50 States of Warming Cocktails
Winter is when craft cocktail bars really get in on the warming-cocktails game, even in states where the temps remain balmy. We've rounded up a bevy of spirit-free options, too, so no matter what you're sipping, the forecast will be warm and fuzzy.
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Arizona: You Won't Do It at Virtù Honest Craft
"You Won't Do It" sounds like a dare that's impossible to refuse, especially when it's the name of a cocktail. At Virtù Honest Craft in Scottsdale, bar manager Fernando Bambaren brings a dose of heat to the cognac-and-tequila-based tipple by adding a touch of Calabrese chile oil and a Calabrese chile pepper garnish, a nod to Chef Gio Osso's Calabrian roots. Bambaren describes the chile as possessing just the right amount of heat to bring a tingle to the tongue and wake up the baking-spice notes in the cognac. It's a fine match for Chef Osso's bold Mediterranean cuisine, particularly pasta or Burrata-based dishes.
Florida: The Kindling at Drift at 1 Hotel South Beach
If you think that Miami already brings enough heat, think again. At Drift, the lobby cocktail bar and lounge at 1 Hotel South Beach, The Kindling is an over-the-top smoking cocktail presented with enough greenery to rival South Beach's palm-tree-studded vista. A trio of spirits — rye whiskey, Laphroaig 10-year Scotch and Candela Mamajuana, a spiced rum — give the drink its warming, smoky-spicy base, while bold Barolo Chinato, eucalyptus-forward Amaro Braulio and bittersweet Aperol give it an herbal backbone. The mixture is served in a rocks glass and tucked into a terrarium filled with succulents, finished with a blast of a cedar-eucalyptus smoke (inspired by the hotel's signature scent) and sealed with a custom cork until ready to drink. The ensuing swirl of smoke that wafts out provides a sensory experience — not to mention a heady dose of drama.
Vermont: Winter Daiquiri at Mad River Distillers
The folks at rum distillery Mad River Distillers in Burlington know that Vermont winters aren't exactly conducive to drinking daiquiris, one of the best-known rum cocktails, but their winterized daiquiri has led many tasting-room visitors to describe the drink as "Christmas in a glass." A classic daiquiri shakes together rum, lime and sugar, but Mad River's version pulls in spiced falernum — a boldly flavored syrup made with ginger, nutmeg, clove and allspice — instead of sugar. The syrup is shaken with Mad River First Run Rum, a robust aged rum, plus lime juice and Angostura bitters, which echoes the falernum's clove and allspice notes while adding a subtle pop of cinnamon. The drink can also be fashioned into a nonalcoholic hot toddy by replacing the rum with hot water. For an especially local taste, pair the winter daiquiri with two-year Grafton Vermont cheddar.
Kentucky: You Make Me Real ... Cozy at Alex&nder
Louisville distillery Copper and Kings is known for bucking tradition — it started as a brandy distillery in the heart of bourbon country and has since expanded its range of spirits to include absinthe and gin. At the distillery's third-floor bar (which boasts stellar views of downtown Louisville), Alex&nder, mixologist Eron Plevan reaches for gin, an unexpected choice when it comes to warm drinks. The You Make Me Real ... Cozy is a gin-and-Earl Grey tea-based drink inspired by the Doors' 1966 live album, London Fog, and by classic London Fog Earl Grey tea. Both Copper & Kings American Dry Gin and Copper & Kings Old Tom Gin are mixed with vanilla bean-infused honey syrup and a cardamom tincture, then topped with hot Earl Grey tea. The drink is beautifully garnished with a cinnamon stick, rosemary sprig, juniper berries and an expressed lemon twist.
Idaho: The Boarding Pass at Craft Lounge
After what he describes as a life-changing experience tasting bourbon paired with a side of toasted, sweet-salty pecans, Nicholas Boban became obsessed with recreating the flavors in a cocktail at his Nampa bar, Craft Lounge. Go on your own mind-altering journey with Boban's Boarding Pass, in which Rebel Yell bourbon is poured into a double rocks glass rimmed with smoked Celtic salt and stirred with simple syrup, water and a housemade pecan tincture amplified with clove, cinnamon bark, nutmeg, maple syrup, coffee beans and vanilla. To bring a whiff of campfire, the drink is spritzed with Lagavulin 16, a peaty Scotch. Every sip — salty, smoky and toasty, with a slightly sweet finish — practically guarantees thoughts of curling up next to the fire and watching the snow fall outside.
Pennsylvania: Good Night & Good Luck at A.bar
With a mix of cozy booths and comfortable barstools as well as views of Philadelphia's picturesque Rittenhouse Square, there's not a bad seat in the house at A.bar. The intimate cocktail bar tucked inside the AKA Rittenhouse Square hotel comes from all-star restaurateur Ellen Yin, so it's no surprise that regulars vie for those bar seats every night, giving the place a Cheers-like vibe (with better drinks). Take the edge off winter blues and the daily hustle and bustle with the Goodnight and Goodluck, a boozy slow-sipper named after broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow's nightly sendoff. Drambuie, a honeyed, herbal Scotch, is stirred together with spicy rye whiskey, whole arbol chiles, orange bitters and sweet vermouth, double-strained into a rocks glass and finished with spritzes of Laphroaig and flamed absinthe for a whiff of campfire. It's a fine match for the country pate, a pork and duck liver terrine spiced with peppercorns, garlic and cognac.
