We’re in that part of the year when just talking about the winter makes people grumpy. The winter wonderland is over. We want to be warm again. At the very least, we need help warming up while we eagerly await the arrival of spring. As is our custom, instead of hand warmers and fleece blankets we’d suggest turning to booze (responsibly!) instead.
Tony Abou Ganim, master mixologist and bar consultant at Highlands in Detroit knows cold. To combat this, he always grabs a specific style of whiskey.
“I grew up in Michigan and am very familiar with those long, frigid winter days,” he says. “Being of Irish descent I would choose an Irish whiskey to get the job of warming me up done.”
Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia also prefers whiskey to warm him up during the bleak winter days.
“My spirit of choice to warm up from the cold is always going to be rye,” he says. “Rye makes me think of hot toddies, adult hot chocolate, and savory warming drinks. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Angel’s Envy Rye and its complex flavors.”
But there’s more than just whiskey and rye when it comes to warming winter spirits. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the one spirit they’re drink to stay warm this winter.
Hennessy XO Cognac
Manuel Obregon Bernal, bartender at Adamus in Chicago
Cognac. Specifically, Hennessy XO. It can be used in a variety of cocktails. The XO will leave you with a feeling of warmth and comfort. It’s sophisticated and full-bodied; it reveals balance, roundness, and harmony.
The Macallan 18-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
Anthony Merlino, beverage director at Bergamo’s in New York City
The Macallan 18 Year Sherry Cask is my all-time favorite drink to warm up my winters. This single malt is exclusively matured with hand-picked sherry seasoned oak casks from Jerez, Spain for richness and complexity. I love the ginger and raisin flavors with hints of spice. Perfection.
Redbreast 15-Year-Old Irish Whiskey
Tony Abou Ganim, master mixologist and bar consultant at Highlands in Detroit
One of my all-time favorite Irish whiskeys has got to be the Redbreast 15 year from our friends at Irish Distillers and the Midleton distillery in County Cork, Ireland. The Redbreast 15 year is a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey made from a mash of both malted and unmalted barley and triple distilled in copper pot stills. Its creamy mouthfeel leads to a complex palate of ripe tree fruits, cooked bananas, and luscious mango’s, complemented by spicy notes of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and vanilla with dark honey, caramel, butterscotch sweetness; perfect for warming up on a cold winter’s day.
Stolichnaya Elit Vodka
Miki Nikolic, beverage director at Double Dealer in New Orleans
Stoli Elit is my go-to winter warmer. It’s aged in wooden barrels outside during Russian winters to remove any impurities. What could be more wintery than that?
The Balvenie 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask
Jose De Jesus Medina Camacho, bar manager at Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama
The Balvenie Caribbean cask 14-Year single malt. If you just close your eyes while sipping on the whiskey, you might just picture yourself on an island. While it’s a soft spirit on the pallet, the nose is what gives the whole experience…i.e. tropical notes, some vanilla, and some oak.
Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur
Kala Ellis, bar manager at O-Ku in Nashville
For me, the go-to spirit to stay warm is Ancho Reyes. I enjoy the Verde quite a bit, but the ancho chile liqueur tastes incredible mixed in a hot toddy with ginger syrup. Their story goes back to 1927. They make it with cane spirit and let it rest with the peppers for six months. I sometimes use it my Black Manhattans too. It has a slight tamarind finish, which brings me back to my childhood in Arizona when the ice cream truck would come around with tamarind lollipops. It’s a fun addition to any bar.
Patrick Turner, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore
I feel like too many people forget how great rum is in the winter months. Pyrat is a fantastic bottle. It tastes great neat and is also excellent for hot-buttered rum.
Lucano Anniversary Amaro
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
Lucano’s Anniversary Amaro is 68 proof, placing it on the higher end of traditional bitters. This makes it such a good winter sipper. It has beautiful molasses notes and the proof makes it sit on your palate a lot longer.
High West Rendezvous Rye
James MacInnes, bar manager at KYU in Miami
It always has and always will be whiskey. Specifically, I would gun for a predominantly rye mash bill. Rye provides a warming spice that seems to carry throughout the body with each sip. I’m always a fan of High West Distillery out of Utah. Their “Rendezvous Rye,” a blend of 4-year-old and 14-year-old whiskeys would be my go-to.
Glenfarclas 105 Scotch Whisky
Darron Foy, head bartender at The Flatiron Room in New York City
Glenfarclas 105. One of the best “bang for your buck” cask strength whiskies you’ll find. Period. This is a nod back to 1968, when Glenfarclas became the first distillery to release a barrel proof single malt whisky. It was named ‘105’ in reference to its alcoholic content in British Proof (equates to around 60%abv). Don’t be put off by the proof, there is a lot of flavor here. Sherry tones, Honey on toast, nuttiness. A lot of nuttiness on the palate with some cream and fruit showing again why Glenfarclas are prized.
Hine VSOP Cognac
Melissa Carroll, bar manager at Fisk & Co. in Chicago
Cognac has always been a winter spirit for me and H by Hine VSOP is a smaller estate that had been producing with quality over quantity since their start in 1817. A floral forward spirit, it has notes of small white floral blossoms with an emphasis on Jasmine. It still maintains gentle vanilla and cinnamon we’ve all come to expect from northern French oak. Nothing like a glass of luxury to make you feel warm.
El Silencio Mezcal
Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia
On a cold Winter’s day, I like to sip El Silencio Mezcal. It helps to warm me up if I’m thinking of warmer places to be.
Old Dominick’s Memphis Toddy Whiskey
Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville
Old Dominick’s Toddy Whiskey. This whiskey is infused with ginger and cinnamon and makes the perfect Hot Toddy. You could also enjoy this neat for the same effect.
Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
Jill Bulmash. mixologist at Monk’s Flask in Asheville, North Carolina
Winter always has me reaching for whiskey. When it’s cold I want to warm my bones with something I can sip neat and lately it’s been Japanese whiskeys. Nikka Coffey Grain has nice, sweet richness with notes of butterscotch, molasses, and malt. Super smooth and complex, it keeps you coming back for more.