Hot Toddy Season: Spice Up Winter With a Mug Full of Warmth
Favorite Warm-Drink Recipes With a Twist
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan in the Wall Street Journal
Winter’s chill puts many people in the mood for a warm drink. “There’s a comforting feeling about it,” says Patrick Cappiello, partner and beverage director of Manhattan restaurant Pearl & Ash. “It’s part of the season.”
Mr. Cappiello, who was a sommelier at New York City restaurants Gilt and Veritas before opening Pearl & Ash earlier this year, likes to take old favorites and give them little twists.
The traditional hot toddy featuring tea, honey and whiskey, for example, can be jazzed up by using unexpected teas, Mr. Cappiello says. Instead of the usual British-style black tea, he often turns to green or oolong. “It adds a different dimension, gives it a little bit more depth,” he says. “Green tea gives it a bit more of an herbaceous quality; oolong gives it a richer, smokier and nuttier quality.”
An Irish coffee with whiskey, coffee, whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate. Erica Gannett for The Wall Street Journal
There are many ways to jazz up an Irish coffee, says Mr. Cappiello. He sometimes creates an “Irish coffee bar” for guests, setting out different types of sugar, whipped cream, shaved chocolate, cinnamon sticks, maraschino cherries and a variety of whiskeys and bourbons for people to create their own beverage.
Chocolate is an easy, rich and very popular way to add oomph to a spiked coffee. “You could do a mocha Irish coffee with Hershey’s chocolate syrup and chocolate sprinkles or chocolate chips on top,” he says.
In addition to—or instead of—the expected cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves sprinkled on top, he sometimes turns to less usual spices such as cumin or curry. “There are so many options of ingredients that can elevate or change it,” says Mr. Cappiello. “It adds a different experience.”
Similarly, he sometimes uses lesser-known spirits to mix things up. “There are cool whiskeys from Japan that are single malts, similar to Scotch,” he says. “They’re a bit brighter, fresher and not as dark and broody as Scotch whisky. It makes it different, fun and exciting.”
Regardless of the drink, it’s important to use the best spirits possible. “People often think that just because they’re making a mixed drink, they should use the cheapest whiskey option,” he says. “Even with a hot drink, the ones that are made with high-quality ingredients and a little bit more attention to detail will yield better results.”
Generally, Mr. Cappiello steers clear of white spirits such as gin and tequila in his warm drinks, calling them quintessential spring and summer beverages. Brown spirits such as whiskey and brandy tend to work best with all sorts of hot toddies.
Mulled wine adds a wintry appeal. “Mulled wine is the perfect drink for a cold winter night,” he says. “I drink them right up until spring as long as there’s a chill in the air.”
When entertaining, Mr. Cappiello likes to cook wine with a little whiskey and a sachet of whole spices. “I always get a second opinion to make sure that everything’s seasoned appropriately,” he adds.
He prefers to keep his guests out of the kitchen. “The last thing that I want is people being in the way when I’m trying to cook,” he says. So instead of keeping the mulled wine in a pot on his stove, he sets it out in the living room in a slow cooker, which will keep it cooking. “The longer it stews, the more layered and more flavorful it will be. As the night goes on, you’ll get a more concentrated flavor,” he says.
While mulled wine works well at all points of the evening—from cocktail hour to dessert time—Mr. Cappiello generally reserves spiked coffees and teas for the end of the night. “Chocolate desserts, anything with chocolate in it, is going to work” with such drinks, he notes. Desserts inflected with warm spices, such as pear or apple tarts, would similarly work well, too, he adds.
There is one important thing to remember: “Don’t add too much booze to a drink—too much brandy to a mulled wine or too much whiskey to an Irish coffee,” says Mr. Cappiello.
His general rule of thumb is to combine 2 ounces of spirits to a regular-sized mug of coffee or tea. “You want people to be able to drink more of them, so have some sort of moderation.”
1 bag of oolong tea
1 cup of hot water
1½ ounces whiskey
1 tablespoon honey
1. Steep oolong tea in hot water for 6 minutes.
2. Stir in honey and whiskey, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Serve hot. You can experiment with different teas like rooibos and green tea.
Chocolate Irish Coffee
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 jigger Irish whiskey (3 tablespoons)
Heavy cream, whipped
Shaved dark chocolate to taste
1. Add sugar and whiskey to hot coffee.
2. Top with heavy cream and add shaved dark chocolate to taste.