Summer’s watermelon-basil Margaritas are but a distant memory. To make up for the lack of sunshine, bartenders are serving their seasonal affective disorder–addled patrons a jolt of rejuvenation in the form of warm cocktails. But it’s not all just Whiskey Toddies and Hot Buttered Rums—bartenders are transcending predictability with hot drinks that draw influence from all corners of the globe.
“Hot drinks should create an emotional response with flavors that only show themselves once a year,” says Bobby Heugel of Houston’s tequila and mezcal haven, the Pastry War. The bar’s Mexican hot chocolate, spiked with green Chartreuse and ancho chile peppers, is one example. “The slight heat of the ancho pairs surprisingly well with the menthol qualities of the Chartreuse, which can have a cooling effect,” Heugel points out.
At Leyenda, the Brooklyn bar helmed by Ivy Mix, a restorative Irish coffee gets the Latin treatment. Mix melds locally roasted Guatemalan java with the country’s own Zacapa rum and macadamia nut orgeat, and caps off the drink with a cloud of whipped cream.
New York’s Highlands serves the cachaça-based Tea & Sympathy.
You might not expect a Scottish gastropub to put Brazil in the spotlight. But at Highlands in New York, beverage directory Andrey Kalinin developed a wintry drink using cachaça, Brazil’s national spirit. Kalinin first tasted Avuá Amburana cachaça in the summer. Detecting the rush of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla notes—flavors found in a number of the Scotches he serves—his mind immediately turned to winter. “I wanted to deliver traditional whisky flavors through the cachaça,” he explains. So he dreamed up the UK-meets-South America Tea & Sympathy, enlivening a cachaça and chai base with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and the King’s Ginger Liqueur, “to complement the drink’s spiciness.”
Tea is also showcased in a hot drink at Travelle Kitchen + Bar inside the Langham Chicago hotel, where beverage director Priscilla Young makes the Thai-rd of the Cold. Inspired by Jerry Thomas’s classic Blue Blazer, it unites Pantai Thai tea mix with a flaming arc of Smith & Cross and Atlantico rums. A frothy crown of Clément coconut liqueur–infused condensed milk completes the drink.
Erin Hawley’s Tiki Toddy at MG Road, the lounge inside Asheville, North Carolina’s beloved Indian restaurant, Chai Pani, also stars rum (Hawley prefers Flor de Caña 4-year-old). Her garam masala syrup, spun from a mélange of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorn and cardamom, is brightened by lime juice and Bittermens Tiki Bitters.
Such elixirs brighten our spirits, but also have the power to heal. At his Pittsburgh grappa shrine Grapparia, Domenic Branduzzi noticed the onslaught of customers stricken with change-of-season colds. Coming to their rescue is the LaVana Hot Toddy. His version combines lavender-infused grappa, green pepper, honey and lemon, flavors that, he says, “are reminiscent of a nice tea.”
The Patrinos from Molyvos features Tentura, a spiced Greek liqueur.
Tentura, a liqueur crafted in the Greek city of Patras since the 15th century, brings together alcohol, water and sugar with the fermented essence of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and citrus fruits. Although not widely available stateside, Tentura graces the menu of Molyvos, a Greek restaurant in New York, because wine director Kamal Kouiri became besotted at first sip. “A few years ago while I was traveling through the Peloponnese I was served Tentura with my coffee,” he recalls. “It was a chilly morning and the drink was so comforting that I immediately wanted to bring a version of it to my guests.” The Patrinoscocktail combines the spirit with just-brewed La Colombe coffee, steamed milk and a dash of cinnamon and is almost guaranteed to cure what ails you.