Wine & spirits: Chill chasers
Next to a naked cuddle or a roaring fire, the best way to warm up quickly on a chilly evening is with some liquid comfort, such as a mug of hot buttered rum, a tankard of mulled wine or an old-fashioned toddy.
Hot drinks are attractive, easy to make and especially entertaining for guests, who rarely are offered or will ask for a hot cocktail. What's more, they're versatile. Drinks can be as formal and fancy or as casual and simple as you like. The drinks can be made individually to suit personal tastes or created in volume to sate a crowd.
The perfect cold-weather cocktail is one that generates its own cosy ambience while reflecting your personal style. It fills you with warmth and satisfaction. But given the choice of a cuddle, a fire or a hotty, bargain for the best two out of three.
In the mix
With a few basic techniques, you can create professional-quality winter warmers. First, think about the base, which makes up the volume of the drink. Will it be hot milk, coffee, fruit juice, wine or water?
Next, decide on the spirit. Pick one that doesn't clash with the base. For example, if you're making a cider- or juice-based drink, forget about adding cream liqueurs, as they'll curdle. Coffee is the most forgiving drink, which is why so many lounges tend to limit their after-dinner list to a few special coffees. Butterscotch, cream, nut and most fruit and herb liqueurs are also quite compatible with cocoa and hot milk.
Finally, choose a garnish. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg work well with most drinks, but whipped cream, chocolate shavings and fruit slices require more care with respect to the base and the booze.
A hot drink should never taste overtly alcoholic. If it does, then you've added too much booze. Hot beverages should also be warmed only enough to lift the aromas and integrate the flavours of the drink. Too much heat and you'll destroy the elegance and gracefulness of the delicate flavours, besides searing your mouth. And avoid heating drinks in the microwave: if you've ever had a cup of microwaved tea or coffee, you know the stovetop is the best place to heat your drink.
FEELIN' HOT, HOT, HOT!
In thick glass or mug, put 1 tsp honey,
2 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick and lemon slice. Add 2 oz boiling water; stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Add 2 oz Courvoisier VS (or another good-quality VS cognac) and another 2 oz boiling water. Stir and lightly sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.
In 10-oz mug, stir together 1 tsp Demerara sugar and 1 oz each Appleton Special Gold rum, Malibu Coconut rum and Malibu Mango rum liqueur (the Malibu rums have half the alcohol of a standard rum). Add 1 generous tsp unsalted butter and fill mug with boiling water. Stir and lightly sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.
Koko-Mokka and Nutté Latté
Into tall mug, pour 1 oz each Kahlúa and Frangelico. Add 1 drop pure vanilla extract and fill mug with heated chocolate milk. Top with dollop of sweetened whipped cream and dust with finely ground toasted hazelnuts. To make Nutté Latté, replace Kahlúa with Godiva Chocolate liquor, and substitute hot coffee for hot chocolate.
Muggatawny (8 to 10 drinks)
In large saucepan, combine 2 cups boiling water, 1 sliced lemon plus 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 sliced orange, 10 whole allspice, 10 cloves and 2 cinnamon sticks. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 1 bottle tawny port and 1 half-bottle Southbrook Farms Framboise raspberry wine. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Strain into heatproof glasses; decorate each glass with a quarter-wheel of lemon and orange.
To cup of camomile tea, add 1 oz Green Chartreuse herb liqueur.