Minnesota: Apple Pie at Du Nord Craft Spirits
Family-owned distillery Du Nord Craft Spirits is a blend of owners Chris and Shanelle Montana's backgrounds and sensibilities — Chris grew up in Minneapolis, while Shanelle grew up on a farm in Cold Spring. One of the best examples of their grain-to-glass philosophy is the Apple Du Nord liqueur, which Chris says is similar in flavor to European apple schnapps and was inspired by the "apple pie" moonshine found at family gatherings and in liquor cabinets around the Midwest. The liqueur is crafted with Haralson apple juice sourced from Pepin Heights Orchards in Lake City, then heated with cinnamon, clove and orange peel. It takes a starring turn on the cocktail room menu in the aptly named Apple Pie, a hybrid of a hot toddy and mulled cider: Apple Du Nord is mixed in a glass mug with lemon juice, honey syrup and hot water, then topped with a dried apple slice. For a spirit-free tipple, opt for the Franky, a mocktail version of Du Nord's signature Henry Gatz cocktail, made with lime, simple syrup and muddled jalapeno.
Georgia: Horcholada de Dios at Casi Cielo
Atlanta is earning rave reviews for its dining scene, but travel just north of the city to Sandy Springs and you'll discover Casi Cielo. It's quickly earned a reputation for its chef-driven Oaxacan menu, and that extends to the cocktails, too. The bar has more than 50 different brands of mezcal, a smoky, warming spirit that's primarily made in Oaxaca and excellent for sipping, but for a truly decadent take, opt for the Horcholada de Dios. It starts with housemade horchata — a creamy Mexican rice-and-milk drink bolstered with cinnamon — that's warmed up and combined with Gracias a Dios mezcal, milky Oaxacan dark chocolate and Amarula Cream, a fruity, caramel-esque liqueur. It's all capped off with a hibiscus-flower-infused meringue that underscores the mezcal's floral and honey notes. For the ultimate food pairing, beverage director Fernando Alonso recommends pairing it with capirotada, a Mexican brioche bread pudding.
Michigan: Hot Tom & Jerry at The Brass Rail
The holidays are a time of tradition, but when it comes to cocktails, perhaps that notion is truest of all at The Brass Rail in Port Huron. In 1937, owner Helen David began serving the Tom & Jerry, an old-school hot holiday cocktail that's like eggnog but made with rum and brandy. "Professor" Jerry Thomas, considered the grandfather of American bartending, is credited with creating the drink — in his The Bar-Tender's Guide or How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks, he declared that the seasonal drink was not to be served until after the first snowfall. Good thing it snows early in Michigan. Every Thanksgiving, David would unpack her three commercial mixers and keep them spinning until New Year's Day to make the decadent batter, crafted with eggs, powdered sugar and cream of tartar. The Brass Rail upholds David's tradition to this day, making the batter fresh daily to ensure a light and fluffy texture. To serve, a heaping ladle of batter is added to a warm mug, mixed with a rich, full-bodied rum (Appleton VX from Jamaica) and Hardy's Red Corner VS Cognac, then topped with hot water and dusted with freshly grated nutmeg. The drink is typically mixed with rum and brandy, but it lends itself to multiple spirit and liqueur combinations, which the bar staff happily obliges.
Utah: Hot Fashioned at The Pig Pen Saloon
With its location at the base of Park City Mountain, The Pig Pen, as it's known locally, is a prime apres-ski destination. The family-run bar has been a Park City institution for decades — local lore has it that the bar's name started as a joke and a nod to PIGS, which stands for Professional Intermountain Guide Service, but the name stuck. The bar serves up thousands of hot drinks every season to skiers who can ski in, warm up and then ski out. The Hot Fashioned, a belly-warming version of an old fashioned, is a staple in the lineup of winter warmers. After a brown sugar cube is muddled with an orange slice, two dashes each of Angostura aromatic bitters and Beehive Spiced Orange bitters are added, along with Heritage Distilling Brown Sugar Bourbon, hot water and a garnish of cinnamon stick and orange peel. Pair it with a bowl of homemade chili and a view of the slopes.
Delaware: Doctor's Orders at Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen
After spending nearly five years talking about opening a restaurant, owners and University of Delaware grads Jim O'Donoghue and Lee Mikles opened Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen on Newark's Main Street. Snag a seat on the heated patio (it's dog-friendly, too) overlooking the bar's firepit, which unofficially marks the start of downtown Newark. Grain is well-known for its dozens of craft brews on tap, but "craft" extends to the cocktail menu, too. Whether you're feeling under the weather or not, opt for the Doctor's Orders, inspired by Delaware's Dogfish Head Barrel Honey Rum. O'Donoghue loved the butter cookie flavor and tinkered to create a warming drink that echoes the spirit's fruitcake spice and vanilla finish. The winning combination sees the rum muddled with lemon, topped with cider and garnished with a cinnamon stick, rosemary sprig and cranberries, to soothing effect.
California: Laurel Canyon at The Walker Inn
Though the Laurel Canyon cocktail is loosely based on an old fashioned, The Walker Inn's interpretation is completely contemporary. The bar team creates a date-infused bourbon, then gives it the sous vide treatment with fragrant green cardamom pods and grapefruit zest. In the lounge, the drink is stirred and strained before being poured tableside and served on a board with a smoking sprig of sage and dime-size portions of turmeric, cayenne, black pepper, clove and coriander. The spices add an extra sensory experience and come with an empty tea bag so you can scoop them up for a next-day cup of tea. If you're looking for sustenance, the staff recommends ordering the warm baguette with butter and radishes.
Nevada: Hot Buttered Rum at Libertine Social
Las Vegas mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim got his start at his Aunt Helen's Port Huron, Michigan bar, The Brass Rail, locally famous for serving hot Tom & Jerrys during the holidays (see Michigan entry for more info). When Abou-Ganim moved to Las Vegas in the late '90s to help open the Bellagio, he created his own holiday tradition by serving his homemade hot buttered rum, a tradition he's revived at Libertine Social, a restaurant tucked inside the Mandalay Bay resort. According to the American Heritage Cookbook, hot buttered rum dates as far back as George Washington, when political candidates would serve it to constituents to influence their vote. These days, the drink only serves to create holiday cheer and a toe-tingling, warming effect. For his take, Abou-Ganim makes a batter a few days in advance by beating together light brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and vanilla, giving the spices time to mingle. At serving time, in a warm mug, he combines heaping tablespoons of the batter with aged rum and boiling water to rich, spicy effect.
