Warm Winter Cocktails – US Food Trends

17 February 2010
Warm Winter Cocktails – US Food Trends

Baristas aren't the only ones serving warm beverages to counter winter's chill. Bartenders are getting into the game with a variety of mulled wines, hot toddies and spiced brandies.

This article first appeared in the 1 December 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.

By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor

From gingerbread lattes to pots of chai, hot beverages generate brisk business for coffeehouses during the winter months. But baristas aren't the only ones who benefit from the allure of seasonal specialties. Mixologists also are getting into the spirit by serving warm cocktails that invite customers to cozy up to the bar.

At The Heathman Restaurant & Bar in Portland, Ore., for instance, bartender Brian Hilby tops off snifters of pear and apple brandies with pomegranate juice and hot water. Denver's The Squeaky Bean offers hot toddies made with bourbon, chai and honey. And at Rebar at Chicago's Trump International Hotel and Tower, mulled wine steeped with oranges, cinnamon sticks and cloves is made for sharing, arriving at the table in a warmed sterling-silver bowl that serves six.

Cold weather naturally stokes people's desire for warm drinks, but nostalgia is a driver, too. Even in Southern California's temperate climate, Vincenzo Marianella offers hot cocktails during winter at his Santa Monica bar, Copa d'Oro. Mulled wine was a winter favorite in Northern Italy's Friuli region, where Marianella grew up. At Copa d'Oro, he serves his version of another Italian classic, espresso correcto, which pairs espresso with grappa.

For a cocktail aptly named Italian Winter, Marianella combines coffee, grappa and amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur), sweetening the strong mixture with simple syrup. He tops off the drink with whipped cream flavored with a few drops of orange bitters.

Following are recipes for these cocktails and others that tap into the warm spirit of the season.


Rebar at Trump International
Hotel and Tower, Chicago
Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Cherries, stemmed and pitted: 1 cup
Cognac: 1 cup
Red wine: 2 (750mL) bottles
Brandy: 1 cup
Cinnamon sticks: 5, plus extra for garnish
Cloves: 2 Tbsp.
Oranges:, halved 4
Orange slices: 6-8

Marinate the cherries in cognac for 1-2 weeks. Drain. Skewer 3 cherries each onto 6 to 8 toothpicks.

In a large pot, combine wine, brandy, 5 cinnamon sticks and cloves. Squeeze the juice from the orange halves into the pot, and then toss in the halves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and then cook 15-20 minutes or until the spices have infused into the wine.

In heat-proof glasses, place 1 cinnamon stick and 1 orange slice. Ladle in the wine; balance cherry skewers on the rims of the glasses.

Note: To serve to a group, as they do at Rebar, take the mulled wine to the table in a warmed bowl; place a heat source under the bowl to keep it warm. Servers can ladle wine into glasses, and then guests can help themselves to seconds.


Bartender Brian Hilby
The Heathman Restaurant & Bar
Portland, Ore.
Yield: 1 serving

Cinnamon stick: 1
Orange wedge: 1
Agave nectar or honey: ½ oz.
Apple brandy: ¾ oz.
Pear brandy: ¾ oz.
Vanilla cognac: ¼ oz.
Pomegranate juice concentrate: ½ oz.
Hot water: about 3 oz.

Place the cinnamon stick and orange wedge in a heat-proof snifter. Pour in agave nectar or honey, followed by the brandies, cognac and pomegranate juice. Add the hot water (use more or less, depending on taste and the size of the snifter).


Owner Johnny Ballen
The Squeaky Bean, Denver
Yield: 1 serving

Honey: ½ oz.
Bourbon: ½ oz.
Freshly brewed hot chai: 1½ oz.
Lemon half: 1

In a heat-proof glass, add the honey. Stir in the bourbon and tea. Squeeze in a bit of juice from the lemon half, and then float the lemon half on top.


Mixologist Pablo "Papi" Hurtado
Savona, Gulph Mills, Pa.
Yield: 1 serving

Lemon zest: 1 long, wide strip
Cloves: about 5
Cinnamon stick: 1
Scotch whisky: 2 oz.
Ginger liqueur: ½ oz.
Lemon juice: ½ oz.
Agave nectar: 1½ oz.
Ground nutmeg: a pinch
Hot water: about 1½ oz.

Stud lemon zest with cloves and place in a heat-proof rocks glass along with the cinnamon stick.

Pour in whisky, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, agave nectar and nutmeg. Top off with the hot water (use more if desired).


Manager Matt Livingston
Serpas, Atlanta
Yield: about 8 servings

Apples: 4
Cranberries: 12 oz.
Orange, halved: 1
Sugar: ¼ cup
Brown sugar: ¼ cup
Honey: ¼ cup
Cinnamon sticks: 3-4
Cloves: 8
Ginger, peeled, sliced: 1 (1-inch) piece
Allspice: 1 tsp.
Water: 4 cups
Apple cider: 4 cups
Applejack: 1 cup

In a large pot, combine the apples, cranberries, orange halves, sugar, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger and allspice. Stir in water, apple cider and applejack and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 3½ hours. Strain.

To serve, ladle into heat-proof glasses.

Note: Livingston also offers the cider chilled and served in martini glasses.


Owner Vincenzo Marianella
Copa d'Oro, Santa Monica, Calif.
Yield : 1 serving

Heavy cream: ½ cup
Sugar: 1 Tbsp., or to taste
Orange bitters: 1-2 dashes
Grappa: 2 oz.
Amaro: ½ oz.
Simple syrup: ½ oz.
Hot coffee: 3 oz.

Whip together cream, sugar and orange bitters. Keep chilled until needed. (You will probably have more than you need for one cocktail.)

In a heat-proof glass, combine grappa, amaro and simple syrup. Stir in coffee. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream.

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