Whether or not you subscribe to the notion of seasonal drinking, it’s hard to deny that a select few cocktails irrevocably belong to winter. In the canon of classics, these hearty, hot drinks—Irish Coffee, Tom & Jerry, Hot Toddy—occupy a small niche, but they’re no less prone to the obsessions of perfection-seeking bartenders.
Whether it’s a matter of nailing the temperature, the glassware or the technique, these tried-and-true recipes, drawn from the bartenders who have fixated on them season after season, have what it takes to keep you warm this winter.
The Dead Rabbit Irish Coffee No. 2 [Recipe] and Dale DeGroff’s Café Brûlot [Recipe].
This “workshopped” version of The Dead Rabbit’s Irish Coffee varies only slightly from the original version served at the bar, showcasing a light-bodied whiskey and slightly richer sugar syrup than previously used. The glassware is key: Dead Rabbit uses a six-ounce tulip-shaped glass to showcase the drink.
This “incendiary coffee” was first served at New Orleans’s Antoine’s restaurant in the 1880s; it was inspired by pirate Jean Lafitte’s streetside drink-making theatrics, used to distract his audience while his cohorts picked their pockets. A fiery blend of brandy, kirshwasser eau-de-vie, clove-studded orange peel and coffee, Café Brûlot has remained a New Orleans tableside dessert staple and a favorite of Dale DeGroff, who introduced the the drink while head bartender at New York’s Rainbow Room in the 1990s.
“It’s really not good for you,” says David Wondrich of the excessively rich 19th-century drink known as the Tom & Jerry. “But it’s just so freaking delicious.” This recipe makes a lot of Tom & Jerries—at least 50, although you might need more milk to get there. Wondrich notes that any leftovers can easily be turned into eggnog by mixing two parts batter with two parts milk and one or two parts booze, plus grated nutmeg, then bottle and refrigerate.
“Hot Toddies are those drinks you get when you’re cold or when you have a cold,” says Andrew Volk. “You want something strong, you want something hot, you want something a little bit spicy.”
His recipe, which he offers in both bourbon- and brandy-based iterations, ticks all the boxes.