Texas: Double Barrel Margarita at Molina's Cantina
The Lone Star's temperate climes mean that Texans drink margaritas year-round, but the winter season seems a fitting time for something a little richer than your average frozen marg, if only to make it feel like it's winter. The Double Barrel Margarita at Molina's Cantina in Houston fills the bill nicely, starring Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila, which is aged first in charred oak whiskey barrels and then in toasted barrels, yielding a tequila with a whiskey backbone and depth of flavor, with caramel, vanilla and citrus notes. The tequila is combined with agave and spiced Angostura bitters in a margarita glass and finished with the house frozen margarita mix and a star anise garnish, to warming, spicy effect. Complement the drink with an order of rich, spicy carne asada and beef fajitas.
D.C.: Rom Cremat at Barmini
José Andrés' Minibar in D.C. is the avant-garde jewel in the superstar chef's empire, and it serves as fertile ground for culinary experimentation for his other concepts, too. Fittingly, Barmini is the restaurant's cocktail-lab counterpart, where Miguel Lancha, "cocktail innovator" for Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, dreams up creative takes on classic concepts. The Rom Cremat ("burnt rum"), a traditional warm Spanish drink from Catalonia, is purportedly what sailors drank in the morning to fight the cold. At Barmini, the drink is more likely to ward off D.C.'s winter chill or inspire your next Instagram Stories video. Caribbean aged rum, coffee beans, sugar, and lemon and orange peels are combined in a clay pot, then the mixture is lit on fire and stirred until the flames die down. The fire helps to burn off some of the alcohol, thereby lowering the ABV while adding notes of burnt sugar. Then, hot brewed coffee is swirled in and the Rom Cremat is ladled into coffee cups for serving.
Kansas: Apple Bourbon Sour at Monarch
When Monarch's owner, Jennifer Ray, was developing her bar's concept, she chose to focus on bourbon. Given its location in Wichita's Historic Delano section, which was once known as the "brothel and bar" part of town, Ray says it was an easy choice to focus on the same spirit that cowboys drank as they were running cattle up the Chisholm Trail. Monarch lives up to its reputation of having the largest bourbon selection in the state, but it's also got a roster of approachable bourbon-forward drinks. Opt for the apple bourbon sour, a perennial fixture that stars house-infused Granny Smith-apple bourbon and is open to seasonal interpretation, such as a Christmassy take bolstered with cinnamon-clove simple syrup and garnished with a cinnamon stick, clove and Luxardo cherry. Pro tip: The selection of rare and allocated bourbons isn't always on the menu, so grab a seat at the bar and make friends with the bartenders to get them to divulge where the secret bottles are stashed.
Alabama: Snowed In at Carrigan's Public House
At Carrigan's Public House in Birmingham, the focus is on classic pre-Prohibition cocktails as well as spirits of the British Isles such as gin, whiskey and Scotch. For the winter menu, bar manager Kristy Collins was inspired to create a twist on an Irish coffee featuring local cold brew from Domestique Coffee and Irish whiskey. Collins adds nutty amaretto to play off the Irish whiskey's vanilla notes, and since the drink isn't served hot, she warms things up with Jerry Thomas bitters, fragrant with clove and cinnamon, and a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. For an especially cozy nook, seek out the elevator booth.
Massachusetts: Italian Leather Sofa at Backbar
With its location tucked away down a long hallway, off a small alleyway, Boston's Backbar sounds like the speakeasy of your dreams. And though co-owner Sam Treadway and his team take their cocktails seriously, they're equally focused on the fun (Star Wars tiki mugs) and relaxed part of the bar experience. The drink that embodies the relaxed part of that ethos is the Italian Leather Sofa, which was inspired by the Cake song of the same name and the notion of the ideal cocktail to sip while sitting on said couch. Bartender Joe Habib created a tipple reminiscent of leather and cigars, in which a double dose of whiskey — Angel's Envy bourbon and Rittenhouse rye — is stirred with sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Italicus bergamot liqueur and 1821 Havana & Hide bitters, then poured into a rocks glass that's been spritzed with a tobacco-flavored aromatic spray. For an equally warming drink sans booze, opt for the Tea-Totaler's Old Fashioned, which gets its trademark smokiness from Lapsang Souchong tea and a touch of sweetness from bourbon-barrel syrup.
New York: Hot Brown-Buttered Rum at Clover Club
Julie Reiner's Clover Club is the rare bar that's equal parts neighborhood local haunt and cocktail destination. Located in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill, the polished pre-Prohibition saloon serves a roster of cocktails both classic and contemporary. Though there are several warming cocktails on offer, for a particularly festive option, go for the Hot Brown-Buttered Rum, a take on the classic hot buttered rum that incorporates nutty-sweet brown butter. Instead of simply finishing the drink with butter, the bar team creates a brown-butter-infused rum using a rich amber Spanish-style rum and then heats it with demerara syrup and water just until it's about to boil. The mixture is combined with fresh butter and a few dashes of cardamom tincture in a warmed toddy mug, then finished with grated nutmeg. There's also a stellar housemade mulled cider made with baking spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom and allspice, orange zest and a touch of brown sugar — it's used in one of the boozy punches, but it can be served as a warming mocktail solo. Pro tips: Arrive when the doors open at 4 p.m. to snag the table in the back room near the fireplace, and for a particularly indulgent pairing with the brown-buttered rum, opt for the bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce.
