There’s something about a hot cocktail that feels so decadent and cozy. My mind immediately conjures up visions of ski chalets, glowing fireplaces, the first snow, down blankets, and intimate moments with close friends. Hot cocktails are (or should be) a necessity of the hygge lifestyle! You don’t have to be in Denmark or Norway to appreciate the snuggly warmth of a good hot cocktail!
What’s your favorite hot cocktail? Share in the comments… and find a few of mine in and at the end of this post!
choose your poison
Hot cocktails differ in how they are heated. Technique affects flavor. Technique also impacts safety. Choose one that best pairs with your alcohol choice.
Low alcohol drinks based on wine, cider, or ale can be safely warmed directly over an open heat source with little risk of flame (but still some risk, so be warned).
Higher alcohol spirit-based concoctions are safer heated by adding hot water (or other hot liquid).
turn up the heat
The most common methods of heating hot cocktails are in a pot on the stove (or in a slow cooker), and by combining a spirit with boiling water or another hot beverage.
When heating in a pot, the flavors will concentrate over time and the alcohol will slowly diminish (but not go away). Like an old country-style stockpot, you can continuously add more along the way. The flavor may be inconsistent, but the mixture can be re-seasoned and be kept plentiful.
With straight spirits, it’s much safer to keep them away from direct heat unless your intention is to flambé the drink – and even then, do so with extreme caution. It’s safer to bring the heat to spirit by adding hot water, tea, coffee, hot cocoa, or whatever your favorite happens to be.
Serve these drinks in heat-proof cups – teacups are ideal because they have wider rims. Taller or narrower mugs concentrate the alcohol vapors – not a pleasant feeling on the nose!
If you visit a more adventurous cocktail bar, there’s another method you may come by – the hot poker technique.
In Colonial times open hearths were common and provided easy access to intense heat. Iron pokers were heated in the embers then plunged into ale, cider, or wine-based concoctions. The added benefit with this style of heating a drink is the unique flavor of caramelization that can’t be achieved in the other methods. Hot pokers fell out of favor with the evolution from hearth cooking.
Then came Dave Arnold. Food science writer, educator, innovator, and good friend. Dave made it his mission to revive these long-forgotten drinks. And I was lucky enough to work with him during the years of this experiment.
In his award-winning book Liquid Intelligence, Arnold tells the history of hot drinks and of how he developed his Red-Hot Poker – the invention of which revived this style of Colonial-era hot cocktails in 21st century New York City and beyond. He even offers a homestyle method for achieving similar flavors – no red-hot pokers required.
The most common hot drinks are mulled beverages like Swedish Glögg and wassail. They’re usually wine- or cider-based, loaded with aromatic citrus and spices, and slowly simmered for long periods of time. They’re perfect for large gatherings and long, cozy fire-lit evenings with friends and family. And for making your home smell delicious!
Swedish glögg is a type of mulled wine that will warm you through and make your home smell delicious! My recipe comes from a good friend, Chef Nils Noren.
spirited hot drinks
Whether you bring the spirit to the hot mug or the hot liquid to the spirit, you’re concocting the most common type of hot cocktail. Maybe it’s a spiked hot chocolate, an Irish Coffee, or the much-loved Hot Toddy. These drinks are easy to make and only limited by your imagination and liquor cabinet.
Most hot drinks fall into the category of Hot Toddies. The history of these beloved cocktails, unsurprisingly, is full of lore. Barroom histories say as much about the teller of the tales as the drinks themselves. And the Hot Toddy is no exception.
Cocktail historians mostly agree that the name came from the Hindi word “taddy” (a fermented palm sap beverage). Like many other things, the word was appropriated by the British in the 17th century. A century later, the Taddy (whisky, sugar, spice, and hot water) was on written record, and firmly established in pub culture.
And if you were sick, and unable to get to the pub? Doctors would happily prescribe a Toddy to revive you from just about any ailment.
When the Hot Toddy crossed to the American colonies, it made use of the ample supply of rum. At the time, rum was believed to be a healthy elixir. Hot Toddies with rum were prescribed to people of all ages, even small children.
There are a few special hot cocktails that are along the same lines as the Hot Toddy, but more complex and often reserved for the holiday season. Two of my favorites are the Hot Buttered Rum and the Tom and Jerry.
Hot Buttered Rum was also used medicinally – still is, depending on who you ask! Today, it’s a decadent holiday-season treat. Butter, sugar, and spices are whipped together as a base – secret recipes abound. This batter is combined with rum and hot water or hot cider to yield a rich, frothy, aromatic delight.
Though not as fashionable as it once was, the Tom and Jerry has been around since the early 19th-century. This frothy punch is a spin on traditional eggnog. It was created in the US by British Journalist Pierce Egan. A thick whipped egg and sugar batter is placed in a heatproof punch bowl or mug then mixed with brandy, rum, and hot milk.
Tom and Jerrys became part of early-20th century holiday entertaining culture. So much so that a good hostess had a least one ceramic Tom and Jerry punch bowl set. If you have one that’s in good shape, you may have a nice nest-egg! There’s quite a collectors’ market for unique Tom and Jerry sets.
“anything goes” hot cocktails
When the chilly weather appears, so do the hot cocktail recipes (they’re the rosé of winter!). Here are a few that I’m enjoying these days, with special thanks to my friends at Colangelo PR for the samples of Partida Tequila Reposado, Dos Maderas Double Aged Rum, and Diplomático Mantuano Rum.
Partida tequila Mexican Riviera hot chocolate
Bonus points for using the real Mexican hot chocolate tablets! I like mine super chocolatey, so I use about 1-1/2 cups water instead of milk to a 3 ounce tab of chocolate. I then add a bit of cream, condensed milk, or almond milk at the end, to taste.
You may not think tequila belongs in your hot cocoa, but you’re wrong – It’s delicious!
10-12 ounce mug of of your favorite hot cocoa, prepared extra chocolatey
2 ounces Partida reposado tequila, more to taste (careful, it will pack a punch!)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
5-7 drops firewater bitters (spicy bitters)
Dash of cinnamon
More cinnamon as garnish, to taste
Stir all the ingredients together in a large mug and serve hot.
I’ve got a few more hot cocktail recipes coming soon to Eat Something Sexy – click the title at the bottom of the photo for the links as they come live (if there’s no link, it is coming very soon)!
Hot Maple Apple Cider Recipe