It’s time to thaw out and change up your winter cocktail routine

Written by Maggie Kimberl

At this point in the year we are all completely frozen solid, and it’s going to take more than just a dram of Bourbon to warm our bones. It’s time to heat up the cocktails. As you can imagine, there are a lot of ways to serve Bourbon warm that just won’t hit the spot – it can easily overwhelm anything you put it into if you don’t strike the right balance. But the good news is that there are plenty of options for toasty cocktails to get you through the last throes of winter and into the thaw.

Easy does it

“There certainly is a right way to add American whiskey,” says assistant vice president of Bardstown Bourbon Co., Dan Callaway. “Sometimes it can be a bully, so tread carefully at first and add a little more as the night goes on.”

Of course it is easy enough to add an ounce of Bourbon to your mulled apple cider or your coffee, and that will certainly help warm you up. But cocktails can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, like a mood ring you can drink. American whiskey can go into all kinds of cocktails, and the palette of possibilities is growing more broad thanks, in part, to the bespoke cocktail movement.

It is good to note that there are a lot of tools at your disposal these days when it comes to creating a cocktail, from Bourbon smoked spices and sugars available at Bourbon Barrel Foods to more flavors of bitters than you can imagine – and you can even make your own. These are the spice cabinet of your cocktail bar and putting them together in unexpected combinations can yield remarkable results.

My advice is to just throw it all in…

One unexpected way is in Callaway’s mulled wine recipe. Mulled wine is typically a German holiday tradition, often served at stands in Christkindlesmarkt throughout Austria and Germany. You can give this an American twist with the addition of a little Bourbon and just a hint of cayenne pepper to kick things up a notch.

“The best unexpected way [to serve Bourbon in warm cocktails] is right here in the Warm & Fuzzy,” says Callaway. “We have a classic German mulled wine recipe with a little Louisiana cayenne and Kentucky spirit. They’ll love it.”

Dress it up

Using footed mugs is a great way to distinguish your warm cocktails from your everyday morning coffee, and garnishes can also dress them up. When it comes to garnishes with warm cocktails, there’s a lot more than just a simple cinnamon stick plopped into your apple cider. You can rim your glass with cookie crumbs or candy bits, stick baked goods on a cocktail toothpick, or even notch a macaroon and place it on the rim of the cup. If you want to use an herbal garnish, sprigs of rosemary or mint often seem to compliment any whiskey cocktails quite nicely.

If you are making a large batch of cocktails, individual garnishes might not be the way to go unless you can rim mugs or notch cookies ahead of time. Sometimes just decorating the crock pot is festive enough.

“Garnishes are interesting in warm cocktails,” says Callaway. “My advice is to just throw it all in the pot. Orange peel? Throw it in. Star anise? Throw it in. Marinating can be your salvation.”

Throw a cocktail party just for the hell of it

Winter is the time when people go inside and stay there. You probably haven’t seen your neighbors for months, and the last time you got together with friends and family was around the turn of the new year. It’s time to break-out the crock pot, batch up a warm cocktail or two, and invite everyone out of hibernation to warm up.

Chicken Cock Double Barreled Warm & Fuzzy

• 40 oz Cabernet Sauvignon
• 16 oz Sangiovese (Chianti or somewhere close to Italy. If you hit France, turn around)
• 6 oz orange juice
• 10 oz cane sugar
• 3 oz Créme de Cassis
• 4 oz lemon juice
• 4 oz Chicken Cock Double Barreled Bourbon
• 6 orange peels
• A pinch of cayenne
• Throw in some dark spices for Christmas spirit

Warm in a pot and serve at your leisure.

Four Roses Hot Buttered Bourbon
by Susie Hoyt at The Silver Dollar

• 1  1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
• 1 oz hot buttered rum mix*
• 1 dash Angostura Bitters
• Hot water

Fill a mug up to the top with hot water and allow to temper for 45 seconds. Dump hot water and refill to 2/3 with hot water. Add a heaping dessert spoon of hot buttered rum mix and stir vigorously. Add Four Roses Bourbon and 1 dash of Angostura Bitters. Top with more hot water if needed and give a quick stir. Garnish with grated nutmeg or a tall cinnamon stick, and serve with the spoon in.

*Hot Buttered Rum Mix (El Camino-Louisville version):


1 lb butter at room temperature
6 cups brown sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp grated fresh nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt

Stir until evenly mixed.

Michter’s Maple Bourbon Hot Chocolate

• 1 1/2 oz Michter’s US*1 Bourbon
• 4 oz hot chocolate*
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• 4 drops vanilla essence
• Additional maple syrup for garnish (optional)
• Marshmallow fluff for garnish (optional)
• Powder cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Build all ingredients in a heat-resistant glass or mug, lightly stir and serve immediately.

* Rich Hot Chocolate:

• 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
• 1/2 cup boiling water
• 3 cups boiling milk
• 1/2 cup cream
• 1 pinch of salt


Combine cocoa, sugar, salt in a small saucepan or pot. Add the boiling water while stirring and then bring the mix to slow simmer. Add the milk and heat until a light boil. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream, stirring to incorporate.


Maggie Kimberl is a spirits journalist focusing on whiskey culture in the United States, though she considers herself to be 'geographically blessed' to live in the epicenter of the bourbon world, Louisville, Kentucky. When she's not covering the bourbon beat you can find her browsing through vintage vinyl with her kids or tending to her homegrown tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and check out her blog.

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