When it gets really cold out, a fragrant warm mug of something delicious to drink, alcoholic or not, is really what you want to press into your company’s hands as soon as they take their coats off. I have often thought that the human impulse to gaze at a friendly, warming blaze comes from an ancient gene we carry. We carry another, similar, gene for wrapping our hands around a bowl or mug of hot food or drink.
Years ago, I acquired a set of six red mugs with golden reindeer galloping around them. I take them out after Thanksgiving, and put them away after New Years. In between, I use them for tea; coffee; wine punch; hot whiskey punch; hot cider with, or without, ginger brandy; hot chocolate; hot buttered rum; and, inspired by Dicken’s Christmas Carol, a favorite hot port and brandy drink, called negus, that I love to serve during the holidays.
Thanks goodness, I seem to be among the fortunate who can have a spirited drink without danger of harmful habituation. That means that I can vary beverages as much as I can vary salad or soup combinations, taking advantage of both traditional and modern flavo red brandies, rums, and cordials. I haven’t even begun to explore all those flavored vodkas, though I make my own cassis—a vodka-based black currant cordial—and my own rhubarb vodka.
The purpose of most spirited additions to hot beverages is to enhance flavor, not to promote tipsiness. Perhaps the simplest way is merely adding some spice, a couple of cloves, or the merest shake of cinnamon, grating of nutmeg, or macerating a slice of lemon with sugar in the bottom mug before adding the beverage. I prefer raw sugar for my sweetening but plain granulated will do the job.
Following are some of my favorite, and very simple, ways to assemble enhanced hot drinks.
Warm the cider to your desired heat, add a shot of rum, spiced or not, or ginger brandy.
Add coffee brandy or chocolate liquor to the hot chocolate.
Hot Buttered Rum
In a mug, mash together a half-teaspoon of butter with a shake of cinnamon, and a touch of sugar to taste. Add a shot of rum, and top off with hot water.
Hot Whiskey Punch
Macerate a slice of lemon with a bit of sugar in the bottom of a mug. Pour hot water in, then add a shot of whiskey.
Hot Wine Punch
Macerate a slice of orange and one clove with a bit of sugar in the bottom of a mug. Fill the mug halfway with red wine then top off with hot water.
Macerate a slice of lemon with a bit of sugar in the bottom of a mug. Fill the mug halfway with port wine, add a shot of brandy, and top off with hot water.