Alaska: Poinsettia at The Narrows
Throughout winter, bartender Jared Curé, owner of downtown Juneau bar The Narrows, gets festive with warming drinks. The menu includes hot toddies, aged eggnog, serrano-spiced sippers and holiday-themed cocktails. Try the Poinsettia, a ruby-red tipple that stars spiced-cranberry syrup made with wild Alaska bog cranberries that Curé forages himself. The delicate berries are simmered with cloves, allspice, cinnamon, fresh ginger and orange zest, then shaken with vodka, Aperol, lime juice and egg whites to velvety effect. The frothy cap is dusted with ground nutmeg and garnished with a candied cranberry skewer. The syrup also plays nicely in a mocktail with lemon and hot water. Arrive early to snag a seat in the lounge next to the wood-burning fireplace.
Virginia: Leader of the Pack at Saison
At Richmond's Saison, the seasonal cocktail menu features several boozy stirred drinks that warm from the inside out. For the Leader of the Pack, beverage director Justin Ayotte has created a Scotch-forward drink, using an old fashioned as a template and combining Scotch with Linie Aquavit, a Norwegian potato-based spirit that gets its heady spice notes from a turn in Spanish Oloroso casks. Cinnamon-and-clove-spiced honey plus a duo of spiced anise bitters layer in additional warming spices, and it all adds up to what Ayotte describes as a chest-warming sensation. There's also the spirit-free Autumn Sweater, which mingles spiced honey with freshly juiced ginger, lemon and soda water, to warming effect. Pro tip: For the best people-watching and the coziest perches in the house, snag the two bar seats located in the corner next to the wall.
Louisiana: Lucian Bacchanal at Compère Lapin
Compère Lapin has earned acclaim for Chef Nina Compton's innovative creole Caribbean cooking, and that creativity extends to the bar, where Abigail Gullo has created a roster of modern classics. Gullo describes the Lucian Bacchanal cocktail as a perfect winter daiquiri for the Big Easy's mild climes. The warming, smoky shaken daiquiri is crafted with St. Lucia Chairman's Reserve Rum, mezcal, lime juice and Gullo's own "Abby's Mix," a spiced syrup made with grapefruit peels, cinnamon and star anise, which are frequently used in the kitchen, too. The syrup picks up the baking-spice flavors of the rum while the mezcal brings a smoky green spice to the syrup's warm, red-spice profile. For a particularly restorative pairing, Gullo recommends Chef Compton's curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi.
Arkansas: The Warm & Classy at The Hive
At The Hive at 21c Museum Hotel in Bentonville, you'll find plenty of bourbon on offer, a nod both to the hotel group's Kentucky roots and to assistant food and beverage director John Robinson's own love affair with bourbon. For winter, Robinson was inspired to combine the spirit with mulled wine fashioned after a family recipe. For the mulled wine, Robinson simmers red wine with traditional baking spices but ups the ante by adding star anise, cracked cardamom pods, vanilla paste, coriander and apple cider to bring plenty of spice and bright fruit to play off the bourbon's rich toffee notes. He balances the drink's spicy richness by adding Benedictine, an herbal liqueur with notes of angelica, lemon balm and saffron, and rounds it out with a touch of honey simple syrup for a smooth mouthfeel.
Colorado: Wailing Sail at Elevated
Perched atop The Halcyon Hotel, Elevated is a top-notch cocktail destination befitting Denver's Mile High City nickname. The pool-top deck boasts sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, plus ceramic heaters and five fireplaces to keep the party going (weather permitting). Stoke the fire in your belly with one of several warming drinks on offer, including the Todd the Hotty with the Body Toddy, a take on the hot toddy amped up with cinnamon turbinado syrup and whiskey barrel bitters, and the Wailing Sail, a rum-and-cognac-based riff on wassail, a traditional English Christmas drink that's meant to ensure a good harvest. The rum in the equation is Pyrat rum, whose orange and honey notes complement the cognac's rich vanilla and caramel flavors, and whose cinnamon notes play nicely with the housemade apple cider. If you're looking for a spirit-free option, opt for a mug of the cider solo, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and allspice berries.
Tennessee: The Fall of Autumn at Whiskey Thief
Whiskey Thief, a rooftop bar atop Chattanooga's Edwin Hotel, takes its name from a tool used to "steal" a sample of a whiskey batch from the barrel. As you'd expect, the menu leans heavily on whiskey-based libations. For the fall-winter menu, lead bartender Matthew Lawson created a contemporary riff on the Sazerac, starring a house-infused pecan-and-brown-butter rye that gets its rich, savory flavor from pecans toasted with salt, paprika and turbinado simple syrup. The flavors play well with the base flavors of Rittenhouse rye, which include baking spice, cocoa, citrus and vanilla, further echoed by the addition of smoked maple syrup. The rye and syrup are gently stirred with a couple of dashes of black walnut bitters and a few drops of absinthe, then strained into a coupe glass garnished with a lemon twist. While the rye lends the drink the requisite pleasant after-burn of warming whiskey drinks, for Lawson, nostalgia is the power player in this drink, evoking family memories of pecan pie and campfires.
Connecticut: Irish Coffee at Elm City Social
The rooftop lounge and creative cocktails at New Haven's Elm City Social make it a top spot year-round. When the temperatures start to dip, the rooftop transforms from a tiki bar to a ski lodge, complete with flannel blankets, cozy throw pillows and menus printed to look like ski-lift passes. Get into the spirit and sip one of the hot cocktails, such as the fan-favorite Irish coffee — it's a deceptively simple drink, but as with all of Elm City Social's cocktails, the bartenders don't take any shortcuts. They combine freshly brewed coffee, Irish whiskey and housemade demerara syrup and top it all off with hand-shaken whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg (Connecticut is the Nutmeg State, after all). Coffee not your thing? Opt for a sweet tea toddy or a tequila-spiked Mexican hot chocolate. Pair it with one of the housemade snowball pastries, a gourmet take on the classic shredded-coconut-and-cream-filled chocolate cakes.
