Downtown, winter brings a virtual bevy of warm, boozy beverages these days, both traditional and all-new inventions from mixologists embracing the opportunity to create hands-and-heartwarming, fireplace-worthy craft delights.
In fact, more and more venues, from internationally known mixologist go-to’s like PDT, Angel’s Share, Pouring Ribbons, and Little Branch, to modern American taverns are leaving “on-the-rocks” behind in lieu of “with-steam-rising-slowly” this winter.
Here, our picks for five of downtown’s best warm winter cocktails:
Mulled Mystic at Distilled: Mead, wine fashioned from honey, is underrated, despite the fact it’s possibly one of the oldest alcoholic libations known to man, and quite delicious. The menu at the two-year-old Distilled boasts a quartet of upstate New York-produced meads, while winter’s Mulled Mystic puts it to use in their ambrosial twist on mulled wine. Served in a bulbous snifter, the Mulled Mystic incorporates Lakewood Vineyard’s Mystic Mead – made from wildflower and orange blossom honeys – Chamomile flowers, lavender, lemon peel zest, and a clove-studded lemon slice. Citrusy, not-too-sweet goodness with a flavor that evolves deliciously as it cools down, revealing further layers of herbs and spice. While at it, be sure to munch on Distilled’s addictive, complimentary popcorn bathed in garlic, cumin, and brewer’s yeast. 211 West Broadway, between Franklin and White Streets; distilledny.com
Green Blazer at Analogue: A West Village jazz club with a twist – to be specific, an excellent craft cocktail program and no cover charge – Analogue serves up an Absinthe-based twist on the Blue Blazer, the 1862 signature concoction by trailblazing mixologist Jerry Thomas. This flaming creation, which also goes by “Absinthe Hot Toddy,” begins with Absinthe and Green Chartreuse in a silver blazer, to which boiling water and then flame is added. The fiery liquid is poured from one mug into another for dramatic effect before settling into a cup with honey, lime juice, and grated nutmeg and cinnamon. We’re sure that Mr. Thomas would appreciate the tribute through a toasty, intoxicated haze, and, for that matter, prolific Absinthe consumers Oscar Wilde and Vincent Van Gogh. Join the club! 19 West 8th Street, between Fifth Avenue and MacDougal Street; analoguenyc.com
The Dolce Vita at Wallflower: Head bartender Xavier Herit, formerly of Daniel, loves pushing the envelope and embracing seasonality at his just-over-a-year-old West Village outpost. His Dolce Vita, added to the menu in early December and served in an Irish coffee glass, is a top-shelf class act indeed. Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840, Dolcetto D’Alba red wine, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, and Pedro Ximenes Sweet Sherry with cinnamon syrup, lemon and orange juice, and clove. 235 West 12th Street, between Greenwich Avenue and West 4th Street; wallflowernyc.com
Hot Buttered Rum and Mulled Wine at The Eddy: Every day is “two for Tuesday” at the East Village’s eight-month-old The Eddy, when it comes to hot, spirituous options. Bartender Kelvin Uffre steeps red vino, pomegranate juice, sherry, honey, all-spice dram, clove, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper into a sweet yet sophisticated Mulled Wine. Meanwhile, a “dulce de leche vibe” informs his caramel-y Hot Buttered Rum, which involves a 24-hour brown butter rinse for the star ingredient – equal parts Calvados and Ron Zacapa 23 – before a cheese cloth filtering to retain the rich flavor without the fat. Both concoctions are dessert-worthy without being cloying, and served in ornate, 1940s vintage china. 342 East 6th Street, between First and Second Avenues; theeddynyc.com
Slow & Low Rock And Rye Hot Toddy At Ward III: Any southerner worth their salt will tell you that “slow and low” is the secret to mind-blowing barbecue. For Ward III’s signature hot toddy, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye – a rye whiskey made with rock candy, orange peel, honey, horehound herb, and lots of love – is the key. That this toddy, infused with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon stick, feels strangely nourishing and healthy is no coincidence: during the late 19th Century, Rock & Rye was a pharmacist’s preferred elixir for wintery illnesses. If you prefer heat in a chilled drink, the Moscow Mule, made with lightly sweet house made ginger beer, packs a spicy kick, as does the Mezcal and Jalapeno Esmerelda and Thai-chili-blessed Peking Supermarket, the latter inspired by the title of a Barbra Streisand-Cole Porter song, “Come To The Supermarket (In Old Peking).” 111 Reade Street, between West Broadway and Church Street; ward3.com
– Lawrence Ferber