Time to turn up the heat

Farewell summer and howdy to cooler weather. It’s time to forget about the chilled cocktails and drinks and think about hot, scintillating concoctions to warm us up. Enter toddies of all kinds to help take the cool edge off, especially beside a roaring fire after outdoor activity or after a good meal.

At the top of my list of hot insulators are coffee-based drinks. Caffeine and alcohol make for a very bracing pick-me-up. Coffee and many liqueurs, topped with whipped cream, mesh beautifully. ‘Irish Coffee’ is always a perennial favourite. The original blends Bailey’s Irish Cream with Irish whiskey. Try substituting the Irish whiskey with hazelnut-flavoured Frangelico for a ‘Nutty Irishman’. What could be better than a coffee-flavoured liqueur with coffee itself? Mix Kahlua and Tequila with coffee for a “Mexican” or Tia Maria and light rum for a ‘Jamaican’.

Tea drinkers don’t fret. There are numerous hot, alcoholic drinks that will tickle your taste buds. The original ‘Hot Toddy’ is made with tea, brandy, whiskey or rum, honey and lemon. Great any time, and really soothing for a cold! For something really different check out ‘English Christmas Punch’, especially for large gatherings. Combine dark rum, dry red wine, strong tea, sugar, orange and lemon juice for a real crowd pleaser. I really like ‘Blueberry Tea’. This warm elixir marries Grand Marnier, amaretto, orange pekoe tea and a slice of orange. Tangy, tasty and delicious!

Hot chocolate and cocoa lovers rejoice. Spirits and liqueurs are divine with this cool weather staple. Hot chocolate simply with brandy, rum and whisky play beautiful music together. You might try a ‘Snuggler’, blending white crème de menthe, peach liqueur, vodka and cocoa drizzled with whipped cream for a hearty eye-opener. A ‘Butter Baby’ pairs butterscotch schnapps with cocoa.

Milk-based hot drinks are also popular. Simply blend Benedictine and hot milk together for a ‘Milk and Honey’. One of my faves is a ‘Tom and Jerry’. Hot milk enhanced with an egg, simple syrup, dark rum, brandy and grated nutmeg. I also really like a ‘Snow Honey’. Add clover honey, Cognac and nutmeg to hot milk.

Wine lovers will enjoy ‘Hot Mulled Wine’ that blends together red wine, star anise, ginger, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, honey and pear eau-de-vie. For entertaining on the holidays try ‘Hot Spiced Christmas Wine’. Mix red wine, white wine, ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, brown sugar, brandy and oranges.

Hot apple cider also makes for a delightful toddy. Check out an ‘Indian Summer’. Marry some apple brandy, sugar and cinnamon with your hot cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick. A ‘Hot Apple Toddy’ teams hot cider with whiskey, sugar, cinnamon and a lemon wedge.

There are many other hot drinks to take the chill off. An all time favourite is ‘Hot Buttered Rum’. Here, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, dark rum and spices to taste in hot water make for a warmer-upper that’s sure to please. A ‘Burning Bush’ combines hot water, Irish whiskey and honey with a lemon wedge. Very tasty indeed! Rum aficionados will dig a ‘Grand Rum Toddy’. Hot water, rum, Grand Marnier, lime juice and a lime wedge come together admirably in this worthy sipper.

These are but a few of the hundreds of hot alcoholic drinks around for cool weather enjoyment. Exact recipes can be found online. Trust well-documented favourites or be experimental and create your own. Whatever the base liquid you are using (coffee, tea, cocoa, milk, wine, cider, water, etc.) do not bring them to a boil, but serve hot, before mixing. Boiling might affect the flavours of the other ingredients. Also remember that these drinks contain alcohol and, combined with their warm temperature, may make you drowsy, so sip responsibly. Enjoy.

NOTE: My new, award-winning, comic wine mystery novel Pinot Envy is now available online, at selected bookstores or through my office. Makes a great Christmas gift!

Edward Finstein a.k.a. The Wine Doctor ­— wine writer, educator, judge, consultant

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