It’s cold. Like, really, really cold. Over the past few weeks, New Yorkers have found themselves opening their weather apps only to consistently find dismal numbers staring back at them. This New Years’ Eve was apparently the coldest NYC has seen since 1962 (somehow, that didn’t stop thousands of people from packing together like sardines in Times Square — though Mariah’s tea moment is one I was disappointed to have missed). One thing I have learned over my five years’ experience of east coast living is that hot alcoholic drinks are key to polar vortex survival, and this season they feel more necessary than ever (hello, #bombcyclone). Luckily, most of the best warm, boozy drinks are easy and quick to whip up in your own kitchen, ready to slurp up as you snuggle by your television fireplace. But your favorite bartender should be able to help out if you’re just too lazy.
This dinner-party staple checks off all boxes: it’s warm, sweet, spicy, citrusy and looks darn good in a clear glass mug. The best part is that mulling wine is ridiculously simple. You can make the drink as basic or complex as you desire and there are tons of varieties, but some ingredients to consider are:
- Red wine (preferably a full-bodied variety like a Malbec)
- Cinnamon sticks
- Star anise
- Oranges or tangerines
- Optional: Brandy
All you have to do is grab a big pot, simmer the red wine and add spices and orange chunks (or juice) to build up flavor as you go along. You can get fancy and use a slow cooker, add ingredients like maple syrup, toast your spices before you add them to the wine, or get creative in another way, but it will honestly be delicious no matter which way you go. Just make sure when you serve the drink you add a cinnamon stick and some star anise into each mug — for Instagram, duh.
This is the perfect drink if you’re starting to feel a little tickle in your throat or a bit of congestion, but still want to get your buzz on. Think: lemon, tea, honey, the works. Ideal for game nights and late-night movie runs (yay caffeine!). Here’s what you need:
- Hot water
- Your choice of tea — green or black are most common, but chamomile is great before bedtime
- Lemon juice (plus lemon slices for garnish)
Yup, that’s it. Boil your water, steep your tea, pop in some lemon and whiskey, stir, and voila! The cold remedy to beat all cold remedies.
Almost any bar in the city should be able to concoct a solid hot toddy for you, and many have their own special versions of the drink. Recommendations include Pearl’s Social & Billy Club in Bushwick or Mother’s Ruin. PS: January 11th is National Hot Toddy Day. Just saying.
If you’re more of a caffeine hound, a classic Irish coffee will be your best friend all winter. It was created in 1942 for the purpose of warming folks up, so you really can’t go wrong. Again, super simple, assuming you know how to make a strong cup o’ joe. Just grab your mug and these key ingredients:
- Coffee — preferably on the darker, stronger, richer side
- Irish whiskey, like Jameson or Bushmill’s
- Brown sugar (you can add equal parts granulated sugar for balance)
- Lightly whipped cream
Just grab your favorite mug (pro tip: preheat your mug with hot water while your coffee is brewing), pour in the sugar and then the piping hot coffee, stir in your whiskey and top it off with a dollop of cream. Don’t mix the cream in — let it float on top and drink your Irish coffee through it. I’ll reiterate, the most important piece here is that you make a solid, flavorful cup of coffee. If you don’t trust yourself to do that, grab one from your nearest quality coffee shop and just add the other ingredients.
To avoid even that bit of work, head over to your neighborhood Irish pub — if it really is one, they will make you an Irish coffee. Otherwise, check out NYC staples like Molly’s in Gramercy.
Spicy Spiked Hot Chocolate
Did you never really grow up enough to be a coffee or tea drinker? Not to worry, this one will satisfy your inner child. It can actually be a bit labor-intensive to make, depending on how much of it you want to concoct from scratch. For example, you could technically buy premade cocoa powder from your local grocery, add some spices and your liquor of choice and be done with it, but you could go the upscale way of Bon Appetit and really show off. Their recipe calls for numerous ingredients:
- Whole milk or your milk substitute of choice
- Cream — honestly, might be overkill, but do you.
- Ancho chile
- Cinnamon sticks
- Vanilla bean (though I’d consider just using vanilla extract)
- Chopped bittersweet chocolate
- Anise-flavored liquor like Pernod or Xtabentún
Do with it what you will, but the recipe does sound delicious. You can essentially steep the milk in the chile, cinnamon, and vanilla, and then mix in the chocolate and add your liquor at the end. Not terribly difficult, but I won’t judge you if you take the easy route on this one. Either way, you’re in for a creamy, chocolatey treat that will probably necessitate skipping dessert.
Navigate over to Guest of a Guest’s list of the best boozy hot chocolate in NYC to find out where you can grab one instead of making a trip to the store.
This one is for those of us who aren’t afraid of a dairy-forward beverage. Chances are, if you like a good White Russian every now and then, this will be right up your alley — it’s basically a hot version of the same drink but with brandy instead of vodka. It was created and made famous by San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe, and uses a few simple and accessible items:
- Milk or your milk substitute of choice
- Cream — again, I’d consider this optional unless you are a fan of heavy drinks
- Optional: coffee syrup
Similar to the other recipes, you’ll need to first get the milk and cream over some heat. Once warmed up, you’ll add in your brandy and kahlua, whisk it up to your desired frothiness and serve. Top it off with extra cream and get your milk mustache on.
Unfortunately, if you don’t feel like making this one at home, you’re going to have to put in some work to find a bar outside of SF that has the drink on its menu. Any place that offers a White Russian might be able to offer up a clue. Let us know what you find!
Last but certainly not least, the Wassail is kind of as old school as it gets, originating as a Christmastime drink in medieval England. I would go as far as to say it’s one of the original punch recipes. So when you need a break from all of that cream, get all of the juices, mix em together with some spice, and there you have it. Here’s what you’ll need, more specifically:
- Apple cider (or hard cider)
- Orange Juice
- Lemon Juice
Mix it all up on the stove, ladle it out of a communal punch bowl, and you’re done — time to party like it’s 1500.
Unfortunately, NYC’s first cider bar Wassail shuttered its doors on December 30, but there are other spots you can look to for a spiked cider, like Sweet Afton in Astoria or Wilfie and Nell in the West Village.