New Jersey: November Rain at Somos
Though North Arlington is a lesser-known city in the Garden State's Bergen County, Somos' roster of Latin-American cocktails and small plates is putting the town on the map. For fall-winter, beverage consultant Rachael Robbins created the November Rain, a festive seasonal apple-chai-vodka sipper that takes you from autumn apple picking to New Year's Day brunch. Crisp apple cider is heated with chai concentrate, redolent of warming spices such as ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom, then brightened with a squeeze of lemon and rounded out with vanilla simple syrup. To take things boozy, Robbins adds vodka, but the drink could easily be served sans booze, too. For a glimpse into the insider action, Robbins recommends snagging a seat at the bar — besides watching her work, you just might get to sample her newest creation or help her taste-test the barrel-aged old fashioned during its weekly progress check.
Wyoming: The Old Homestead at Paramount Ballroom
Cheyenne bar Paramount Ballroom and its coffeehouse sister, The Paramount Cafe, take their name from the building's former incarnation as the Paramount Theatre, and all of its signature cocktails are named after shows that were performed there in the early 1900s. The Old Homestead inspired the cocktail of the same name, a toddy-and-mulled-cider hybrid created by mixologist Jennie Garcia. Chardonnay is simmered with honey, fresh apple cider and apple slices, as well as fresh rosemary, star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks and lemon zest. The fortified cider is combined with local distiller Backwards Distilling's Sword Swallower, a silver rum with a tequila-barrel-aged finish, then garnished with a dehydrated lemon wheel and a cinnamon stick. For another inspired mashup, visit the cafe for a cup of Butter Beer, a hot-buttered-rum-meets-Irish-coffee sipper crafted with rum, Irish cream, butterscotch schnapps, cold brew espresso and milk.
Wisconsin: Campfire Old Fashioned at Proof
Though it's housed in a late 1800s building with high ceilings and gilded walls, formerly occupied by a bank, Proof still feels like an intimate neighborhood restaurant — one that's earned a sterling reputation for its craft cocktails among De Pere locals. One tipple that's perfect for warding off below-zero-wind-chill shivers is the Campfire Old Fashioned. Owner Tony Oczus riffs on the classic whiskey cocktail by pulling in rum instead and stirring it with housemade coffee-vanilla syrup, a hint of smoky Scotch and leather-cigar bitters, then garnishing the drink with a roasted marshmallow. The effect is smooth, rich and boozy, a perfect match for Proof's bacon-wrapped water chestnuts or its perennially popular Friday night fish fry. Pro tip: Oczus originally hails from neighboring Michigan's Upper Peninsula (locals are called Yoopers), so if you mention "chook" (Yooper speak for a knitted hat), you just may get to jump the queue.
Indiana: The Devil's Advocate at The Ball & Biscuit
The Ball & Biscuit calls itself Indianapolis' original cocktail bar, and for the winter season Vanessa Loya and Kendall Lockwood teamed up to create an original warming cocktail. It's a spirit-forward drink that stirs together Copper & Kings brandy, Savory & James amontillado sherry and Amaro di Angostura with maple syrup and Bittercube Corazon Bitters, but despite its triple-threat booziness, Lockwood insists it's got a softness to it and a sweet maple-chocolate finish. Pair it with the housemade bacon on a stick — either flavor, maple bourbon or Sriracha cinnamon, makes a fine match. The best view of the action is undoubtedly at the bar, but for an especially cozy perch, Loya and Lockwood recommend snagging one of the oversized chairs.
Iowa: Christopher Oaxacan Number Tres at Juniper Moon
Sometimes you order a drink for its clever or intriguing name. But at Juniper Moon, where all the cocktails are created and named with a heavy dose of whimsy, it's hard to single one out. Still, the Christopher Oaxacan Number Tres is one of the bar's most popular, and one that managing partner Jason Garnett calls a cold-weather gem. It also serves as a gateway drink for mezcal, a warming, smoky spirit. Granny Smith-apple-infused Del Maguey Vida is shaken with yellow Chartreuse, St. George spiced-pear liqueur, Donn's Mix #1 (cinnamon bark syrup and fresh grapefruit juice) and lemon juice, then spritzed with smoky Laphroaig 10-Year Scotch and garnished with smoked black peppercorns. For a spirit-free option, go for the They're All Going to Laugh at You, a shaken citrus, cinnamon bark syrup and coconut-water number. Need sustenance? Head to the old-fashioned phone booth, where the old-timey phone only dials Gusto Pizza, located across the parking lot; the pizzeria has the same owners as Juniper Moon, so you can even put the pie on your bar tab.
Maine: Spanish Coffee at Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
Briana and Andrew Volk are the husband-and-wife duo behind acclaimed Portland cocktail bar Portland Hunt & Alpine Club. The incredibly creative cocktails are served in a New England-meets-Finland ski lodge setting that has a cozy vibe, particularly when you're watching the snow fall outside. Warm your bones and wrap your hands around a cup of Spanish Coffee, a classic hot and boozy tipple that gets a dose of local flavor and a hit of drama, too (have Instagram at the ready). The glass's rim gets an orange-sugar dusting, then overproof rum is poured in and lit on fire so that the flame caramelizes the sugar while cinnamon and nutmeg are shaken into the glass. While the flame is still burning, orange liqueur and locally made Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy are added into the glass, followed by hot coffee and a cap of whipped cream.
Nebraska: Sweater Weather at The Berry & Rye
As is the case with many craft cocktail bars, Omaha's The Berry & Rye updates its drink menu seasonally. But the Sweater Weather was dreamt up long before the leaves changed color and it was time for all things pumpkin spice. General manager Brooke Shoemaker was inspired by a spirit called Avuá Amburana, a cachaça, or Brazilian rum, made from sugar cane and aged in exotic woods — amburana, in this case. The decadent and earthy spirit boasts a heady mix of cinnamon and fall baking spices, so Shoemaker knew it'd be a perfect match for a toddy-inspired drink made with pumpkin and sherry. To ensure maximum heat and coziness, the drink is built in a warmed mug, where hot water is combined with dark and nutty oloroso sherry, spiced pumpkin sauce and cachaça, topped with more hot water, and finished with a foamy cap of cinnamon whip and grated cinnamon. The bar staff is equally adept at crafting mocktails — ask for a custom creation made with one of their honey infusions with tea, such as a cardamom-infused honey with green tea.
