Hot to trot: Warm cocktails to cheer up the jaded Christmas palate

First Published in The Irish Times, Saturday 3rd December, 2016

If you are tiring of the traditional mulled wine at Christmas, why not spice things up with a few different warming seasonal drinks? Some are so simple I would hesitate to call them cocktails, but all are certain to add some cheer on a cold winter’s evening.

Hot chocolate and Irish cream liqueur

I am not a fan of cream liqueurs, but I once used up an unwanted gift by adding a splash to my mug of hot cocoa. It was delicious. You have to use unsweetened cocoa powder or dark chocolate; drinking chocolate is too sweet. Drink with your loved one in front of the fire on a cold night.

Egg Nog

Traditional on both sides of the Atlantic. It can be made with cognac, bourbon, sherry or rum, depending on where you live and what you like. In this country, whiskey seems the natural choice. Don’t use your finest bottle here; a good blended Irish whiskey will do very nicely. You can add more or less spirit, or even serve it without alcohol. Egg nog is a little fiddly to make, although you prepare it in advance. There are those who recommend ageing it in the fridge for up to a week, but this might raise safety issues. A luxurious creamy cocktail that can pack a punch.

One litre of full fat milk, 225 grams sugar, 12 large egg yolks, 225 ml Irish whiskey (or more to taste) 250 ml cream. Whisk milk and sugar over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl, then add the hot mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently for around 20 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow to boil. Strain into a bowl and add whiskey and cold cream. Cool and then refrigerate. Serve cold, garnished with grated nutmeg and, if desired, the whipped leftover egg whites.

Whiskey Mac

One of the oldest cocktails, but one of the most satisfying, providing you use good quality whiskey and a decent ginger wine. If you want to take it a step further, use a ginger liqueur (the Celtic Whiskey Shop offer several). Otherwise mix equal quantities of whiskey and ginger wine, adding ice if you wish. It can also be served hot like a toddy, by boiling hot water.

Hot Buttered Rum

A delicious and warming drink, perfect on cold winter’s evenings. 125 grams softened butter, 125 grams brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons maple syrup) 2 teaspoons grated orange zest, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, 125ml dark or golden rum, a litre of boiling water. Beat the butter with orange zest, brown sugar (or maple syrup) and nutmeg. Combine 2 tablespoons of the butter mix with 3 tablespoons of rum in a glass. Pour over boiling water. Serve with a cinnamon stick.

A Mulled Apple Toddy

This is a mix of mulled cider and an apple brandy toddy that I came up with one evening, although I am sure I am not the first to think of it. Gently heat a litre of good, fairly dry Irish cider with a strip of orange zest, or a slice of orange, a few cloves and a good spoonful of honey. The sweeter your cider, the less honey you will need. Once it comes to the boil, remove from the heat and add a generous measure of Irish apple brandy (both Longueville and Highbank produce very good examples) to taste. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon.

Posted in: Irish Times

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