Can you feel how cold it's getting? I can. The playful nip that used to be in the air has suddenly and forever (okay not really forever, it just feels like it) morphed into the frigid sting of winter. That freshness was sprightly and frolicsome. It woke us up and let us know that the unending, physical weight of summer had retreated into a cave for another nine months. But best of all, that slight bite announced itself on the arm of the gorgeous, warming and radiant reds and oranges of autumn.
But now it has left us, and our new dance partner is harsh and unforgiving. But rather than fight the inevitable winter, I say embrace it. Twirl and leap and perhaps learn a few moves.
And as we all know, alcohol makes you a better dancer.
During my travels I've spent a lot of time behind various bars to support my nomadic leanings. I've mixed caipirinhas in the Algarve, served champagne at swanky seafood festivals in the Channel Islands and conducted cocktail masterclasses at incredibly fancy restaurants in London, charging 50 quid a head for the privilege.
So, based on my work as a mixologist, I've put together five of my favourite winter cocktails for you to quaff and add some bloom to your collective jowls. So take note, because the best time to enjoy these drinks is right now, in this weather.
And best of all, none of these drinks need complicated bar equipment; you can make them with ease in the comfort of your holiday home's kitchen, with ingredients from a local market.
- 1 x 750ml bottle of ruby port
- 1 x 750ml bottle of red wine
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 5 cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 large piece of orange peel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla pods
- 1 cup of orange juice
- ½ cup of golden raisins
- 1 cup of roasted almonds
- ¾ cup of brandy
- ¾ cup of aquavit
- 1 dash of Grand Marnier (optional)
Make a spice bag from cheesecloth for your vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and seal it tight. Place all ingredients (except the brandy and aquavit) with the spice bag into a large pan and start to heat. Once it warms, add the brandy and aquavit (and Grand Marnier if you have) then simmer the mixture gently for 45 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil over, keep it to a low simmer and stir occasionally. After 45 minutes, light a match and carefully drop it into the pan, make sure to step back from the flambé! Once the flames subside, put a lid on your Glögg to extinguish and remove the spent match. Serve warm.
The White Christmas - an Eggnog variation
- 4 egg yolks
- ½ cup of sugar
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 cups whole or semi-skimmed milk
- 1 cup single cream
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1.5 tablespoons bourbon whiskey (or to taste)
- 1.5 tablespoons rum or brandy (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon white chocolate liquor - per person
- 2 tablespoons Southern Comfort - per person
- White chocolate flakes to garnish
In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with a whisk until the colour turns lighter. Slowly add sugar and whisk until fluffy. In a thick-bottomed saucepan, mix the milk with the cloves and cinnamon. Slowly heat on medium heat until it is steaming hot but not boiling. Slowly add half of the hot milk mixture to your eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into your saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle and you will get scrambled eggs. Remove from heat and stir in the cream. Strain the mixture through a sieve, to remove the cloves and any chunks, and leave to cool for one hour. Lastly mix in the vanilla extract, nutmeg, bourbon and rum/brandy. Take your eggnog and pour into your preferred glass (I like to use a brandy snifter), then top with the white chocolate liqueur, Southern Comfort and chocolate flakes and stir gently. Serve flamboyantly and feel proud of yourself.
- 1 bottle of vodka
- ½ cup of dried cloves
- 6 fresh mint leaves
- 3 white sugar cubes
- Soda water
For this recipe, you'll need a few days in advance to create clove-infused vodka. Simply add the cloves to your vodka and allow 3-5 days for the vodka to absorb the flavour. Filter out the cloves (I use a coffeepot filter paper, funnel and an empty wine bottle) and bottle the liquid, which will last up to 12 months and is also amazing with tonic.
Now, down to business. To create your julep, place the mint leaves flat in the bottom of a short tumbler and press them with a pestle or the handle of a wooden spoon to break the leaves and release the oil and aroma. Drop your sugar cubes and ice into the glass. I advise crushing the ice a little first (wrap the ice cubes in a clean towel and whack with a rolling pin). Lastly add clove-infused vodka and soda water to taste. Stir lightly and serve.
Pumpkin punch with cinnamon rum
Image from Seriouseats
- 1 bottle of rum
- 5 cinnamon sticks
- 12 cups still water
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can pumpkin puree (or cook 250g of pumpkin and mash it super finely if you can't find a can)
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
Make the cinnamon rum by placing your sticks of cinnamon into the rum and allowing 3-5 days to infuse. Combine your water, condensed milk and pumpkin in a large pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes (if you didn't infuse cinnamon rum, you can use a spiced rum such as Sailor Jerry's as a substitute, and boil your cinnamon sticks now then remove). Let the mixture cool and refrigerate for 1 hour. Ladle the pumpkin mixture into a punch bowl, being careful to leave behind the pumpkin pulp, and add 1 ½ cups of the rum and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve right away, making sure to give yourself an extra serving.
Phoenix down - an herbaceous Hot Toddy variation
- 40ml Cognac
- 15ml green Chartreuse
- 15ml honey
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 10ml lemon juice
- 75ml boiling water
- 1 wedge of lemon
- 1 large piece of orange peel
- 3 fresh sage leaves
Preheat a thick glass or mug. Place the sage, lemon and orange peel in the bottom of the glass and muddle together with a pestle or the handle of a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Serve hot.
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