Warming winter cocktails

Cocktails – all too often we imagine them as fruity, parasol-bedecked, poolside tipples, but there are warming winter breeds of this drink species, too.

A well conceived winter cocktail can be impossible to pass up on a chilly day, especially with a heady aroma of sweet Christmas cake spices filling the air. You don't need to be in a ski lodge or reclining in a Chesterfield propped by the fire at a gentlemen's club to enjoy a fortifying winter potion, and to prove it, here are three foolproof make-at-home recipes for you to sample.

Mulled Cider

Mulled wine or Gluhwein is perhaps the most famous winter-time potent potable going - unsurprisingly, as it has a European history dating back well over 500 years. Cider as a beverage, however, is on the rise in Australia with a plethora of brands now available domestically. Apart from being simply widely available it is excellent to mull, especially as it lacks any tannins that might result in a slightly bitter taste.

I recommend that you don't try to skimp too much on the cider that you are purchasing, and avoid using any flavoured cider – you'll be adding plenty of that yourself.

(serves 2)
60ml dark rum or apple brandy
2  tablespoons of brown sugar
2 x 330ml bottles of quality apple or pear cider
A pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice*
Two strips of orange peel studded with cloves

Add all ingredients to a pot with a lid and place on a medium-high heat. Bring close to the boil before removing from heat and dividing into two large mugs. Serve hot.

* Use fresh whole spices if you are planning on letting the mixture steep for any extended period of time.

Hot Buttered Rum

If it's one thing we need to give credit to the Americans for, it's a range of delicious hot winter drinks. One of my favourite indulgent winter treats has to be Hot Buttered Rum – an American invention dating back to colonial times. As the sugar business took off in the Caribbean, New England was flooded with molasses which from the 1650s was quickly turned into rum. America's first native spirit rum was incorporated into holiday beverages, of which this is one of the most celebrated.

To make the butter:
(serves 8)
1 cup of soft brown sugar
125 grams of room temperature unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 pinch of salt

To make the drink:
Boiling water
60ml of Jamaican dark rum per serve

In a bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and spices. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate. To serve the drink, add two tablespoons of the mixture to a mug with 60ml of dark rum topped with boiling water. Stir and garnish with a little grated nutmeg.


Yes, this is an odd name for a cocktail, and just how such a smashing libation got affixed with a name more associated with Calvinist-Puritan zeal is not entirely understood. The only clue we have is that the Presbyterian Church has Scottish origins – explaining the whisky component of this drink, at any rate.

At its simplest, this drink is Scotch and ginger beer. But I reworked the base recipe to provide more of a cold-fighting kick courtesy of fresh ginger, lemon and honey.

60ml of blended Scotch whisky
15ml lemon juice
30ml honey and ginger juice*
Soda to top

Build all ingredients in a highball filled with ice. Stir puritanically and drink with zeal.

* To make the honey and ginger juice: Grate a large piece of fresh ginger into a bowl. Squeeze the pulp to remove the ginger juice and combine two parts honey to one part juice. Stir until honey has dissolved (heat gently in the microwave to aid dissolving).

What cocktails or concoctions help you get through a chilly winter?