Mississippi: The Foreign Exchange at Fine & Dandy
Beverage director Jonathan Webb describes the vibe at Jackson cocktail bar Fine & Dandy as "grandma chic" —random portraits of "family members" decorate the walls, there's a small sunroom filled with potted plants, and food is served on an eclectic mix of mismatched china. The familial theme continues with the Foreign Exchange, bartender Giancarlo Fernandez's take on the classic Puerto Rican coquito, a coconut-and-rum-based milk punch that he fashioned after his Colombian family's recipe. Fernandez describes the flavor profile as like a hot dirty chai latte, owing to the mix of white rum, Patron XO coffee/tequila liqueur, allspice dram, ground cinnamon and vanilla. To create a creamy, frothy consistency, he blends those ingredients with sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut milk, cream of coconut and egg yolks, allows the mixture to thicken, and serves it with whip and freshly grated nutmeg. On the mocktail front, try the Melodrama, in which Seedlip Spice, an alcohol-free distilled spirit, is shaken with housemade coffee and vanilla syrups, and a duo of rich and spicy bitters. Round it out with an order of Dad Bod Tots, served in a skillet with pimento cheese, bacon bits, chives and Fine & Dandy's own Betty White BBQ sauce.
Missouri: Beets Me at Tavernonna
Tavernonna Italian Kitchen, located in the Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, adheres to the Italian philosophy of preparing dishes and drinks using fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients. Bartenders Sam Hill and Larry Liggett were inspired to create a cocktail using a favorite fall-winter ingredient: beets. They make a beet shrub — a sweetened vinegar syrup — by quickly boiling peeled and diced beets in water with ginger, for a brisk, warming bite, and red apple and sugar for a touch of sweetness, then stirring in apple cider vinegar. To preserve the shrub's beautiful purple-pink hue, they shock it in an ice bath, strain the solids out and let it cool in the refrigerator. The result is a product with the concentrated flavor of beets that's perfect for stirring with gin and simple syrup. The drink is garnished with a smoldering rosemary sprig. Keep the party going at P.S., the hotel's speakeasy. It hosts live-music acts on Thursdays and Saturdays, with a strong emphasis on Kansas City's jazz heritage — look for local act A La Mode, whose swing-and-blues-influenced sound completes the throwback vibe.
New Mexico: Chimayóso Margarita at Low 'n Slow Lowrider Bar
After a day of gallery and art-museum hopping in Santa Fe, the Low 'n Slow Lowrider Bar at Hotel Chimayó is a welcome respite — and its margaritas are a destination in their own right. The bar is named after Jack Parsons and Carmella Padilla's book Low 'n Slow: Lowriding in New Mexico. Fittingly, the walls are filled with hubcaps and photos of customized lowrider cars, seats are done in diamond-tuck upholstery, and tables are fashioned like chromed chain-link steering wheels. Take it all in while sipping the Chimayóso Margarita, a potable tribute to Chimayó, New Mexico, and its own stop on the Santa Fe Margarita Trail — yes, it's a thing. Serrano pepper-infused Espolòn Reposado Tequila is shaken with apricot liqueur (the fruit grows abundantly here) and fresh lime juice, then strained into a glass rimmed with Chimayó red-chile salt. It's finished with a woven candied orange-peel garnish, a nod to local weaving traditions.
North Carolina: Smoked Monte Carlo at The Katharine Brasserie and Bar
The Katharine Brasserie and Bar is named for Katharine Reynolds, wife of the founder of the Winston-Salem-based R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and locally celebrated bon vivant. The French-style brasserie captures her spirit with a roster of elegant and creative dishes and drinks; one of the most-popular libations is the Smoked Monte Carlo, a riff on a Manhattan that's crafted to taste and feel like you're sipping it by a campfire. First, Elijah Craig Bourbon, angostura bitters and Benedictine, a potent herbal liqueur redolent of spices and honey, are stirred and strained into a large carafe, then bourbon-soaked applewood chips are burned and the smoke is trapped in the carafe before being poured tableside into a rocks glass, to dramatic effect. The bold, spicy drink pairs beautifully with rich entrees such as roasted duck breast. We think Katharine would approve.
North Dakota: Goya's Revenge at Thomas & Moriarty's
The town of Mandan's slogan may be "where the West begins," but the inspiration for cocktail bar Thomas & Moriarty's Goya's Revenge, a spicy Mexican-chocolate tipple, leans farther south. Co-owner and head bartender Michael Kashey was obsessed with eating Mexican chocolate (chocolate with chile peppers) and couldn't shake the thought that it'd be delicious in a drink. As it happened, Ancho Reyes, a spicy Mexican liqueur crafted with ancho and poblano chiles, had recently been made available in North Dakota, so Kashey jumped at the chance to play with it. After much trial and error (muddled chocolate, while delicious, is not visually appealing), Kashey settled on a take on an old fashioned, in which housemade chocolate-and-red-bell-pepper syrup is combined with Ancho Reyes, milk-clarified (a process that uses the curds to soak up the cloudy particles) and served in a glass rimmed with orange zest and finished with a drop of cacao-mole bitters. For a hot mocktail, order the O'Riordan's Bog, a beautiful pink mulled cranberry juice and orange juice tipple redolent of cinnamon, anise and clove, served in a punch cup with a clove-studded orange slice garnish.
