Hot cocktails are difficult for me. I have an overactive internal furnace, and hot ethanol tends to float in an aggressive manner. (I even relax my mulled port.) But at least once in the holiday season, when I’m sweet and high on nostalgia, I give the warming promise of a toddy, a mulled wine or a good coffee, and I’m rarely disappointed.
The following are some of my favorite ways to consume hot alcohol. The Toddy is made with gin, the wine is mulled in the microwave, and the Wassail is from Trader Joe’s (sorry to my British readers). Aside from the real Irish coffee, these drinks favor the lazy ones and can be easily tossed together without too many ingredients or a lot of work. (Because the holidays require so much of us already.)
A proper Irish Coffee
It’s possible you’ve never had a good Irish coffee. As Cian Maher wrote in his blog for Lifehacker on the subject, “the quality of Irish coffee in restaurants and bars has been declining for some time now. We are essentially being served cheap coffee and even cheaper whiskey, topped with over-the-air whipped topping. But there is an art to Irish coffee. ”
Luckily, Cian’s grandfather was a very Irish-like, raised-at-the-Dublin-Castle Irish bartender, and he taught Cian how to make perfect Irish coffee. You can read his comprehensive guide here, but beware: the cream is where it often goes wrong.
And gin toddy
Pretty much everyone knows how to make a hot toddy with whiskey, but did you know that you can also make one with gin? The heat opens the spirit and lets you taste the wide range of botanical ingredients that a good gin has to offer.
Gin is so aromatic that you often do not need any tea. A high quality dry gin is your best choice as more botanically forward-looking, floral gin may contain compounds that become tannic when exposed to heat. (The spruce eats recommend Tanqueray and I agree.)
It’s easy to make a gin-toddy: Combine 1 1 / 2-2 ounce dry gin of good quality with 3/4 ounce lemon juice (use Meyer lemons if you have them), 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 ounces hot water, or your favorite tea.
Chocolate cherry coffee
This combination of coffee, chocolate syrup and cherry liqueur are just as good enough for Christmas morning. The caffeine makes you whirl, and the liqueur smoothes the rough edges, but it does not contain enough ethanol to make you really splash.
All you have to do is add an ounce of high quality cherry liqueur (though not Luxardo – it’s too almond-like) and a tablespoon of chocolate syrup to a cup of coffee. Stir and nip. It tastes like a better version of the cherry heart we stuffed in my grandmother’s stocking every year.
Cheater’s Winter Wassail
“Wassailing” is what the British call roaming around orchards while singing and drinking a spicy cider punch called “wassail”. According to Wikipedia, “the purpose of wassailing is to awaken cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the fall.” There is often a king and a queen involved, and the queen will hang a piece of wassail-soaked toast in a tree, though in “some counties the youngest boy or ‘Tom Tit’ will stand in” for the queen.
There are plenty of recipes for making your own wassail (and you can find them with a quick internet search), but Trader Joe’s sells a bottle punch version of uncertain authenticity. It tastes pretty good when combined with bourbon or – if you have to believe the mothers in TJ’s Facebook group – vodka. Combine 1 part bourbon and 2 parts TJ’s Winter Wassail, then heat gently in a saucepan to warm up. Serve with a strip of orange peel.
Instant Pot (or microwave) mulled wine
Mulled wine can be my favorite hot seasonal bev. The lower ABV means that the ethanol does not float quite as aggressively and it tastes good and looks beautiful. However, it requires a certain amount of simmering to infuse all the seasonal flavor into the wine.
If you do not feel like taking care of a simmering pot, there are two ways you can take the drink out of the stove: Put it in microwave or lock it inside Instant Pot. Both quickly get a taste for cheap red wine, which means you can start sipping faster. For both methods I like to use the following.
- 1,750-milliliter bottle or red wine (I like a cheap mix because why heat and taste an expensive bottle of wine?)
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1 orange, must be removed and juiced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 cloves
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 green cardamom stick, lightly crushed
- 1 cup Cardamaro
- 2 tablespoons honey
In Instant Pot
Add wine and apple juice to the Instant Pot, remove the peel from the orange with a peeler, making sure to shave off as little white grain as possible. Stick the cloves through a few strips of peel, then add all the peel to the pan along with the juice of the same orange. Add star anise and cardamom, and seal her. Press the “Manual” or “Pressure cooking” button and set the time to zero minutes with the “+” and “-” buttons. When the cooking time has elapsed, press “Cancel” and let the pressure drop naturally for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure manually. Press the “Keep warm” button – which is also the “Cancel” button – stir in the liqueur and honey, and serve to friends in beautiful mugs, garnish with cinnamon sticks (which would be somewhat expensive), strips of citrus peel, or freshly cut nutmeg.
Safety note: You may be tempted to try adding other drinks with higher ABV with your Instant Pot. Do not. The heater can spark, causing the flames to shoot out of your favorite table pressure cooker.
In the microwave
Add wine and apple juice in a large microwave-safe bowl, remove the peel from the orange with a peeler, making sure to remove as little white marrow as possible. Stick carnations through a few strips of peel, then add all the peel to the bowl along with the juice of the same orange. Add star anise and cardamom and leave it all in the microwave until hot but not boiling (about three minutes), then cover and let it soak for 15 minutes or so.
Stir in Cardamaro and honey, pour the wine into mugs, and garnish with the usual suspects (cinnamon sticks, cloves studded with strips of citrus peel, etc.).