Last issue, we told you about delicious bubbly drinks to help you celebrate the holidays. Here we tell you about the best drinks to keep you warm and cozy on those cold winter evenings. And you don’t have to saddle up to the local bar to enjoy these beverages. With the right ingredients and a few insider tips, you can be your own mixologist. Here are tips and recipes from top mixologist Brian Van Flandern.

Use the right ingredients. When making any great cocktail, the keys are to use fresh ingredients—juice that you squeeze yourself, not premade mixes—and quality spirits…and to find the right balance of acid (often citrus juice), sweet (sugar) and alcohol.

Don’t use poorly made liqueurs and spirits, especially cheaper products that have added sugars and artificial colors and flavors. Example: Triple Sec, which typically is 15% alcohol by volume, often contains artificial orange flavor and high-fructose corn syrup. By contrast, Cointreau, which is 40% alcohol by volume, is made from ­bittersweet oranges and beet sugar—and since you may need only one-third as much as you would if using Triple Sec, it actually makes a better-quality drink.

Always taste a drink before serving it, just as a chef tastes a dish. Even when you follow a recipe exactly, there are factors that can influence the taste—did you use key lime or kaffir lime for lime juice, for example? Tasting lets you tweak the drink, but always tweak it in small increments following these guidelines…

If it’s too sweet, add more of the acid.

If it’s too tart or acidic, add more of the sweet.

If it’s too strong, dilute it with more of the nonalcoholic liquid or water.

If it’s too weak, add more alcohol.

If you are adapting your favorite cold drink to a hot brew, always halve the amount of alcohol in the original recipe. Alcohol tastes stronger on the palate when warm.

Use stemmed or handled glassware with thin delicate glass. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you pour hot liquid into thick glass, the inside gets warm, but the outside of the glass stays cold, and that can cause it to crack.

With the exception of the Hot Blueberry Tea, the following recipes can be made with or without the alcohol. The specific labels listed will give you the most delicious drinks, but you can use any brands you like.

Enjoy these delicious hot beverages on those snowy nights sitting by the fire…or share them with friends after a day on the slopes.

Hot Buttered Chestnut Rum “Christmas in a Cup”

For each drink…

  • 1 heaping tablespoon of chestnut ­butter paste, at room temperature (see recipe below)
  • 2 ounces half-and-half
  • ½ ounce Zacapa 23 Centenario rum
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground

Glassware: Demitasse or espresso cup.

In a small saucepan over low heat, whisk the chestnut paste into the half-and-half until melted, and then bring to a simmer. Pour into your cup and, if available, froth with an espresso steamer. Add the rum, stir thoroughly and garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.

Chestnut Butter Paste

  • 1 pound salted butter, at room t­emperature
  • ½ cup chestnut paste or ¼ cup ­almond paste
  • 1½ cups brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste

Fold all the ingredients together until uniform in color. If you won’t be using this right away, shape it into a rectangle on a large piece of parchment or wax paper, fold up the ends, and place in a resealable plastic bag. This recipe makes enough for 20+ drinks—you can store the paste in the freezer for three to four months (it will cut like butter) or in the fridge for three to four weeks. Always bring to room temperature before using.

House Cider Rules!

For each drink…

  • 1¾ ounces nonalcoholic fresh-pressed (cloudy, not clear) apple cider
  • ¼ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ounce Don Julio Reposado tequila
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Glassware: Tumbler, stemmed white wine glass or Irish coffee mug.

Place all ingredients except the tequila in a saucepan, and bring to a low simmer over low heat until emulsified. Pour the tequila into the glass or mug, gently pour in the heated liquid, mix and garnish.

Butternut Squashed Side Car

For each drink…

  • 2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 0.5 ounce simple syrup, plus extra (see recipe below)
  • 1½ ounces butternut squash purée, plus more as needed
  • ¼ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ¼ ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce Hennessey VSOP cognac
  • ¼ ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram (a Jamaican liqueur)
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground, or orange twist

Note: If making the nonalcoholic version of this drink, all the other ingredients should be doubled.

Glassware: Stemmed martini glass, Irish coffee mug or red wine goblet.

Dip the rim of your glassware into simple syrup (recipe below), and then immediately into confectioners’ sugar and set aside. Place the purée, the half-ounce of simple syrup and the juice in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring to mix. Add all the alcohol to the glass, and gently mix in the purée mixture. You can add more purée if the drink is too strong.

Hot Blueberry Tea

For each drink…

  • ¾ ounce Luxardo Amaretto di Saschira
  • ¾ ounce Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire
  • ¼ ounce lemon juice
  • 3 ounces hot water
  • 1 ounce clover honey
  • Lemon wedge

Glassware: Stemmed brandy snifter.

Add the amaretto and Grand Marnier to the snifter. Then add in the juice, water and honey, stirring until the honey emulsifies into the liquid. Garnish with the lemon wedge, and serve. Though there are no blueberries, this drink has the same aroma!

Cocoa Caliente

For each drink…

  • 2 ounces half-and-half or whole milk
  • 1.5 ounces 70% or higher bittersweet dark chocolate
  • ¾ ounce honey syrup (see recipe below)
  • ¼ ounce brown sugar simple syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1.5 ounces Four Roses Single
    Barrel bourbon or Herradura
    Añejo tequila
  • ¼ ounce vanilla extract
  • 1 small red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • Whole red chile
  • Whipped cream (optional)

Glassware: Red wine goblet.

In saucepan, heat the dairy and chocolate until melted. Stir in the syrups and the bourbon or tequila, and then lightly whisk in the vanilla. Pour it into a coffee mug, add the chopped red chile, and lightly muddle it with a wooden spoon to extract some of the pepper’s heat. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan using a very fine strainer to catch the chile bits. Warm it up briefly, and pour into the goblet, and garnish with the whole red chile.

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