As the strangest Christmas season ever kicks off, what better way to keep your spirits up than with a glass of something hot and boozy?
No, not just mulled wine or a toddy — proper, sophisticated hot cocktails are now all the rage. And they have the bonus of being far nicer to sip while you’re socialising outside, should you be in Tier 2 or 3.
They require one important ingredient — balance.
‘Everyone wants to add more and more alcohol, but it’s not a good idea in hot cocktails,’ says Sam Trevethyen, of London cocktail chain Grind & Co, who helps me make and taste a selection of warm cocktails.
India Sturgis gives verdict on a selection of Sam Trevethyen of London cocktail chain Grind & Co recipes as the festive season begins (file image)
‘Heating ethanol makes it volatile and the taste more pronounced. Like seasoning, you can always add more booze, but you can’t take it away.’
We put his recipes to the test — all you’ll need to stir up your own is a hob, saucepan and a glass. If you want to get fancy, Sam recommends investing in a handheld milk frother (less than a tenner) and a double-ended spirit measurer (Mezclar jigger, £10.79, Amazon).
Each recipe makes one serving, so scale up as required.
HOT FLAT WHITE RUSSIAN
India said hot flat white Russian (pictured) is not too boozy and not too sweet, best paired with tiramisu
What is it? The lovechild of a White Russian and a flat white. Best after dinner or as a mid-morning treat on your day off.
How to make it: Pour 20 ml Absolut vodka and 20 ml Tia Maria into a glass. Add a splash of cold milk to stop curdling, and a shot of coffee made using a pod. (Alternatively use 50 ml strong filter or instant coffee). Warm 100 ml oat or dairy milk to about 60 c and whisk using a handheld milk frother. Add the warm, frothy milk to the glass.
Tastes like? Not too boozy and not too sweet. Balanced with a gentle maltiness.
Goes well with: Most desserts, especially tiramisu.3/5
BUTTERED BANANA RUM
India said buttered banana rum (pictured) has a punchy after-kick, best paired with banana bread or fruit cake
What is it? A riff on buttered rum, a classic created in 18th-century New England. A comfort cocktail with a brûlée banana garnish.
How to make it: Put 30 ml Banana Rum, 10 ml Monin Winter spice syrup, 8 g butter and 80 ml water in a saucepan on a low heat. Use a small whisk to help melt the butter. Pour into a coupe glass. For a brûlée banana garnish, cut a long slice of banana, sprinkle with caster sugar and caramelise using a blowtorch. Balance on the glass rim with a cocktail stick.
Tastes like? Rich, warming, buttery with a hint of cinnamon and a punchy after-kick.
Goes well with: Banana bread or fruit cake. 4/5
LADY GREY PUNCH
India said lady grey punch (pictured) is bitter and lingering, best paired with cucumber sandwiches and a slice of lemon drizzle cake
What is it? A refreshing, citrusy way to liven up teatime.
How to make it: First, make Earl Grey-infused gin by leaving four Earl Grey tea bags in one bottle of 700 ml gin for 12 hours. Make half a cup of regular Earl Grey tea (100 ml), then add 40 ml Earl Grey infused gin, 20 ml St Germain elderflower liqueur, 20 ml lemon juice, 50 ml apple juice and two dashes of orange bitters. Stir.
Tastes like? Bitter and lingering. Not a favourite. I prefer my tea booze-less.
Goes well with: Cucumber sandwiches and slice of lemon drizzle cake.2/5
RUSTY APPLE TODDY
India said rusty apple toddy (pictured) is best paired with mince pies or a cheese board
What is it? A finely tuned mash-up between mulled cider and a Rusty Nail cocktail.
How to make it: Add 25 ml Drambuie, 25 ml Aberfeldy 12- year-old single malt whisky, 100 ml cider, 20 ml lemon juice and 15 ml honey syrup (one part honey, one part water) to a saucepan. Heat to 65c.
Tastes like? An upmarket mulled cider. Dry crispness of cider with honey notes and a botanical flavour from the Drambuie. I’ve made this repeatedly since.
Goes well with: Mince pies or a cheese board.5/5
CLARIFIED MILK PUNCH
India said clarified milk punch (pictured) is heaven in a glass, best paired with roasted nuts or trifle
What is it? English clarified milk punch has been around since 1711 and involves curdling milk with citrus, then straining to produce a clear liquid that is exquisitely light. Smoky oolong and chestnut syrup lends itself to roaring fires.
How to make it: You’ll need 200 ml brewed oolong tea, 200 ml lemon juice and peel, 200 ml orange juice and peel, 60 ml Santa Teresa Rum and 30 ml chestnut syrup.
Combine in a sealed container and refrigerate for 12 hours. Heat 200 ml milk until simmering and pour into the mixture, which will then curdle. Return to the fridge for 12 hours. Strain through a muslin, then a coffee filter.
For the cocktail, heat the punch with 30 ml rum and 15 ml chestnut syrup. Pour and serve with orange zest garnish.
Tastes like? Heaven in a glass. Sophisticated, silky, fruity and smoky.
Goes well with: Roasted nuts or trifle.4/5