It’s a well known rule of engagement that when constructing cocktails, formulas containing all spirits (including liqueurs, vermouths and other fortified wines) are to be stirred together gently over ice in order to achieve the silky texture characteristic of drinks like the Manhattan and the Negroni. These strong and stirred drinks—with their jewel-colored liqueurs and strong spirits—are, arguably, the mascot cocktails of the winter months. But the modern canon of hard-working, potent cocktails reaches far beyond the beloved big two.
Both the Pen Pal—a commingling of rye whiskey, Aperol and dry vermouth—and the often under-appreciated Boulevardier—a classic mashup of the Negroni and the Manhattan—hew closely to the brown and boozy archetype. Cut from this same cloth is the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, a modified Old-Fashioned, and the All In, a cacao-infused play on the Old Pal. The Marley’s Ghost, a rum-soaked ode to the king of reggae, takes things one step further, layering three types of rum with both vermouth and Cardamaro.
But strong drinks aren’t always synonymous with brown spirits. Both Natasha David’s La Môme—a combination of rose-infused pisco, dry vermouth and grappa—and husband Jeremy Oertel’s Oxford Comma—a mix of gin, green Chartreuse and vermouth—riff on the mother of all light-spirited stirred drinks: the Martini.
So whether your spirit of choice is gin or whiskey or rum, the key to drinking one’s way through January and February lies in cocktails that have no patience for anything that might jeopardize their potency. Here are eight that fit the bill.