Winter warmers and boozy beverages

The Wharf's Paddy's Apple Whiskey made with whiskey, lemon, hot water, and a swizzle stick. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Winter is the perfect time to experiment in the kitchen and behind the bar. Why not dust off your jigger and cocktail shaker and start mixing up creative cocktails this season.

During the spring and summer and even fall, milk- or cream-based cocktails usually don’t make the cut. Winter is the ideal time to try out these dairy-based beverages.

Teresa Brewster has mastered the Brandy Alexander. Her recipe is equal parts brandy, crème de cacao, and half and half. She prefers to garnish with cinnamon instead of the traditional nutmeg.

On Christmas I stopped by my good friend Catie Coogan’s house and was treated to her father Greg’s homemade eggnog. I’m always a little apprehensive of eggnog. The idea of drinking raw eggs like some sort of muscleman creeps me out a little bit. But Catie assured me it was delicious, and it was. The frothy, sweet, rich, and boozy beverage topped with spicy aromatic grated nutmeg was a perfect nightcap to my long Christmas Day. Make Greg’s recipe, Eggnog in Quantity, from “Joy of Cooking” when you plan to have guests. It is enough to serve an army.

Fireball is still aflame at many bars on the Island. People can’t get enough of this cinnamon flavored whiskey. The Wharf Restaurant and Pub in Edgartown is equally obsessed. Their martini and winter warmer drink menu features Fireball in a variety of cocktails. Try the Cinnamon Toast Martini with Fireball and Chila ‘Orchata Cinnamon Cream Rum, served with a cinnamon sugar floater; or the Apple Spice Martini with Fireball, sour apple liqueur and apple cider, garnished with a sugar swizzle stick. The Wharf also offers a variety of Irish coffees and hot toddies. Try the Keoke Coffee made with coffee, Kahlua, and Amaretto, served with whipped cream.

Next time you stop by M.V. Chowder Company in Oak Bluffs, check out their chalkboard cocktail specials. Recently, they were featuring a Key Lime Martini and Winter Sangria, made with Pinot Noir, St. Germain, POM juice, apples, pears, cinnamon, and orange juice. Try their Almond Joytini or their array of Irish coffees served with liquor-infused whipped cream.

At Atria in Edgartown, sip on the hot buttered rum, made with Blackwell rum, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and whipped cream. Or try a classic such as a sidecar or Manhattan.

Margaritas can be a year-round beverage. Order the festive cranberry mint margarita at Sharky’s Cantina in Oak Bluffs or Edgartown.

The Ocean View in Oak Bluffs offers cocktails inspired by sweet treats. Try their sugar cookie martini, blueberry pie coffee, or candy cane martini. Get cozy by their fire and cool off with a frozen hot chocolate margarita, made with Patron XO, triple sec, espresso vodka, and cream.

Henry’s at The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown offers creative concoctions such as Peppermint Martinis and Gingerbread Martinis made with vanilla vodka, hazelnut liqueur, Butternut Schnapps and Captain Morgan rum, garnished with gingerbread cookies. Other winter drinks include mulled wine, hot spiced cider, holiday party punch, and hot buttered rum.

Not all winter drinks need to be warm or flavored with coffee, peppermint, and cinnamon. In the winter, I love using fresh citrus. Bump up your vitamin C by incorporating the bright flavors of grapefruit and blood orange into your cocktails. One of my favorites is half of a fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit, strained, 1.5 ounces of vodka, and a splash of cranberry juice, shaken with ice.

Punches are also my go-to. I use my grandmother’s antique punch bowl and glasses. They are great for parties, only having to make one big drink, rather than individual cocktails for each guest. There are many recipes to choose from, but I like to keep it light and tropical during the winter, using rum and flavors like pineapple. Don’t forget the bubbles: soda water and Prosecco do wonders.

A day spent sledding, or ice skating, deserves a warm beverage sipped by the fire. Try hot chocolate spiked with peppermint Schnapps or a hot toddy with a twist. Use maple syrup instead of honey, or replace bourbon with Fireball for a hot cinnamon drink. The Wharf has their own fruity spin on this classic by using Paddy devil’s apple whiskey.

Next time you visit the liquor store, pick up something new. Or try experimenting with your own infusions. Take those leftover candy canes from Christmas and make an adult beverage by infusing them and vodka. At your next dinner party, whip up one of these tasty concoctions for your guests, they will not be disappointed.