Ask the Critics: What's a Good Winter Cocktail?

Brighid L. asks: Now that it's cold, my go-to gin and tonic just doesn't hit the spot. Any suggestions for a winter drink?

Dear Brighid: Drinking a gin and tonic shares many similarities with wearing white after Labor Day. Unless you live in a particularly hot climate, it simply shouldn't be done.

That said, my absolute favorite drink come wintertime is a hot buttered rum, which is made by combining rum, sugar, boiling water, spices (usually cloves and nutmeg), and, the most important element, butter. Yes, it's basically like eating cookie dough without the flour. The best I've found is at the dimly lit West Village cocktail lounge Little Branch, where it's served with a metal straw. Note, though, that last call is at 3 a.m., and sometimes they turn off the hot water machine at around 2:30, so it's best to get your order in before then.

I find mulled wine to be generally overly spiced and astringent (let's say that most places aren't using Château Pétrus), but a well-made hot spiked cider is always bound to put me in the holiday spirit. D.b.a. offers a version with a nice kick of either rum or bourbon, depending on your preference.

If you don't want to go the hot route, might I suggest a punch of some sort? Brush up on the beverage with cocktail historian David Wondrich's excellent new book, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, before heading to the semi-hidden rum bar Cienfuegos for one of their many punch bowls.

As for general suggestions, I'm partial to Old Fashioneds or, better yet, Sazeracs. A good bartender anywhere should know how to make them, and although they're a bit stronger than your gin and tonic standby, the higher alcohol content will mean that you'll be extra warm and toasty. And isn't that what we all want in the winter?

Have a tip or restaurant-related news? Send it to fork@villagevoice.com.


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