When the days grow shorter, the dark spirits come out — at least, the liquid kind. Cocktails can take on a bracing edge in fall and winter, as cream, eggs, coffee and spices take their rightful places on the bar.
Vermont distillers are helping. A few months ago, the state gained its own locally produced coffee liquor in the form of Perc Coffee Liqueur, an inky spirit from Christian Stromberg of Sapling Liqueur. Stromberg cold-brews Arabica beans, then infuses the result into 60-proof liquor and sweetens it at the end. The final product tastes like sugared-up black coffee with a kick.
Two new maple crème liqueurs debuted this year, too: Metcalfe’s Vermont Maple Cream Liqueur and Vermont Ice Maple Crème from Boyden Valley Winery. Metcalfe’s version is light-bodied and nutty; Boyden’s version has more complex, Calvados-like notes from the apples used in the blend. Each is a stand-up winter drink alone in the glass but can also play a starring role in mixed drinks such as the ones described here.
Despite the extended warmth of this fall, winter drink menus are cropping up all over Vermont, so we asked two local bartenders to share their cold-weather offerings. Those recipes that aren’t attributed, I made up in my own kitchen. While these drinks may be complex to make, they’re worth the trouble.
Courtesy of Marilee Spanjian, co-owner of the Inn at Weathersfield
Every fall, this drink comes out of its summer hibernation at the Inn at Weathersfield. Spanjian isn’t sure who originally dreamed it up, but it’s a perennial cold-weather signature.
First, make “slammer juice”:
- 1 cup boiled cider*
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean
- A slice of fresh ginger
- Fresh thyme
Simmer ingredients together for about 20 minutes, then strain and let cool.
For the drink:
- 1 orange wedge
- Thyme sprig
- 1.5 ounces (or one shot) bourbon
- 1.5 ounces (or one shot) slammer juice
- Fresh apple cider
Muddle orange slice and thyme in a glass, and add ice. Add a shot of bourbon and a shot of slammer juice, then top it off with fresh apple cider.
*A note on boiled cider: Wood’s Cider Mill in Springfield makes a version, but you can make your own by boiling down fresh apple cider until it becomes syrupy.
Here’s a pro tip from our colonial forebears: Raw eggs make for good drinkin’ in the winter. One of the original cocktail ingredients — decades before the term “cocktail” was invented — eggs served as the base of a common drink called a flip. This nutrient-rich libation, a blend of beer, rum, nutmeg, molasses and raw eggs, was fortifying and creamy; it was whipped into a froth with a red-hot poker pulled from the fire and plunged into the mug. This method is unfeasible for most home bartenders, and an ale flip is challenging to make with or without a hot poker. Once you attempt it, you realize that colonial mixologists were working with what they had on hand and may not have used much finesse; they were just trying to get saucy.
Today, we have a broader arsenal of ingredients from which to draw. Just be sure to use the freshest eggs you can find for these two gentler, easier versions of the flip.
Wisp of a Flip
- 2 ounces gin
- 1.5 ounces coconut oolong tea
- 3/4 ounce Meyer lemon juice
- White from one egg
- 1/2 tablespoon honey syrup*
This frothy drink isn’t technically a flip, as it lacks a whole egg, but it’s close enough. Its simmering combo of sweet-sour flavors is laced with herbs.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the gin, tea, lemon juice, egg white and honey syrup. Shake hard to combine and strain into a coupe glass. Spoon some of the froth on top, grate nutmeg on top and serve.
*To make honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan and place over low heat. Stir until honey dissolves and remove from heat. Store syrup in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep a few weeks.
- 2 ounces rum (I used Smugglers’ Notch Distillery)
- 1 ounce rye whiskey
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice
- Whole egg
- Dash of Angostura bitters
Drinking too much of this creamy, golden flip could pad your waistline for winter. Place ice in a shaker, then add rum, rye, maple syrup, lemon juice, egg and bitters. Shake hard until blended and strain into a coupe glass. Shave nutmeg on top and serve.
*A note on nutmeg: The powdered stuff is OK, but grating fresh nutmeg on your drinks lends a much more delicate spice.
Mole-tov Choc-tail #2
Courtesy of Don Horrigan, bar manager at Positive Pie in Hardwick
- 2 ounces chilled dark-roast coffee
- 3/4 ounce Espolòn Tequila Reposado
- 1/2 ounce Perc Coffee Liqueur
- 1/3 ounce Sumptuous Syrups of Vermont Chocolate Mole Ice
- 1/2 ounce Boyden Valley Winery Vermont Ice Apple Crème Liqueur
- 1 roasted jalapeño pepper
In a large rocks glass, combine coffee, tequila, coffee liqueur and Chocolate Mole syrup. Stir and add ice. Float Apple Crème on top of drink, and add roasted jalapeño pepper as garnish.
Josiah Bartlett’s Hot Toddy
Josiah Bartlett was a colonial New Hampshire statesman and signatory on the Declaration of Independence. The apple brandy produced in New Hampshire and named for him is aged for four years in oak barrels. Elegant, smooth and restrained, its flavor has waves of apple, pear, vanilla, caramel and cardamom. This toddy recipe replaces lemon with orange. If you don’t have Bartlett’s, substitute any apple brandy you have on hand.
- 4 ounces hot water
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 3 ounces apple brandy
- Orange wedge, and slice for garnish
- Whole cloves, optional
In a glass mug, pour hot water over honey and stir to dissolve. Add brandy and squeeze in juice from the orange wedge, then garnish with orange slice. Add cloves if desired. Sip slowly.
Spiked Maple Mocha
Coffee liqueur in coffee might seem like overkill, but Perc helps sweeten an otherwise astringent cup of java, while a dose of maple crème liquor adds silkiness. Make sure the coffee you start with is really hot, as the liquor and milk will rapidly bring its temperature down. I used Tonewood Maple flakes instead of sugar to make my whipped cream — but a spoonful of maple syrup will do the trick.
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 to 1 cup strong coffee
- 1 teaspoon light cream or milk
- 1 ounce Perc Coffee Liqueur (Kahlúa is a passable substitute)
- 1 ounce maple crème liqueur, such as Metcalfe’s or Vermont Ice (or 1 ounce Baileys plus 1 teaspoon maple syrup)
- Hand-whipped maple cream (or Cabot prepared whipped cream)
Put cocoa powder in a mug, then fill it three-quarters full with strong coffee. Stir to dissolve. Add milk and spirits, and stir again. Spoon fresh whipped cream on top, sprinkle with cocoa powder and serve.