Ask a Bartender: What Hot Cocktails Do You Make?

Ask a Bartender

You ask, they answer.

Matt Tocco from Pinewood Social in Nashville. [Photo: Jeff Stamper]

This time of year, nothing tastes better than a hot toddy—or spiked cider, or mulled wine, or anything else that properly warms your insides. We asked bartenders across the country about their favorite hot cocktails; here's what they had to say.

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Derrick Bass from Willie Jane in Venice, CA

"Coal Miner's Daughter meets a hot toddy. It's made with a scoop of macerated ginger, a little bit of lemon, honey, about two ounces of rye, and filled the rest of the way with hot water." — Derrick Bass (Willie Jane)

"I love blended Scotch (2 ounces), 3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 ounce of honey syrup, 1/2 ounce of ginger syrup (which is ginger juice and simple syrup), Fee's Old Fashioned Bitters, and about 4 to 5 ounces of hot water." — Matt Tocco (Pinewood Social)

"An old roommate of mine had the simplest and best cocktail, and it saw us through many a broke, cold night: boil 1 liter of water with a grated root of ginger. Let it steep, then add 2 ounces of the worst brandy you can find, 2 ounces of honey, and a squeeze of lemon. Nuclear heat in your chest." — Dan Bronson (The Strand Smokehouse & Crescent & Vine)

"The hot stinger: hot chocolate with 1 ounce Branca Menta and 1/2 oz créme de cacao. Garnish with a mint sprig." — Scott Brody (Presidio Social Club)

"One of the first cocktails I developed was a hot drink using Scarlet Ibis Rum, pistachio syrup, orgeat, Angostura bitters, and a pinch of malic acid, all steamed and topped with fresh whipped cream and toasted pistachio dust. I wasn't sure if I wanted to make a toddy or a hot buttered rum, so this little guy ended up being somewhere in between." — Chris Amirault (The Eveleigh)

Jen Queen from Saltbox Dining & Drinking in San Diego.

"I don't get to make hot cocktails often in San Diego, but I live for a well-made Irish Coffee." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"I just made a drink with Dutch's Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine (a demerara sugar spirit) and cardamom hot cocoa, with a torched meringue top and garnished with homemade graham cracker crumbles and orange zest." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"The ultimate crowd-pleaser is a good and spicy hot apple cider with a rich, dark rum. I put cinnamon, clove, allspice, nutmeg, orange peel and plenty of ginger in my cider. The ginger adds a spicy note that helps balance out the sweetness of apple and rum. Cold pressed apple juice works best (the cloudy, brown kind)." — Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"We are making a Hot Buttery Nipple—butter & cacao infused Jameson, hot water, and rich demerara syrup, with whipped cream." — Kevin Peters (Golden Cadillac)


[Jim Kearns at PLAY in New York

"We have three at Play: an intense hot chocolate, served with Guillemette Genepi, in the traditional Alpine style; a spicy mulled wine, incorporating Thai long pepper, vanilla, ginger, chai, and three different meads; and a mulled cider, which contains licorice, clove, and mulling spices, along with Laird's Applejack, ginger mead, and Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier distillate, made from the smoky German beer." — Jim Kearns (PLAY)

"Right now we are making a cocktail called the Kyoto Winter Warmer. It's an Oyuwari (which means hot water with whisky) made with Yamazaki 12 year whisky, cloves, orange, roasted cacao tincture, Meyer lemon, and hot water. We garnish it with black cardamom, which brings out some smoked wood notes. " —Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"Right now we are serving a cocktail called The Kettle, the Apple and the Mug which we make with apple brandy, bourbon, hot apple cider, lime, and a cinnamon stick." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

"We have a few hot tea and toddy cocktails. One uses Bombay Sapphire East, ginger syrup, Benedictine, and Kyoto Cherry tea. It's fantastic." — Nate Howell (Cusp Dining & Drinks)

"My favorite hot cocktail is a traditional Irish coffee. Made with raw sugar and freshly shaken cream, nothing is better in the winter." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)

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Ryan Prevost of Kabocha in Chicago

"I love to play with strong spices that mix well with lemon and honey. Currently, I love to use mezcal as the base spirit for a take on a hot toddy.  Take a smoky mezcal, such as Sombra, a little lemon juice, honey, and add plenty of aromatics like bitters, spiced tinctures, and top with hot water. Garnish with spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks and a lemon peel." — Ryan Prevost (Kabocha)

"We have a great house-made buttered rum. We make it in a slow cooker with dark rum, light rum, butter, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla bean, brown sugar, and orange zest.   It is a nicely balanced winter drink—not too sweet." — Dave Ellis (FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar)

"I used to make a chamomile tea cocktail, which has always been one of my favorites. We used Canton ginger liqueur, El Himador Reposado Tequila, lemon, and honey and would heat it up. It was perfect on a cold day." — Gianni Cionchi (FishTag)

"I like the classic stuff like Tom & Jerry's (rum, brandy, egg batter, milk or hot water) and lambswool wassail (spiced beer with apple puree). This year, I'm making white hot chocolate with smoked chestnut puree." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"There are a lot of spins on hot toddies, but I prefer my own, called La Tizana. It is made with 1 ounce of Bacardi Oakheart, 1/2 ounce plum syrup (1 cup of fresh plums, 1 cup of raw sugar, 1 cup of water, simmered and strained), and 3 ounces Earl Grey tea." — Ergys Dizdari (Filini Bar and Restaurant)

What's your favorite hot cocktail? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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