How to Turn Classic Cocktails into Winter Drinks | Wine Enthusiast
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How to Turn Classic Cocktails into Winter Drinks

There’s a reason that so many bars roll out new cocktail menus each season: Drinks that feel so refreshing all summer long can hit a little differently on chilly nights. But instead of tossing out cocktails, savvy bar pros simply adjust recipes to create winter drinks with different ingredients, flavors and formats.

What appeals about this approach, says Ryan Lotz, beverage director and partner at Shore Leave, a tropical-themed bar in Boston, is that rather than switching to super-austere drinks, like an Old Fashioned, this gives the option to keep more easy-drinking options in the rotation.

Plus, “you can feel like you’re embracing the change of seasons in a very tangible way,” he says. “These drinks can almost act like a bridge to the next season—not that they cannot stand on their own all winter long.”

Spice It Up

Lotz recommends bringing in “warming” flavors. To transition a daiquiri for wintertime, he switches from white rum to Scarlet Ibis, a gold rum from Trinidad with notes of toffee and tobacco. Baking spice notes of allspice dram sweeten the drink.

Another potential shortcut: Reach for a bottle of bitters.

“Add a few dashes of Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters to your daiquiri or Mai Tai,” he advises. “Even something like a piña colada benefits from a little spiced edge.”

Winter Daiquiri
Winter Daiquiri. / Photo by: Emily Hawkes / Food Styling: Judy Haubert / Prop Styling: Ashleigh Sarbone

Winter Daiquiri

Courtesy of Ryan Lotz, beverage director/ partner, Shore Leave, Boston

Shake 2 ounces gold rum, ¾ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce Demerara simple syrup and ¼ ounce St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram with ice.

Strain into coupe glass. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Warm-Up Literally

If your go-to is typically a Negroni, Julia Momosé brings the drink into hot toddy territory with her Hotto Campari, developed for Kumiko, her Japanese-inspired bar in Chicago. Hot water is added to a mix of Campari, lemon, honey and various liqueurs, yielding a playful drink with a rosy hue and familiar bittersweet flavor.

This drink lends itself to customization. If you don’t have shochu, sub in saké or a white spirit like gin; in place of kummel, try a barspoon of another liqueur, such as dry curacao.

Winterized Cocktails
Hotto Campari. / Photo by: Emily Hawkes / Food Styling: Judy Haubert / Prop Styling: Ashleigh Sarbone

Hotto Campari

Adapted from The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes, by Julia Momosé and Emma Janzen (Clarkson Potter, 2021)

In teacup, combine 1 ounce Campari, ¾ ounce shochu, ½ ounce honey syrup (2:1 honey to hot water), ¼ ounce fresh lemon juice and 1 barspoon kummel liqueur. Add 3–4 ounces hot water, depending on desired strength of cocktail.

Stir briefly to combine. Twist lemon peel over the top of drink to express oils, then use peel to garnish drink.

Play With Seasonal Produce

At La Calenda in Yountville, California, General Manager Eric Jefferson modifies the Paloma to incorporate pomegranate juice, alongside the traditional grapefruit, but that’s only one possible variation.

“Some go-to winter fruits include pear, pomegranate, persimmon and winter citrus such as blood orange or clementine,” he says.

Winterized Cocktails Invierno Paloma
Invierno Paloma. / Photo by: Emily Hawkes / Food Styling: Judy Haubert / Prop Styling: Ashleigh Sarbone

Inivierno Paloma

Courtesy Eric Jefferson, general manager, La Calenda, Yountville, CA

First, make spiced agave syrup: In small pot over low heat, combine 1 cup agave syrup, 10 sprigs of thyme, 20 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick. Stir continuously until mixture begins to simmer. Let cool and store in the fridge overnight. Strain. Keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.

To make cocktail, place kosher salt in shallow dish. Moisten outer rim of Collins glass, then roll in salt to coat. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds in bottom of salt-rimmed glass. Fill glass halfway with ice.

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ounces reposado tequila, 1-ounce pomegranate juice, ¾ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce red grapefruit juice, ½ ounce spiced agave syrup and ice. Shake well, then strain into prepared glass. Top with soda water. Garnish with thyme sprig.

This article originally appeared in the December 31, 2021 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!