Winter has us thinking about spice: the scent of gingerbread baking, a warming cup of chai, mulled wine and cider and pie crusts dusted with cinnamon. Those baking spices have a home in drinks too: cardamom, clove, ginger, and nutmeg can add complex flavor that latches right into the bold notes of spirits and liqueurs. Here are seven favorite drinks to help add a little spice to your holiday cocktail party.
PDT's Gingerbread Man
The ginger element in this cocktail comes from The King's Ginger, a high-strength Scotch-based ginger liqueur that's much deeper in flavor than Domaine de Canton. Pick up a bottle this time of year for your home bar and you'll likely find it empty by New Year's. For this masterful cocktail from Jim Meehan of PDT in New York City, ginger comes together with rich, deeply flavored molasses, rum, and allspice bitters.
Scotch Regency Punch
Cardamom and Scotch are wonderful together, and make for an easy-but-delicious holiday punch. Just whip up the cardamom simple syrup, mix it with a bottle of blended Scotch, add fresh lemon and soda water and you're good to go.
Hot Butternut Rum
The first step of this recipe from Sother Teague of Amor y Amargo is to spice up a butternut squash and bake it until soft. Added benefit: warm oven = warm house. But if you want to go the cheaters' route, just mix all the spices with canned pureed squash or pumpkin and proceed to mix with equal parts butter for this wonderful variation on hot buttered rum. The drink is made with hot Earl Grey tea and aged rum, and gets added spice from a little Velvet Falernum.
Tawny port adds rich berry flavor to this updated take on the Diablo. This version of the classic tequila drink punches up the ginger flavor by using a spicy fresh ginger syrup instead of ginger ale, and it's topped off with a nub of candied ginger.
Allspice dram is an easy way to get a little spice into your drinks. Here, it's mixed with a delicious pear liqueur from Rothman & Winter, plus lemon and silver tequila.
Apple Crisp Cocktail
It's super simple to make the cardamom-infused bourbon needed for this spiced cocktail: just add cardamom and whiskey to a resealable jar, seal, and wait a little more than an hour. It's an essential ingredient in a signature drink from NYC's Union Square Cafe, mixed with apple brandy, lemon, honey, and fizzy soda water.
Buttermilk Maple Gin Flip
Aroma matters when you're tasting drinks, and this one's scent is enhanced with a sprinkle of nutmeg. It's definitely best to get a whole nutmeg to grind fresh. Be sure to use very fresh eggs for this drink (made with a whole egg, buttermilk, gin, and maple syrup) and don't serve to anyone whose immune system may be compromised.