Drinking in the Season

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Jason Wilson reminisces about the time a friend of the family took him to a nice hotel bar—where he was apparently a regular—and announced to the bartender that the time had come to switch to his winter drink (a Stinger, in case you were wondering).

Reading this story reminded me of a rule I read on an online message board back when I was first starting to explore mixology: As the seasons change, so should your drink.

Since reading that instruction, I’ve happily taken it to heart—besides, December is no time to be ordering a mojito. While I’m always exploring different recipes, I typically have one or two favorites that I keep returning to, but those favorites change as predictably as the calendar. Spring to me is typically gin, often with citrus such as in the moody, meditative Corpse Reviver #2, but just as often without, as in the crisp and slightly bitter Hoskins. Summer is the season of rum, with variations on the venerable daiquiri high on my list of preferred drinks, and autumn brings the return of brown spirits such as applejack and Calvados, with Fallen Leaves and Stone Fences seeming very attractive.

And winter? To me, that’s whiskey (with room for the occasional drink with brandy or dark rum). The Manhattan is my standard go-to, with the Sazerac appearing now and then, but variations such as the Cocktail a la Louisiane keep the mixture lively, and the holiday season takes me on a detour through Stingers (and its close and incredibly tasty relative, the Good Night Irene), Tom & Jerrys and other seasonal drinks.

Winter storms are now moving across the country, and we even had our first snowfall this past week in Seattle. Just as the trees and garland are going up, autumn is heading out the door. What’s your favorite winter-time drink? And how do your tastes change with the seasons?