this recipe isn't going to appeal to everyone. We start with coffee, which is already bitter, then pour in Fernet-Branca and top with tangy lemon whipped cream. It's certainly more assertive than our other Irish coffee recipes, but give it a chance and you might be surprised.
Bittersweet Amaro- and Whiskey-Spiked Coffee
If Fernet is a little too intense, this bittersweet spiked coffee might just be the thing for you. Adapted from a drink created by Aaron Paul of the Daniel Patterson Group in San Francisco, the cocktail gets just enough bite from caramelly Amaro Averna and herbal, citrusy Gran Classico.
Architects and Kings
This recipe also goes for a more balanced, bittersweet flavor—the coffee is spiked with rye whiskey, Luxardo Amaro Abano, and Angostura bitters, and it's mellowed out with with cream, apple brandy, and demerara sugar.
Other Hot Cocktails
Hot Ward 8 Cocktail
An old-school Ward 8 is made with rye, lemon and orange juice, and grenadine. The fruit juices don't work in a drink that has to be diluted with hot water, so in this recipe we replace them with a more intensely-flavored oleo-saccharum and a couple of ounces of orange curaçao. We also replace the grenadine with pomegranate juice for a brighter flavor.
The Varnish's Milk Punch
Clarified milk punches haven't been in the spotlight for a couple hundred years—that just means this cocktail is super retro, right? In addition to the clarified milk, we make this version with oleo-saccharum, lemon juice, simple syrup, cognac, and rum.