Chicken bouillon cocktails are the warm winter drink you have overlooked

Chicken bouillon cocktails are the warm winter drink you have overlooked

Woman sipping from hot mug

Woman sipping from hot mug

This fall, football returned to Wrigley Field for the first time in 11 years, and many more college games are planned there in the coming years. Although a winter soccer match is among the coldest outdoor activities in the Midwest, there is one drink that will keep you comfortable throughout. And I have a cop in Wrigley to thank for that.

Before the match against Northwestern-Illinois at Wrigley in 2010, I walked around the empty stadium in search of a hot drink. Pausing to chat, the officer told me he had worked many games on cold days at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play. “How do you stay warm?” I asked.

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I expected him to pull a flask forward, but instead he told me his secret: chicken broth in a cup of hot chocolate. “Do you add alcohol?” I said. He smiled and blinked.

Ever since then, I’ve been making it an exercise to bring hot chicken broth drinks into a thermos or insulated cup when I know I want to be outside or in frosty places like hockey games (provided containers are allowed, that is). It is more hearty than a hot tea and does not sign up for dessert like hot cocoa does. Broth cocktails are more complex, like a fortified soup. It’s not as strange as it sounds. The bullfight has, after all, been around for decades.

Since I was a kid, I’ve known hunters and fishermen whose favorite cocktail was a bullshit: beef broth combined with vodka, lime juice, and a splash of Worcestershire. Knowing this, a chicken bouillon drink is not that much of a stretch.

A bull shot can be drunk hot or cold, but many prefer it hot, after hours spent in duck curtains or waiting for deer to show up. Whether it’s homemade or from a package, chicken broth can be used in much the same way, and you end up with a lighter tasting drink than the beef broth provides.

Instead of lime, you can pair chicken broth with lemon, giving you a good echo of Greek avgolemono soup, minus eggs. But I see chicken bouillon drinks as an opportunity to experiment with different alcohol flavors as well as spices.

While vodka is a basic ingredient, chicken broth is also suitable for more hearty spirits such as bourbon, rye or brandy. You can also use non-alcoholic spirits such as Seedlips spice or herbal varieties.

I have never combined chicken broth with liqueurs, because I would rather stay on the salty side rather than sweet. But if you’re a fan of orange chicken, you can experiment with Grand Marnier or Cointreau. And some people might want to enjoy chicken broth with a licorice overtone by using Sambuca. With these intensely flavored spirits is less more so you can cut down on the booze from the recipe below.

I love pulling herbs in chicken broth using different types that I dry when summer is over. It is a great combination with rosemary, thyme, blends like herbs de Provence and even mint.

I would go on with the herbs you would use to taste soup broths for, instead of stronger ones such as sage or oregano which can overwhelm the broth. Put the herbs in a Pyrex mixing cup with the broth, and taste to find out the intensity. If using larger pieces of dried herbs, strain them before serving.

Chicken broth also gives you a great opportunity to mix different levels of ground pepper, like cayenne, chipotle or aleppo, which can be a wake-up call on a cold day.

Indian spices, such as cardamom, turmeric and finely ground fennel, are very drinkable. Nutmeg adds a holiday flavor to chicken bouillon drinks, especially when combined with citrus like orange or lemon. Baharat, the spice blend that includes cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and cumin, is wonderful and complex.

Just as a bullshit includes a touch of Worcestershire, you can try adding drops of sauces to your chicken broth drinks. Think of your favorite hot sauce (I like Crystal, Tabasco and Cholula) or something with Asian flavors, like ponzu, soy or fish sauce. Here’s another place for sriracha fans to get a taste up. Just remember that a few drops go a long way in a drink.

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, heated

  • 1/4 cup vodka or other spirit

  • 1/2 tsp. ground spice or herbs

  • A splash of sauce if desired

  • Squeeze lemon or lime

  • Rosemary for garnish

If you use spices or herbs, combine them with the hot chicken broth and let them soak for at least 5 minutes, longer if you want a stronger flavor. (If soaked overnight, stir and heat the broth when ready to serve.)

Put vodka, sauce and citrus juice in the bottom of a mug and stir. Slowly add the hot broth while stirring to combine the flavors. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Serve and enjoy.

If you are filling a thermos or jug, stir before serving to ensure that the flavors are mixed together.

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