Seasons change. Classic drinks do, too. – The Denver Post

Transitions are rarely linear — in life, love or seasons. As temperatures oscillate and the days get shorter, drinks that garner a sense of coziness, like toddies and mulled wine, can take you right from the cusp of fall to cuffing season.

Toddies and mulled wine have a long history, with mulled wine dating to Roman antiquity and the toddy to the mid-18th century. Both have stuck through to modern times and iterations, and both have simple, adaptable base formulas.

Start with the toddy.

“It is essentially spirit and sweetener, usually diluted with an option to serve either cold or hot,” said Al Culliton, a drinks historian and writer in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Modern versions often skew hot and whiskey-forward, and are generally thought of as an under-the-weather drink. But “there’s so much more to the toddy than you might think,” said Culliton, who uses the pronouns they and them.

They suggest using it to showcase aged spirits. Bourbon is readily tapped, but other spirits like rum, scotch, Cognac, amaro, port and sherry can help lift a toddy beyond sniffles remedy. While water is most commonly used to dilute toddy, you can swap in tea for an added layer of complexity. Culliton often reaches for an English breakfast tea, but there’s no need to stop there.

“Chamomile goes wonderfully in drinks, especially with Cognac, while green tea lends itself better to spirits that are more gentle,” they said. Oolongs in all forms from light and grassy to deep and smoky also shine in a modern toddy.

And, just as a cold drink is best served cold, a hot toddy should be, well, hot.

Even room-temperature spirits can alter the temperature of the drink, Culliton says, “so anything you can do to keep everything at the same temperature is great.”

To ensure everything is appropriately hot, they suggest warming everything up — serving glass or mug, and spirits. Then, fill the serving glass or mug with hot water. Set the bottom half of a shaker tin in hot water in a separate vessel, add the spirits and let it all heat through. Tip out the hot water into the now-preheated serving glass or mug and build the drink.

Mulled wine, another traditionally warming beverage, can also benefit from a contemporary overhaul.

The act of mulling refers to infusing the drink — generally red wine-based — with spices and a sweetener, and heating it. Sometimes brandy, aquavit or dried fruit are added. Whether you call it vin chaud, glogg, glühwein, or, indeed, mulled wine, the result is a hot, sweet, often over-spiced drink, ladled out during the holiday season or at outdoor winter markets and sipped more as a hand warmer than anything else.

But just as chilling a light red wine is a pro move, so, too, is serving a mulled wine chilled. Infusing a light red with classic mulling spices, by way of a simple syrup, creates a drink that is cozy in essence, rather than in temperature. The spiced drink is then fortified with Cognac and shaken with ice to give it its renegade chill. (To keep the resulting drink nice and cold, tuck your cocktail glass in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before serving, or fill it with ice and water, and stir for 30 seconds. Pour out the ice and water, dry quickly, and add your drink.)

Whichever you choose — an updated toddy or chilled mulled wine — offer dependable flannel shirt-style comfort as the world (and the weather) shifts.

Modern Hot Toddy

Yield: 1 drink

Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon (or 1 individual bag) strong black loose-leaf tea, such as English breakfast
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3/4 ounce medium-bodied rum, preferably gold
  • 3/4 ounce amaro, such as Ramazzotti or Averna
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon slice, to finish

Preparation

1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Fill a 6-ounce heatproof mug or glass with boiling water and set aside, 1 minute.

2. Pour out the water, then add a tea bag or strainer and sugar to the warmed glass. Top with 4 ounces boiling water.

3. As the tea steeps, set another small heatproof mug or glass in a small saucepan or baking dish. Pour more boiling water around it, so the water comes halfway up the sides. Add the rum and amaro to the mug, and allow to sit and warm through.

4. Once the tea has steeped for 3 to 5 minutes, remove the tea bag or strainer, add the now-warmed rum and amaro mixture, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice and finish with a lemon slice. Serve immediately.

Mulled Wine, but Chilled

Yield: 1 drink

Total time: 25 minutes, plus cooling

Ingredients

For the simple syrup:

  • 1 (5- to 6-inch) piece ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, lightly crushed
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

For the cocktail:

  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir, Gamay, or Grenache
  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

Preparation

1. Place a coupe glass in the freezer to chill for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour. (Alternatively, fill the coupe with ice and water, stir for 30 seconds, pour out the ice and water, dry quickly, and pour in the drink into the now-chilled glass.)

2. Prepare the syrup: Gently run the ginger under water to remove any traces of dirt. If the ginger is thin-skinned, leave the skin on. Otherwise, peel. Use the larger holes on a box grater to grate the ginger, and add to a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat.

3. Add 1 1/2 cups water, cinnamon sticks, cloves and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer on medium until the liquid reduces by about half and is very fragrant, about 20 minutes.

4. Add the sugar and cardamom, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove pan from the heat, and set aside to cool completely. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. This makes about 1 cup. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (You can use this in place of a standard syrup in another cocktail.)

5. Prepare the cocktail: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the wine, Cognac, vermouth, 1/2 ounce mulled simple syrup and lime juice. Shake and strain into the chilled glass.

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