The central characteristic of any classic winter cocktail is its ability to fortify against the cold—so it’s no surprise that hot drinks, like the Hot Toddy have become winter staples. But drink-makers can also channel the season by leaning heavily on richer spirits. The Whiskey Sour and the Old-Fashioned might be perennial favorites, but simple additions—including herbal liqueurs and amari—can tilt these drinks even more towards the wintery end of the spectrum.
Some riffs keep the bare bones of a drink relatively unchanged, with a mere half-ounce addition or ingredient swap here and there. Take the Brandy Zander, for example, which doubles down on the Cognac component of the Brandy Alexander and adds a splash of cold brew coffee to boot; or Natasha David’s The Mystical One, which adds fresh sage leaves and cinnamon-infused syrup to the standard Whiskey Sour construction for amped up aromatics and spice. In his Carroll Gardens, a nod to the Manhattan, Joaquín Simó keeps the whiskey base, but splits the vermouth component with a measure of Nardini amaro.
Then there are those riffs that turn the original on its head. For instance, Jägermeister makes an unexpected appearance as the base of Sother Teague’s Black Apple Old-Fashioned, where its herbal notes play well with apple brandy. In the case of the Boo Radley, a drink loosely influenced by the Creole cocktail—a lesser known recipe mixed with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and orange liqueur—Chris Hannah chooses to go the bourbon route instead of rye, further forgoing the original by using Cynar and cherry brandy.
For more winter recipes, see Winter Drinks, a collection of 70 cocktail recipes built to fortify against the cold, featuring essential classics; updated riffs on traditional toddies, punches, nogs and spiked coffees; and thoroughly modern drinks built to channel the season.