10 of the best hot cocktails from around the world
Whether it’s Polish mulled beer or festive Mexican punch, there’s an array of hot alcoholic drinks to warm you up in winter.
20 Dec 2021, 09:45 GMTWhen the cold weather sets in one of the best ways to cheer up the chill and gloom is with a deliciously hot cocktail, especially one made with festive spices. The key to heating alcohol is to do it gently, without letting the mixture get above about 65C. Here are the best warm, boozy drinks to try this winter.
1. Canelazo, South America
Canelazo is the kind of drink you want to wrap your hands around on a chilly Andean night — cinnamon steeped in hot water and unrefined sugar, topped with aguardiente or rum. Because the recipe is hundreds of years old and made across the highlands of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina, there are plenty of variations: sometimes the drink is made with cloves or anise, with citrus, or with the tart flesh of the local naranjilla fruit.
2. Black balsam tea, Latvia
The subject of great national pride in Latvia, black balsam is a strong, bitter herbal liqueur that’s been made to a secret recipe more or less constantly since 1752 (apart from a brief hiatus during the Second World War). Rarely drunk neat, it’s often added to hot tea (or occasionally coffee) or served mulled with heated cranberry or blackcurrant juice.
3. Kanzake, Japan
Once upon a time, sake was quite expensive to import, so outside Japan cheaper sakes were heated to improve their flavour, while the best were always served chilled. But in Japan itself, carefully warmed, high-quality sake has been common for centuries — and other countries have now caught on to heating up the good stuff, too. Known as kanzake or okan, warmed sake is best tried at a bar where they really know what they’re doing, as dry, sweet or aromatic sakes respond differently to varying heats.
4. Jólaglögg, Iceland
Part of the Nordic tradition of wintertime glogg (mulled wine) drinking, jólaglögg is Iceland’s version. Expect something a bit boozier than many red wine-based mulls, as some recipes involve aquavit, vodka, schnapps and/or port, and along with all the usual warming spices you might taste cardamom and cranberries, too.
5. Grzane piwo, Poland
If mulled wine isn’t your thing, try grzane piwo, Polish mulled beer. It’s usually spiced with cinnamon, cloves and occasionally ginger, then sweetened with honey or sometimes raspberry syrup. A richer version, meanwhile, is made by whisking together egg yolks and sugar, before blending them through the hot beer to make a creamy emulsion.
6. Jägertee, Austria
Originally shared between hunters tracking prey through the snow (the name means hunters’ tea), jägertee has become a mainstay of the Austrian apres-ski experience. It’s made with local spiced rum, plus hot black tea, red wine, brandy, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and lemon.
7. Rakomelo, Crete
During the long, hot Cretan summer, rakomelo is served cold, but come winter the mixture of thyme honey, tsikoudia (Crete’s version of raki), cloves and cinnamon is warmed – sometimes in a briki, the distinctive stovetop pan used to brew Greek coffee. Unlike many mulled drinks, rakomelo is served as a short hot drink or digestif at the end of a hearty meal.
8. Hot buttered rum, US
Made by whisking together melted butter, sugar, rum, spices and hot water, hot buttered rum is a sweet drink with a bitter history. It was probably invented in 18th-century colonial America, when the expansion of the rum market (part of the triangular trade between America, Africa and Europe — in people, coffee, textiles, sugar and weapons) meant hard liquor was cheap and readily available.
9. Ponche Navideño con piquete, Mexico
This Mexican hot punch is wildly popular in the run up to Christmas, particularly as there is also a non-alcoholic version (simply Ponche Navideño, without the piquete). It’s highly customisable, taking in whichever fruits are locally available, from pineapples and guavas to apples and pears, as well as tamarind and hibiscus. It’s almost always made with tejocotes, sour fruits that look like tiny apples (and can be bought canned in syrup outside Mexico), as well as cinnamon, dried fruits and sugar cane. The fruits and spices are simmered together, and tequila, mezcal or brandy is added just before serving.
10. Chai cocktail, India and beyond
Chai — Indian spiced tea — is not traditionally alcoholic, but its combination of ginger, nutmeg, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, anise and black pepper makes it a perfect base for hot cocktails. Countless warm chai cocktails are made in bars across India (and beyond) from simpler hot toddy style drinks, with whisky, lemon and honey, to more complicated creations, with added cream, chocolate or liqueur.
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