The other day we had a church youth outing to play broomball. My delicate Mediterranean constitution can’t handle cold weather, so I stayed home and prepared the hot chocolate and coffee for the after-broomball party. Of course we had the plain hot chocolate for the kids (always with the milk! No water!), but the parents always need a little sumthin, sumthin to jazz up the hot drinks.
One of the pleasures of winter is the opportunity to savor some great hot drinks. Most are easy to make, and don’t take time. For our little minibar we had a little Baileys, RumChata, Chambord, Irish whiskey, Baileys Vanilla, and St. Germain.
I had to experiment and make sure the coffee was good. So I made myself an Irish coffee. Irish coffee is true warmer-upper. The bracing flavor of the smooth, golden elixir and the black coffee was outstanding.
Irish coffee was invented to warm up American tourists on their through the early airports in rainy Ireland during the 1930s and ’40s. An enterprising bartender decided to jazz up the everyday coffee. He took some sugar, real Irish whiskey, hot coffee mixed in a tall mug. He added rich Irish dairy cream on top, and had a great drink that the tourists went crazy for.
I made mine the other day using Bushmills Irish Whiskey. Bushmills is the oldest licensed distillery, dating back to 1608. It is made in far northern Ireland, a mere 20 miles from the famous Giant’s Causeway, where legendary Irish giant Finn McCool left Ireland to fight the Scottish giant Benandonner, who was threatening Ireland. A horrible idea, as the Scot was massive! Finn came home and told his wife. When the Scottish behemoth came across the Causeway, Finn’s wife dressed him like a baby. When Benandonner saw the baby, he turned and ran. If the babies were that big, he wanted nothing to do with the adult. Typical Irish ingenuity!
I like Bushmills for its light flavors and smooth finish. It is unique in flavor from other Irish whiskeys. I believe the unique flavors come from the over 500 years of history and aura that surrounds the original distillery. Aging in barrels so close to the raging sea, you can really taste the ocean and the countryside in the bottle.
I like my Irish coffee a little sweeter, so I add about a teaspoon of sugar and use whipped cream on top. I then drizzle a touch of green creme de menthe for color as a true homage to the Irish originals. Then I like to sprinkle a little chocolate over the top for a treat. It’s a little decadent, but in the winter we have to build up our bodily stores to survive the frigid temps.
I love RumChata in hot chocolate also. RumChata is a brilliant cream liqueur originally made in Wisconsin by a visionary entrepreneur. He uses real Caribbean rum, fresh Wisconsin cream and the famous horchata flavor from the Hispanic world. The simplest description is a cinnamon roll in a bottle. It is awesome by itself or on the rocks, but it adds a simple little twist to hot chocolate that is great. It’s only 30 proof so you don’t have to worry about getting too goofy.
These are both creamy options with a lot of dairy and decadent flavors. But another favorite addition to hot chocolate or coffee is Chambord I have spoken many times of Chambord in the past. It is a raspberry liqueur from the middle of France. Legend has it that Louis XIV tried it one time and decreed it his new fave. If royalty likes it, how can we not? The sweet raspberry flavors meld perfectly with the rich chocolate flavors and make a great hot drink that will warm the heart.
I mentioned St. Germain earlier. I laid this out to experiment with hot tea. St. Germain is a French elderflower liqueur that is loved by the cocktail cognoscenti. It went over well, as the delicate flavors of the tea were not overpowered by the elderflower flavor. It just goes to show that there is always room for innovation.
Minnesota winters are never easy — but we always survive. We need to learn to cope and deal with whatever comes along. We all get a touch of the common cold in winter. My cure is the famous hot toddy. (I know, I know — my wife says the same thing: I think liquor solves all life’s problems.) A hot toddy is simple to make and has the same amount of alcohol as Nyquil, but tastes way better. Take a shot of brandy, hot water, juice of one-quarter lemon, teaspoon of honey and mix it up.
Whatever the temperature, a good hot drink can warm you up and help us all get through the dreary winter. Enjoy in moderation and cheers!
RumChata egg nog latte
2 parts RumChata
2 parts low fat egg nog
2 parts steaming espresso
Steam RumChata and egg nog in espresso maker, or heat in pan on stove or in microwave, stirring constantly until temp reaches 140 degrees. Pour into a coffee mug; add espresso and dust with nutmeg.
Ari Kolas is co-owner of Apollo Wine & Spirits. To contribute to Cocktail Hour, send email to email@example.com.