Ask A Bartender: What Are Your Favorite Winter Cocktail Ingredients?

Ask a Bartender

You ask, they answer.


Chris Amirault of The Eveleigh in Los Angeles

While winter might not have fresh peaches or strawberries, and might not be the best time for your most refreshing cocktails, there's plenty to love about the season. Cold weather begs for brown spirits, stirred sipping cocktails, and warm spices. We asked a number of bartenders: What's your favorite ingredient to work with in the winter?

Dan Andruss of 312 Chicago

"Clove. I love the smell, the flavor, and the complexity it can give to a cocktail. It reminds me of Christmas as a child." — Dan Andruss (312 Chicago)

"Walnuts, pistachios, or pecans. They really add a unique flavor and texture when I use them in syrups." — Chris Amirault (The Eveleigh)

"Citrus. Blood orange and Campari is magical (Aperol or Grand Classico as well). Meyer lemon sours are sublime. The fact that I live in San Francisco and it doesn't get freezing cold here certainly colors my opinions." — Scott Brody (Presidio Social Club)

"Spices, spices, and more spices! I like dried fruits and citrus. Winter deserves depth, a more layered set of flavors, and a hefty dose of nostalgia."— Lauren Lathrop Williams (Jsix Restaurant)

"Smoked honey, high-proof ryes and bourbons, maple, brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and anise are some of my favorites."— Derrick Bass (Willie Jane)

"Rum."— Kevin Peters (Golden Cadillac)

Juan Coronado

Juan Coronado of The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach

"This winter, our team is enjoying working with barley water because of the cereal aroma and flavor, chai because of the rich spices, and maple syrup because of its seductive sweetness." — Juan Coronado (The Bazaar by Jose Andres at SLS Hotel South Beach)

"Pine and frankincense." — Jonathan Harris (Firefly)

"Always brown liquor: dark rum, bourbon, rye, Scotch. Honey and marinated cherries are a must. I also love Honeybell oranges for use in screwdrivers and spritzers." — Thomas Gebbia (Thistle Hill Tavern)

"Gin is one of my favorite ingredients to work with in winter. Not only does juniper smell like Christmas, the botanicals in gin such as cardamom, coriander, and anise are perfect for winter warm-ups and variations on Hot Toddies." — Trent Simpson (La Urbana)

"Definitely homemade ginger syrup." — Ray Anguiano (Atwood Café)

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Ryan Prevost of Kabocha in Chicago

"I enjoy rosemary and pomegranate. Spirits-wise, allspice dram is great in winter cocktails, green Chartreuse, and of course whiskey and single malt Scotches. Green Chartreuse Hot Chocolate, anyone?" — Ryan Prevost (Kabocha)

"While I appreciate the Russian/Polish tradition of just straight, ice cold vodka, that doesn't always lend itself to a long night out, so I'm quite partial to browns (whiskey, rye, bourbon, cognac). I'd like to see more brandy and cognac cocktails. I think that might be the next wave." — Kevin Thurston (Snack EOS)

"Citrus is great in the winter—blood oranges, clementines. In terms of spirits, I would say bourbon, rye, and Calvados are my favorites." — Kris Doyle (Trattoria Neapolis)

"Lemongrass, rosemary, and fresh cranberries." — Justin Fairweather (Evelyn Drinkery)

"Scotch, rye, bourbon, mezcal, and aged rum all give me a warm, fuzzy feeling in the winter. That being said, sometimes it's nice to be a little escapist and have a nice daiquiri and imagine you're on a beach in the Caribbean..." — Jim Kearns (PLAY)

Pig and Punch

Brian Means of the Fifth Floor in San Francisco

"Whisky, of course (more so Scotch and Japanese whiskies), tequila, and mezcal for spirits. Buddha's Hand, yuzu, kiwi, pomelo, kumquats, and nettles for produce." —Brian Means (Fifth Floor)

"Cinnamon and persimmons." — Jen Queen (Saltbox Dining & Drinking)

"Liqueurs with botanicals—Benedictine, Drambuie." — Erik Sorensen (Freddy Smalls)

"In the winter I love anything that creates a warming feeling. Some of my favorites are pie spice flavors—ginger, and Saigon cinnamon." — Matt Tocco (Pinewood Social)

"Figs, dried fruits, bourbon, and gin in that's double-infused with house herbs like thyme, rosemary and lemon." — Kevin O'Reilly (Castle Hill Inn)