The winter chill is upon us, and the January nip in the dusk air makes it the most pleasant time of the year. For this is really the time when my winter drink collection comes out in a flash, and I’m sure it holds true for most of us. The delectable drinks that are best enjoyed when the cold breeze is blowing over us and we’re in dire need of something that warms our very core. So what are we drinking this winter?
A cup of 70 per cent hot chocolate can melt the coldest of people, no puns intended. And a shot of Drambuie, a Scottish honey and herb-flavoured liqueur — or, indeed, bourbon whiskey — can bring a much-needed intensity to the drink, while doubling up as a conversation starter in these cold times.
White mulled wine with tea
Mulled wine is a classic, and hands down, a favourite in the winters. But this one comes with a floral twist. Darjeeling tea simmered with Viognier, and a spice bag made out of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and a few orange slices ought to do the trick to make this drink stand out. You may also want to introduce some gin, to add some vivacity to the drink when you make it.
Hot buttered rum
A drink that goes back over 350 years, hot buttered rum is a fixture for every season. The tipple is best made out of softened butter, beaten with brown sugar and a spice mix of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Freeze the drink and add a scoop of spiced butter and a shot of rum in a mug, topped with hot water; it will give you a warm delight to look forward to each winter.
A good bet for the tropical winter that occurs in most parts of India around this time, this herbal drink will put your bar cabinet to good use. This can best be described as a hot infusion of chamomile, sage and cinnamon, sweetened and spiked with the original triple sec cointreau from Angers, France.
Now, how about some vodka to warm you up? To brew the spice trail, you could take some hot water simmered with turmeric powder, crushed black pepper corns, fresh ginger slices, liquorice sticks sweetened with jaggery. Strain the drink and enhance it with some soothing vodka.
Room temperature cocktails
Don’t get me wrong, the room temperature we refer to here is 16 to 18° C — the European room temperatures. At those numbers, aged elixirs like rum, cognacs and whiskies show their best sides. Sipping spirits or cocktails like the Rob Roys and Sazeracs is my calling, as far as this category goes.
Wines and spirits
Red wine is my go-to for the colder weathers; a glass of champagne for the Sunday brunch. Amarone della Valpolicella, Napa Valley cabernets, Barossa shiraz, Southern Italian primitivos are some of my favourite picks. As far as spirits go, they are a no-brainer, but have you tried these? El Dorado rum from Guyana, and Janus, a grape brandy from India are absolute delights. Then, as far as whiskies go, do give Paul John from Goa, Oban 14 from Scotland, and Buffalo Trace, a Kentucky straight bourbon, a shot.
Ajit is the founder of wine and beverage consulting and experiences firm, The Happy High.