Ohio: Honey Trap at Society Lounge
To fend off the lingering chill of Ohio's notoriously long Midwest winters, bartender Misty Golinar created the Honey Trap at Cleveland cocktail bar Society Lounge. It's a riff on a hot toddy in which Hennessy, fresh lemon juice, housemade cardamom simple syrup, cream and Bittermens burlesque bitters — chosen for their dry botanical notes — are dry-shaken (without ice) till fluffy, then poured into a heated snifter and topped with hot water and garnished with a honey dipper coated in honey. It all adds up to a soothing, warming and creamy concoction that's become a favorite with locals and staff. If you're looking for a spirit-free option, ask the bartenders to make one from their Temperance Movement Mixers arsenal.
Oregon: Humble Pie at Teardrop Lounge
Teardrop Lounge's cocktail menu is largely inspired by the classics, but the folks here are not afraid to buck tradition, either (how very Portland of them). The Humble Pie is based on an old fashioned but was inspired by former bar manager Sean Hoard's memory of a Thanksgiving when he defied his grandma's baking advice. She was critical of his addition of black pepper to his apple pie, but when dessert time rolled around and she exclaimed that it was the best apple pie she'd ever had (thinking that he'd omitted the pepper), she was forced to swallow her pride. Thankfully, the Humble Pie is a little easier to swallow; the boozy stirred sipper mingles Laird's bonded apple brandy with blended Scotch for a mild smokiness, and adds zesty ginger syrup, simple syrup, a dash of Angostura bitters, a few dashes of allspice dram and, of course, a couple of cracks of medium-ground black pepper. A nonalcoholic toddy makes for a fine mocktail; the team at Teardrop makes theirs extra special by incorporating star anise, cloves, green cardamom and a pinch of saffron with orange juice, agave syrup and hot water.
Rhode Island: A Little Nutty at Vanderbilt
With its rooftop deck overlooking Newport's waterfront, the historic Vanderbilt mansion-turned-luxury-hotel is one of the town's prime spots for warm-weather imbibing. Once summer sets sail, the rooftop transforms into a cozy cocktail den outfitted with fire pits, but if the temps dip too low, locals know to head to the bar inside. The lineup of hot drinks rotates seasonally, as beverage manager Christina Mercado riffs on the classics by blending her bartending talents with her pastry training. Signature creations include By the Fire, a mulled wine crafted with whiskey for an extra boozy hit; Sugar & Spice, a mulled-cider-and-hot-buttered-rum mashup made with local cider and brown sugar butter; and A Little Nutty, a decadent hot cocoa spiked with rum and a nutty duo of liqueurs, hazelnut-inflected Frangelico and almond-y Disaronno. If they're available, don't think twice about indulging in one of Mercado's sweet treats, such as chocolate liquor bonbons and pate de fruit.
South Dakota: Hawaiian Hot Pocket at Pave
"Hawaii" and "Sioux Falls" may not have been uttered in the same sentence before downtown Sioux Falls cocktail bar Pave created the Hawaiian Hot Pocket, a vodka punch that's equal parts refreshing and warming. The warming finish comes primarily from hot sauce — the team tasted several different extracts and sauces (including scorpion hot sauce!), before landing on original Tabasco. The sunny base is composed of lime and pineapple juices, which are shaken with vodka, simple syrup and Tabasco, then strained into a glass and garnished with a serrano pepper for an added pop of color and spicy aroma. For a light bite, pair it with the kicky chicken satay lettuce wraps. The Love Potion #Spice is a warming, festive mocktail, featuring orange and cranberry juices shaken with Fresca, housemade simple syrup, honey and ground cinnamon.
Oklahoma: Diddy Kong at Valkyrie
Often, the best inspiration for a cocktail comes from the place closest to home. Such was the case for downtown Tulsa craft-cocktail bar Valkyrie and its signature creation the Diddy Kong, a spirit-forward, complex sipper inspired by next-door chocolatier Glacier Confection. For his own chocolate-inspired masterpiece, bartender Stuart Ellis starts with Bitter Truth's spiced chocolate bitters, then adds oak-barrel-aged Agavales Reposado Premium Tequila for a touch of vanilla, Banane de Brésil for a banana-y sweetness and Alpe Lys, a mild, nutty amaro. To temper the sweetness and add flair, he pulls in barrel-aged bitters and Laphroaig 10-Year Peated Scotch for smokiness; he adds sweet vermouth to round out the drink and Gran Classico amaro to lend the drink a final bittersweet touch and a rich, full mouthfeel. For a warming spirit-free option, ask for the apple cider, amped up with cranberry juice, cloves, peppercorn, allspice, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks and brown sugar.
New Hampshire: Aged Piña Colad-Nog at The Nice
Located on the second floor of a 1900s brick building in historic Portsmouth, The Nice exudes charm that is equal parts old-school and new-school. The luxe environs boast mid-century furniture and accents of green leather and greenery juxtaposed against the building's brick walls, exposed beams and cast-iron radiators (they work, so try to snag the corner table next to one of them for an especially cozy nook). The intimate space is refreshingly devoid of pretense, with welcoming vibes and a soundtrack that, depending on the night, might include a DJ spinning hip-hop on vinyl or spoken word. You can't go wrong with any of the clever libations on offer, but co-owners (aka "The Nice guys") Kevin Walsh and Bryan Emerson's holiday favorite is the Aged Piña Colad-Nog, a tropical riff on eggnog that sees pineapple rum and coconut rum mingling with brandy, eggs, sugar and spice (and everything nice). They prefer to age the 'nog for around six months, which causes the alcohol to break down the proteins of the eggs and dairy, yielding an extremely smooth texture and creamy mouthfeel. Gild the lily with an order of Drunken Turtles, amaro-soaked pecans enrobed in chocolate and housemade caramel.
