11 Winter Cocktails You Won’t Be Ashamed Mixing

As I write this, snow and sleet are pouring from the sky outside the window to my office. The perfect backdrop to an article on Wintertime libations.

We’ll be the first to tell you that the best winter cocktail is a tumbler of bourbon and perhaps a splash of water. But sometimes the situation calls for something a little more complex.

You might be hosting a dinner party where not every guest appreciates a stiff drink. Or, you might just be in the mood for something different. There’s no shame in that.

What this article isn’t going to be is a list of some embarrassing, fruity cocktails with tiny umbrellas. No sir, this is a list of tried-and-true alcoholic winter drinks that even your grandpa would enjoy.

The Irish Coffee

Irish coffee is made in the traditional way, with whipped cream. Image source

It’s a classic. The perfect blend of stimulants and depressants, topped with cream. Here’s the backstory to the drink that we all know and love.

A group of American travelers were disembarking from the airport in Ireland on a miserable winter night, and the group ordered a round of coffees to warm up. The chef of the flying boat created the sweetened coffee by the usual standards, but also added in the whiskey to warm the passengers.

As the lore goes, the passengers asked the chef if he had just served them Brazilian coffee. The chef replied “No lads, this is Irish Coffee”.

The rest is, as they say, history. (source)

How to make it :

  • 2 parts Irish whiskey
  • 4 parts hot coffee
  • 1.5 parts fresh cream
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Heat the all of the ingredients (except the cream) together until warm, pour into your favorite mug and top with cream.

Now, there is some debate on the cream: the original recipe explicitly uses non-whipped cream. But we won’t deduct any points for using the whipped variation.

The Benchwarmer

The only garnish the Benchwarmer needs are marshmallows. Image source

Not to be confused with the Gatorade-spiked drink (shudder), the Benchwarmer is essentially spiked hot cocoa. It’s simple and unassuming, even served in paper cups at sporting events. Sometimes it’s even served with marshmallows.

Don’t let the simplicity of the drink fool you; it’s really tasty. The most popular variation is a mix of hot cocoa and peppermint Schnapps, which is especially useful if you find yourself outdoors on a cold bleacher.

How to make it:

  • 1 mug filled with chocolate cocoa
  • 1.5 oz Peppermint Schnapps (or more to taste)
  • DO NOT garnish with candy cane, no matter how tempting

The Benchwarmer isn’t as strict of a recipe as the Irish Whiskey and allows for variation. Top with cream if you like. Other variations of the drink substitute the peppermint Schnapps for butterscotch Schnapps.

The Hot Toddy (aka Grandpa’s Cough Syrup)

The hot toddy cures many ailments, including sobriety. Image source

The Hot Toddy is another classic. It’s light and made with hot water, so you can down a couple glasses without realizing it.

The Hot Toddy also has medicinal qualities as well. Many people use the hot drink to cure a sore throat, cough, or even soberness. (Note: We’re not doctors.)

Any way you slice it, the drink is mighty good, and a nice switch from the heavier cream-based mixed drinks.

How to make it:

While there are plenty of different ways to make the hot toddy, here are the generally recognized core ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 cup boiling-hot water

Add the first three ingredients, fill the glass or mug with boiling water and stir.

There are many variations of this drink. Some recipes use herbal teas, others use Ginger ale, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks. Instead of bourbon people have use brandy, rum and even sake. (There’s a Japanese cold cure that is similar to the Toddy but instead uses sake mixed with egg. You’re on your own with that one.)

The Winter Old Fashioned

An inspiring twist on the standard Old Fashioned. Image source

The Old Fashioned is, well… old fashioned. It’s a standard made with muddled bitters and sugar, whiskey or brandy and citrus rind.

While the Old Fashioned is an excellent Summer or Fall drink, it’s just not quite right for the Winter. So here’s a spiced version to add a twist.

How to make it:

We pulled the directions from how to make this drink from this siteHeads up: This drink includes quite a bit of ingredients and is much more complex to make than, say, the Irish Coffee.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise
  • 12 ounces bourbon or whiskey
  • 1 orange cut into 8 wedges
  • 8 cherries
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Place the 1st 5 ingredients into a saucepan and simmer on low to medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then strain the spices from the syrup.

Let the syrup sit for an hour in the fridge to chill. Cut the orange and slice the cherries and muddle (aka lightly mix/smush/pound together).

Then place the syrup and bourbon into a shaker, along with some ice cubes. Shake. Pour the mixture into four glasses, top with muddled fruit, making sure to squeeze the orange wedge before plopping it into the drink.

Garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick. Or not.


Eggnog: Made with eggs, so it must be good for you. Image source

Oh man, is there anything better than a large creamy glass of eggnog in front of a fire? No. No there is not.

Now, there are two very different ways to make eggnog, and it all depends on how squeamish you are about drinking raw eggs. Personally, I don’t have problem with it. But you might! There’s no shame in that.

If you’re into a classic glass of raw-egg eggnog, check out this recipe by Gentlemint-favorite Alton Brown.

Because many of you reading won’t want to temp fate with Salmonella Roulette, then here’s a tasty recipe that cooks the eggs first.

How to make it:

Note: This is a very involved recipe that requires you to mix eggs and sugar slowly and constantly for three minutes while the mixture thickens.

