We've already shown you our favorite hot cocktails, but there's more to winter drinking than toddies and spiked cider: plenty of chilled drinks are perfect when the temperature drops, too. Brown spirits are an obvious choice—but not the only one—as are seasonal fruits like apples, pears, and cranberries. Here are 15 of our favorite winter cocktails, from a smoky tea punch and an apple-flavored Negroni variation to a classic holiday eggnog.
Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail
You can get complex apple flavor into a cocktail by mixing Laird's with fresh fruit, as we do in this effervescent drink. We stir the apple brandy with diced apples, nutty oloroso sherry, and Mandarine Napoléon (or Grand Marnier, if that's what you have). We finish the drink with a few ounces of chilled prosecco.
Guns of Barbaresco
This rich, fruity cocktail mixes apple brandy with lemon juice, orange bitters, and an herb- and spice-packed Italian digestivo called Barolo Chinato. We sweeten the drink with a double-strength Demerara simple syrup so that it doesn't get too watered down. A star anise pod makes for a striking garnish.
Mela d'Alba (Apple Brandy Negroni)
As much as we love a traditional Negroni, the basic recipe is also ripe for variation. Here we keep the Campari and sweet vermouth (try Carpano Antica), but replace the gin with apple brandy. We use two parts of brandy to one part each of Campari and vermouth to cut the Campari's sweetness.
Tangy Cider Fizz
Sometimes I want a cocktail that will knock me out, but at other times a little moderation is in order. The only alcohol in this drink comes from a two-ounce pour of Carpano Antica, which we mix with apple cider and lemon juice. A barspoon of brown sugar sweetens it all up, and we top it off with club soda.
Sazerac and Cider
It's not a traditional combination, but a Sazerac pairs remarkably well with cider. The intense fruit flavor of a good hard cider is a natural partner for a spicy rye, and it also goes nicely with the dash of absinthe in this drink.
Old Fashioned Cocktails (for a Crowd)
Winter is a time of entertaining, and entertaining is easier when you can make drinks for a crowd ahead of time. The key to making a large amount of a cocktail is to add a little water to the mix, which mimics the dilution that occurs when you mix drinks with ice. The recipe itself is super simple: for a dozen guests all you need is a bottle of rye (or bourbon, if you prefer), simple syrup, and Angostura bitters.
9 Ladies Dancing Punch
Making punch is another great option for holiday parties. This one uses a base of smoky Scotch and chai tea. We also add sweet Lustau East India Solera Sherry, lemon juice, spicy Angostura bitters, and a sweet, fragrant vanilla-cinnamon syrup. An ice block is the best way to keep the drink cold—freeze cranberries inside the ice for an extra festive touch.
Sparkling Bourbon Pear Cocktail
This drink takes a while, but most of the work can be done ahead of time. You start by roasting pears, which get puréed, and then you combine the purée with maple syrup and bourbon to make a flavorful mixer. Once that's cooled down in the fridge, all you have to do is pour it into glasses and top it off with sparkling wine.
Old Timber (Rye Cocktail With Fernet)
This brooding cocktail with triple sec and fernet is perfect for those who love an Old Fashioned. You're probably most familiar with Fernet-Branca—while I'm a fan, it gives this particular drink an unpleasantly medicinal taste. Try using other brands like cinnamon-y Jelínek Czech-style fernet, minty Fernet Leopold, or super-dry Fernet Francisco.
Forget the carton from the store—the best eggnog is made at home with eggs, sugar, milk, cream, and rum or brandy. You can shake the ingredients together by hand for a creamy drink or use a stand mixer for a lighter, frothier one. Aged eggnog has gotten some buzz online recently. While it's worth trying, we prefer the fresh stuff.
Italian Buck (Amaro and Ginger Beer Highball)
If you've ever had a Dark 'n Stormy and thought, "This is good, but I wish it were a little weirder," this unusual drink is for you. It keeps the ginger beer, but replaces the rum with a pair of bittersweet Italian liqueurs: orangey Montenegro and vegetal Cynar. While the recipe calls for three ounces of ginger beer, we'd recommend starting with two and seeing how you like it before deciding whether or not to add more.
Shagbark's Sangaree (Madeira and Lemon Cocktail)
This distant relative of sangria is made with Madeira, a nutty, caramelly fortified wine that we love to drink on cold nights. We keep the drink simple, shaking the Madeira with simple syrup and lemon juice. A grating of nutmeg complements the toasty aromas of the wine.
Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch
It's Christmas tree season, but you don't need to go buy a tree to enjoy the aroma of pine: Just stay home and make this festive punch with rum, orgeat, and a citrus syrup infused with woodsy smoked rosemary. Taking some inspiration from the world of tiki drinks, we combine two rums here: one gold and one overproof.
Smoky Sage Punch
If you'd rather not light rosemary on fire in your home (but trust me, you really should), then try this cocktail, which gets its smokiness from lapsang souchong tea. We mix the tea with lemon juice, orange curaçao, a sage syrup, and gin—Beehive Distilling's Jack Rabbit has a botanical base that goes very well with the orange and sage.
Tangy Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail
I love a strong cocktail on a cold night, but for a big holiday meal I'd prefer something lighter. This sweet-tart cocktail made with a cranberry-black pepper shrub and sparkling wine fits the bill perfectly. The shrub can also be made into a non-alcoholic drink with simple syrup and club soda (plus orange bitters if you're okay with just a tiny bit of alcohol).