Warming Winter Cocktails to Make Right Now
All photos by Tara Striano
In María del Mar Sacasa’s native Nicaragua, the temperate climate meant that warming winter drinks were a foreign concept. No hot apple cider. No mulled wine. No hot toddies.
"Growing up, there really was none of that," del Mar Sacasa us. "It is definitely something that I started paying a little more attention to when I started living in New York."
The food stylist and recipe developer was so charmed by them that she wrote a book on the topic: Winter Cocktails, published this fall by Quirk Productions.
The tome covers a range of impressive seasonal staples—hot cocktails, punches and party snacks—along with several variations on classics such as eggnog and hot chocolate. And, thank goodness, they’re all pretty easy to execute.
One of the most interesting? Classic mulled wine, turned on its head. Del Mar Sacasa swaps the traditional base of red wine out for white, spicing it with sage, thyme, lemon rind and peppercorn.
Another standout is a chamomile- and pear-infused gin elixir. Fizzed up with Champagne and sweetened with honey syrup, it’s sleepy chamomile’s sexed-up debut. Don’t be discouraged by the advance planning the drink requires––the spirit needs to infuse for three to five day. Del Mar Sacasa’s instructions are easy-peasy.
Of course, it’s impossible to talk winter cocktails without mentioning eggnog. Del Mar Sacasa’s rompope, the Mexican version of the drink, is light, sweet and a touch tart thanks to the addition of lemon rind—a far cry from the stuff you find in the grocery store aisle. Finely-ground almonds add a velvety note. ”It winds up being this really frothy, really delicate drink,” says del Mar Sacasa.
Seem too far-flung from the traditional nog you know and love? This stuff goes way back—it was first concocted by nuns in a Mexican convent in the 17th century. Turns out nuns are our holiday party inspiration this year. We didn’t see that coming.
Mulled White Wine
- 2 tsp. black peppercorns
- 2 tsp. whole cloves
- 1 750-ml bottle white zinfandel
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 small bunch sage
- 1 small bunch thyme
- Rind and 2 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
- 1 cup pear eau-de-vie or brandy
- 1 firm, ripe pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Place peppercorns and cloves in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add wine, sugar, sage, thyme and lemon rind and juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 10 minutes.
Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Return mixture to saucepan and stir in eau-de-vie and pear slices. Simmer over medium-low heat until pears are fork-tender but still retain their shape, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve.