Think you need to relegate your beloved Mojito and Daiquiri to the metaphorical back of the closet along with your flip-flops during winter? Not so fast. With a few tweaks and swap-outs, your favorite patio pounders can easily become fireside sippers.
Let’s start with that fizzy, minty Mojito. A bar staple like this shouldn’t be augmented too much, says Eden Laurin, the head of spirits programs at Dove’s Luncheonette, Publican Anker and The Violet Hour in Chicago. Her winter version, the Winter Mojito, stays pretty true to the Cuban classic except for she crafts a spiced spirit by infusing white rum with clove, cinnamon and star anise.
“Add a drop of Licor 43 liqueur, and then your mint, lime juice and soda, and you have a tropical combat to Chicago's blustery winds,” she says.
She takes a similar tack with her Winter Daiquiri, swapping standard white rum for a duo of more complex bottles: Banks 5 Island rum, a blend of 21 distillates from six producers on five islands, including golden, pot-stilled and Batavia arrack; as well as Cruzan black strap rum, which is full of molasses, coffee and clove notes.
“Splitting the classic Daiquiri base with an aged rum adds depth and warmth that’s perfect for cold Midwestern months,” she says. “So I like to add a bit of Cruzan black strap rum and give the drink a rich molasses-y twist.” She was stirred to create it, she adds, after the year she fled the Windy City for an island vacation over Christmas.
Want to make a Mai Tai more seasonally appropriate? Mike Jones, the head bartender at Sable Kitchen & Bar in Chicago, suggests reaching for a funky aged rum, like an agricole or Jamaican bottling, a few dashes of spicy bitters (like Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters) and some Ramazzotti or Averna amaro.
For his winter Mai Tai, the Winterbird, at Nine Mile Station in Atlanta, bar manager Randy Hayden replaces white rum with richer, fuller Plantation dark rum. He then swaps out banana liqueur for Combier apricot liqueur and ramps up the seasonal spice with Angostura bitters. They’re mixed with Fernet-Branca liqueur, simple syrup and lime, orange and pineapple juices and served in a Tiki mug garnished with orange and cherry.
Adding a splash of Giffard crème de cassis liqueur and some Angostura bitters to a Daiquiri made with Bacardi Ocho eight-year-old rum or adding a few barspoons of quince preserves to a Mojito are other ways that Hayden takes the drinks from swimsuit season to sweater weather. (Blood orange juice, aged rum and apricot liqueur, or earthy cachaça, muddled clementine wedges and star anise, also ready the Daiquiri for January temps.)
The Change in Seasons at Bar Mash in Charleston, S.C., is a metaphor for the switch from the warm to the cool months, a morphing cocktail that starts as a bright, refreshing Daiquiri and evolves into a sip that’s earthier and spicier. Bar manager Teddy Nixon muddles baby peas, shakes them with Plantation 3 Stars rum, lime juice, simple syrup and tarragon leaves and double-strains the mixture over ice cubes made with pomegranate and beet juices, St. Elizabeth allspice dram and The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ bitters. As the cubes melt, the color shifts from bright chlorophyll green to dark red, just like falling leaves.
And that’s not Nixon's only trick when it comes to seasonal rum creations. “Try making a riff on the Hemingway Daiquiri using some aged rum and allspice to complement the grapefruit,” he says, like Denizen eight-year-old rum and a spice-infused syrup. He also muddles cranberries for his spiced-rum Mojito. (Peeled, sliced and muddled ginger would add a nice kick too, as would replacing the lime wedges with kumquats, the diminutive winter citrus.)
Warming spice also factors into the Storm the Beach cocktail, a Tiki drink at The Cocktail Club, a speakeasy in Charleston, S.C. Bar manager Ryan Welliver mixes Hamilton 86 demerara rum, Plantation O.F.T.D. rum, velvet falernum, grapefruit and lime juices, and Bittermens Elemakule Tiki bitters with a syrup made from cinnamon sticks and toasted cumin seeds.
The takeaway for crafting winter rum sips? Spice is nice, darker hooch adds complex flavor, and if it’s in the produce section right now, juice it.