I am, by nature, a very happy, upbeat person. Even more so when I am in my favorite city in the world, near my favorite cuisine, with a glass of fine wine within reach.
But I am not a winter person. Not even a little bit. When I travel at this time of year, and have to haul along clothes that weigh a lot, take up a lot of room in luggage, and I have to spend what seems to me an inordinate amount of time getting dressed just to step from the front door to the car, then I start pondering what other things I could be doing that are more useful and fun.
In the current season, I am like a lethargic, lazy bear. Upon reflection, bears actually have the best idea to just go deep into a cave and sleep for long periods of time. For that reason alone, I respect bears a lot. Their body odor and bad breath are another matter.
It seems to me that one of the issues I have with winter is that I can never warm up. I can always get comfortable in the warm weather. Air conditioning works in my world. Heat, well, not so much. It’s either too hot or too stuffy or too dry or too drafty. And then we are back to all those heavy clothes. Can’t just take them off because there does not seem to be a comfortable middle ground. Pulling a heavy sweater over your head in a crowded restaurant, with you momentarily trapped in wool surroundings like Houdini in a straight-jacket, is not attractive or socially acceptable. Then when you have finally emerged like a transformed worm from a cocoon, what do you do with the garment?
So you get the idea: me and winter are not good friends.
Yet, there are some good points. Okay, there’s one good point and that is winter drinks. This is the only time of the year you can down a heated, flavorful beverage, laden with extra helpings of alcohol, and feel some sense of satisfaction, as well as a bit of heated comfort. An Irish Coffee and August are completely at odds. A lot like Rob Ryan and his barber. Now, however, I crave the coffee/alcohol duet. As for Ryan, he’s made his sartorial and personal choices.
As most of us were growing up, we were drinking Hot Toddies, and likely did not even know there was a name for the delicious and soothing tea, lemon, honey, and if we were the lucky children of liberal parents, a touch of Bourbon.
Hot Toddies are the result of making hot water behave in a particularly beneficial way.
The Classic Hot Toddy
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
1½ ounce brown liquor such as brandy, whiskey or rum
1 tablespoon honey
½ ounce lemon juice
1 cup hot water
Lemon wedge, cinnamon stick and star anise, for garnish (optional)
Combine the first four ingredients into the bottom of a warmed mug. If desired, garnish with the lemon, cinnamon stick or star anise.
The Mexican Buttered Toddy
2 tablespoons refrigerated hot buttered batter
6 ounces boiling water
1½ ounces Tanteo Cocoa Tequila
1 tablespoon light cream (optional)
Fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon, for garnish
In a hot beverage mug, combine hot buttered batter with boiling water, stirring well until dissolved. Add in Tequila and cream. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh grated cinnamon and nutmeg.
Recipe courtesy James Labe, tea sommelier
3 ounces ZEN Green Tea Liqueur
4 ounces steeped Gold-Tipped Assam Black Tea
Chai Spices (per serving, 3 crushed cardamom pods or ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder,
1 slice fresh ginger, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves)
1 ounce heavy cream
Combine the liqueur with the hot, steeped tea. Add the Chai spices and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid, reserving cinnamon stick for garnish. Add the heavy cream and serve.
Recipe courtesy Tabard Inn, Washington, D.C.
1½ ounce Brandy
½ ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, stirred to combine)
4 ounces hot brewed Chamomile tea
Grated nutmeg (optional)
Add the first five ingredients to mug. Top with the Chamomile tea, and garnish with grated nutmeg, if desired.
And just for a change of pace, both in temperature and flavorings, the base for this next recipe is chilled espresso.
Molinari Caffe Continental
1 oz. Molinari Sambuca Extra Liqueur
1 oz. Fresh Brewed Espresso, Chilled
1 oz. Whiskey
Shake all ingredients with ice and serve in a cocktail glass.
I’m thinking that winter can throw its worst at us but with a warm toddy we are ready to withstand those cold winds and rainy days. Or, just in case a sunny, cloudless day appears, with temperatures in the mid 60’s, we won’t mind that either.