Maryland: Desert Rest at Bookmakers
Bookmakers may be in Federal Hill, one of Baltimore's historic neighborhoods, but the cocktail bar has earned a reputation for its modern and inventive takes on the classics. Ever since beverage director Dan Braganca experimented with combining reposado tequila with maple, he has wanted to riff on the old fashioned with those ingredients. To layer in spice and a bit more booziness, he adds St. George's Dry Rye Reposado Gin, which adds a whiskey-like backbone and rye grain spice, as well as flavors like juniper and black peppercorn. To play off the sweetness of the maple syrup, he stirs in Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, a spicy liqueur crafted from ancho and poblano chiles, to create a drink that's altogether rich, warming and boozy. The final touch is a few dashes of Tempus Fugit Fernet Angelico, which brings a balancing stroke of cooling, bitter menthol. For a taste of the region, pair with the crab cake or lobster grilled cheese.
Illinois: Lullaby at Cindy's
The Windy City is home to notoriously frigid winters, but Cindy's provides a welcome respite from the chill. You can still glimpse the frozen lake from the restaurant-bar's enclosed rooftop perch atop the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, and when it's snowing outside, the effect is more snow globe than lake-effect snow. Double down on the dreamy vibes and order the Lullaby. Beverage manager David Mor, inspired by the sleep cycle, relies on rich, dark spirits and a double dose of chamomile to craft a cocktail with a calming, relaxing effect. It's a riff on the Sazerac, featuring a split base of rye and cognac (a nod to the two styles of Sazeracs), chamomile-demerara syrup and Weatherby's orange saffron bitters, finished with spritzes of concentrated chamomile tea. For a truly warming effect, head to the Library and snag a seat next to the fireplace.
Hawaii: The Surfing Pig at The Surfing Pig
It's hard to compete with the stunning views of a Hawaiian sunset, but The Surfing Pig's namesake cocktail is a head-turner. It's a riff on the old fashioned, mingling smoked bacon-infused bourbon with aromatic bitters and a squeeze of citrus, all poured into a rocks glass over an ice sphere. It's garnished with a bacon slice and a Luxardo-cherry-and-orange-peel skewer. The drink is then presented under a glass dome and unveiled tableside, releasing a cloud of mesquite smoke to dramatic effect. On the mocktail front, try the Ginger Cinnamon Apple Cider Fake-tini: apple cider and a housemade ginger-cinnamon simple syrup vigorously shaken with ice and served in a martini glass rimmed with cinnamon sugar. Either drink pairs well with the smoky-sweet flavors of the restaurant's signature slow-cooked, mesquite-kissed ribs.
West Virginia: Country Roads at Smooth Ambler Spirits
Whiskey is the name of the game at Smooth Ambler Spirits, a distillery located in the Appalachian Mountains. John Foster, who heads up marketing, wanted to create a holiday-ready cocktail that would showcase Smooth Ambler's Contradiction, a strong-but-elegant bourbon with a pecan pie flavor profile. Bartender Amy Russell (of Dirty Habit in Washington, D.C.) dreamed up Country Roads (a nod to John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads," an ode to West Virginia), whose boozy-sweet flavors are reminiscent of a Vieux Carré, a rich whiskey-cognac drink. Country Roads features a trio of spirits for an over-the-top warming effect: Smooth Ambler's Contradiction's bourbon, bourbon-barrel-aged Martell Blue Swift VSOP Cognac and Becherovka Herbal Liqueur are stirred with apple cider syrup and a few drops of potent ginger-black pepper bitters and garnished with a cinnamon stick wrapped with an orange twist. Pro tip: Visit the distillery and tasting room around 3 p.m., then hit up the distillery's last tour at 4 p.m. for a behind-the-scenes glimpse and tastings.
Washington: Drambien at Smith
With its warm wood tones, cozy booths and taxidermy, Smith in Seattle is equal parts homey neighborhood haunt and ski lodge. Whether you choose to drink at the bar or in one of the cozy booths in the back, double down on the hygge vibes with a Drambien, a silky hot sipper that's as likely to induce a nap as it is to warm you up (the name is a cheeky wink to the sleeping aid Ambien). Beverage director Myles Burroughs was inspired to create a drink with the rich mouthfeel of a clarified milk punch, but without the labor-intensive process (he uses lactose instead). The drink's foundation is overproof Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, whose edges are softened with VSOP cognac that's fortified with a housemade spiced-pear syrup. The spirits are added to a warm mug, stirred with allspice dram and hot water, and crowned with a pillowy whipped cream topper infused with Angostura bitters.
South Carolina: Darjeeling 1888 Punch at Lucky Rooster Kitchen and Bar
At Hilton Head Island restaurant Lucky Rooster, the bar team loves experimenting with both contemporary cocktails on draft and classic punch recipes. Bartender Paul Rabe created a cocktail that marries the two formats, a punch on draft called the Darjeeling 1888. The bourbon-based punch pays homage to mid-afternoon tea service by incorporating a housemade chai tea concentrate — made with black tea and warming spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black pepper — that's clarified with milk, which Chef-Owner Clayton Rollison says gives the drink a tea-with-milk texture but allows the cocktail to maintain a bright, clear color. The chai concentrate is mixed with Four Roses small-batch bourbon, nutty amontillado sherry and Sibona Camomilla, a chamomile liqueur made with grappa that starts sweet but finishes herbal, served in a rocks glass over ice and garnished with a lemon peel.
Montana: Huckleberry Hot Chocolate at Bozeman Spirits Distillery
Montana is known for many things: cowboys, mountains ... and huckleberries. The huckleberry is the unofficial state fruit (it's officially the state fruit of Idaho), with the diminutive, wild blue-black berries turning up on restaurant and bar menus across Big Sky Country, in pies, cookies, jams and even cocktails. At Bozeman Spirits Distillery, huckleberries are distilled with Rocky Mountain water in a 300-gallon still to create its signature Cold Spring Huckleberry vodka. Montana winters are notoriously frigid, so the team dreamed up the I'll Be Your Huckleberry Hot Chocolate for distillery visitors to enjoy in their tasting room; wrap your hands around a glass mug where the huckleberry vodka mingles with hot cocoa under a cap of whipped cream garnished with fresh huckleberries.