  • 4 cups milk
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2.5 cups rum
  • 4 cups cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

First, combine milk, cloves, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and cinnamon in a saucepan. (NOT all of the vanilla… you’ll have 2 more teaspoons left over.) Put the saucepan on “really low” for 5ish minutes and slowly bring the mixture to a boil.

Next, take a large bowl and mix the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk them until fluffy. Then whisk the hot milk mixture into a saucepan, cooking over medium heat and stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until “thick”. (Whatever you do, don’t boil it!)

Strain to remove the cloves, or leave them in and play Clove Bingo with your friends. Let this cool for about an hour.

Once chilled, add in the rum, cream, the rest of the vanilla and nutmeg. Let this cool overnight.

When serving, I like to take some fresh nutmeg and grate it over the top. The nutmeg is what makes eggnog taste eggnoggy, so don’t skimp on it.

Smoky Martini

The Martini has many, many variations. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Smoky Martini. The main difference from a standard Martini is the replacement of vermouth with Scotch. It adds a hint of smokiness to the drink that is otherwise missed.

How to make it:

This is a simple, 3 ingredient recipe (filled in a Martini glass, of course). 2.5 ounces of Gin 0.25 ounces of blended Scotch Whisky * garnish with a lemon twist

When making Martinis, you can either make them stirred or shaken (a la James Bond). Either way, just mix the above liquid ingredients and mix them with your preferred method and strain into a Martini glass. (source)

Bailey’s (aka Irish Cream)

Irish cream is actually quite easy to make at home. Image source

There is no more beloved winter drink than Bailey’s on the rocks in our house. Rich, creamy and sweet, it’s a great dessert drink. As in, skip dessert and drink a glass of Bailey’s.

While it’s not technically a cocktail, having it on the rocks is excellent. What’s even better than having a glass of Bailey’s is drinking a glass of your homemade Irish Cream. It’s a simple recipe, and it keeps for a couple months in the fridge (if it lasts that long).

How to make it:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 2/3 cups Irish whiskey (like Jameson’s)
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

(Note: You could use half and half as a substitute for the heavy whipping cream, but you’ll be sorry. Trust me.)

Chuck everything into a blender and crank it on high for 20-30 seconds. If you have an old school milk bottle handy, that works really well for storing in the fridge. (Just don’t let the kids confuse it for chocolate milk.)

Black and Tan

Black and Tan on a bar
The Black and Tan name refers to the coat of a coonhound. And in this case, a tasty beverage. Image source

We’ll loosely refer to the Black and Tan as a cocktail, but it’s really just mixing two different kinds of beers: a pale beer (like a pale ale), and a dark beer (stout).

The term “Black and Tan” was probably invented in England, where they’ve been drinking different types of beers longer than American has been a country. It refers to a the black and tan coat of a coonhound.

How to make it:

  • 1 can/bottle of Guinness
  • 1 can/bottle of a pale ale (traditionalists use Bass)

To get the best results, fill a glass halfway with your pale ale. Then, ever so slowly pour the Guinness on top of the pale ale. Place an upside-down tablespoon over the glass as you do this to keep the layers splashing and mixing. (If you’re feeling fancy, there’s a special tool for this.)

Snake Bite

The traditional Snake Bike, complete with Guinness glass.

The Snake Bite is similar to the Black and Tan, but instead of a pale ale, you use a cider. (If you’re in the UK, they use pale ale instead of stout.)

If you’re wanting an extra kick, you could add a shot of vodka to the concoction, but we can’t vouch for this variation.

White Russian

Made famous recently by The Dude in The Big Labowski, the White Russian is another classic. It’s a simple drink, but oh so tasty. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We need to talk about the meaning of the name.

Despite what you might think from the name, the drink is actually American. The term ‘Russian’ refers to vodka, which, of course, is Russian. There are countless variations–we’ll get to those in a minute–but below is the most common version.

How to make it:

  • 5 parts vodka
  • 2 parts coffee liqueur (like KahlĂșa)
  • 3 parts fresh cream

Pour the coffee liqueur and vodka into the glass, (preferably an Old Fashioned glass), filled with ice. Add the cream on top and slowly stir.

If you’re wanting to mix things up a little bit, here are some variations of the drink:

  • White Canadian (substitute cream with goat’s milk)
  • Dirty Russian (substitute cream with chocolate milk)
  • Anna Kournikova (substitute cream with skim milk )
  • Black Russian (hold the cream)
  • Blind Russian (Irish Cream instead of cream, making it an all alcoholic ingredients list… yow.)
  • White Cuban (substitute rum for vodka)
  • White Belgian (substitute chocolate liqueur instead of coffee liqueur)
  • White Mexican (substitute horchata for cream)


Negroni sitting on a napkin
The Negroni, an Italian drink sure to put hair on your chest. Image source

The story goes that in 1919 Rosco Scarselli, a bartender in Florence Italy, wanted to find a way to add some kick to his favorite cocktail the Americano. The Americano uses a splash of club soda to add some fizz. Rosco decided to try adding gin instead of club soda, and garnishing with an orange peel.

You can make this same simple drink to make, but you’ll need the Italian liqueur Campari.

How to make it:

  • 3 parts gin
  • 3 parts sweet red vermouth
  • 3 parts Campari

Stir the ingredients over ice, add your orange peel garnish, and serve.

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