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Warm cocktails are as much a part of the history of Massachusetts as tea—perhaps even more so. In colonial times, every tavern served a Hot Ale Flip—one of the earliest mixed drinks around. The blend of eggs, molasses, hot ale, and rum, stirred with a glowing poker into a bubbling frenzy, was so popular that Corin Hirsch called it the Cosmopolitan of the 18th century in her book Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England: From Flips and Rattle-Skulls to Switchel and Spruce Beer.

Warm ale was considered to be medicinal—and the presentation of the drink, which was often tossed between two pitchers to create a froth, made it fun. While people who have recreated the drink since report that it tastes like warm earth, it surely imparts a snug feeling inside.

Bartenders today have advanced well beyond mixing drinks with a hot poker, crafting tasty tipples with a blend of familiar and unusual flavors to keep patrons warm during outdoor happy hours huddled near heat lamps. 

“We start by thinking about what flavors invoke cozy, inviting feelings that folks tend to seek in the winter,” says Alycia Rovner, director of marketing at Short Path Distillery in Everett, where heaters at every table will keep their “Pitcher Patio” toasty this winter.

Southtown Switcheroo from Short Path in Everett

The flavors don’t have to be cliché either—in the Southtown Switcheroo, a drink created for Northshore by bar manager Ryan Ford, tropical flavors like pineapple and lime play nicely with house-made spiced rum amped up with clove and cinnamon. “It incorporates juices and flavors that you would expect to be served cold, but offers subtle hints of warming spices that make it work as a hot cocktail,” Rovner says, noting that the Southtown Switcheroo (named for the town in The Year Without A Santa Claus) will be served in an insulated carafe at the tasting room. “It’s a drink that keeps us warm while also reminding us of a tropical escape.”

At Deacon Giles Distillery in Salem, where they have converted part of their warehouse into a socially distanced lodge complete with an electric fireplace, they’ve been working on a trio of hot cocktails, including a spin on Glühwein—a German mulled aprés ski drink—replacing grape juice with wine steeped with a mulling blend from Salem Spice. 

Jesse Brenneman, co-founder of Deacon Giles, says how you build the drink is important when crafting hot cocktails. “Wait till the very end to add the booze,” he says. “If you add it too soon, it can end up flashing off quickly, so when you take that first sip, you’re going to smell more booze than the beverage itself is. That it can ruin the experience.”

As with a cold cocktail, building a good hot drink is all about proportion—and matching the warm liquid and the spirit, says Gail Bissel, bartender at the Beauport Hotel in Gloucester.

“It’s really just about finding the right balance between the different types of spirits and what hot liquid you want to use,” she says, noting that the most common hot cocktails served at the hotel are made with coffee and usually enjoyed with dessert.

Bissel went with hot cider to create the Port in a Storm, which uses the hotel’s proprietary Beauport Double Barrel Rum from Privateer, made from a blend of spirits aged in American and French oak, because the fruit is a nice match for the rum. She added some port to emphasize the woodiness and a little cinnamon and some lemon. “It gives it the right amount of sweet and savory at the same time,” Bissel says, noting that the result is very spirit forward, to celebrate the special rum.

Earl Gray Hot Toddy

While the Double Barrel is generally exclusive to the Beauport, it will be sold to the public for a limited time at the Privateer website through a special fundraiser for Mass Restaurants United, a fundraising and advocacy organization supporting independent restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Making a warm drink can be as easy as rummaging around for what you have on hand. Short Path’s Rovner says that hot cocktails are a good place for beginners to experiment with mixology, because they don’t require some of the more complex shaking and stirring techniques of other drinks. If you want to start small, Rovner suggests taking classic hot cocktails and tweaking the ingredients.

“Modifying existing cocktail templates is a great way to start making your own recipes at home, because you don’t have to start completely from scratch,” she says. “Take the Hot Toddy, for example. Replace the honey syrup with a different flavored syrup, or switch out the base spirit from whiskey to rum, and see what you can come up with.”

Use locally crafted spirits and have fun. We’d suggest using a spoon instead of a hot poker to stir, though.

Try This at Home

Here are a few drinks to warm your spirit. Short Path and Deacon Giles are offering mixed drinks to go and cocktail kits. While Beauport does not offer to-go drinks, you can purchase their proprietary Double Barrel Rum at the Privateer Rum online store for a limited time, with  50 percent of the profits donated to Mass Restaurants United.

Southtown Switcheroo

Short Path, Everett
Crafted by bar manager Ryan Ford

1 oz. Hibiscus rum
1 oz. Spiced gold rum*
2 oz. Orange juice
1 oz. Pineapple juice
½ oz. Lime
½ oz. Vanilla Syrup**
¼ oz. Grenadine
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
5 oz. Hot water
Clove-studded orange wheel for garnish

1. Add all ingredients to
an Irish coffee mug and
stir once to blend. 
2. Garnish with a clove-studded orange wheel.

*Spiced Rum Ingredients
750 ml. Gold rum
15 g. Allspice berries
10 g. Cloves
10 g. Black peppercorns
7 Cinnamon sticks

Spiced Rum Directions
1. Toast spices in a pan until they are fragrant and cinnamon sticks start to brown. 
2. Pour all of the spices and rum into a container, close and let soak for 6 to 12 hours, agitating every few hours.
3. Strain.

**Vanilla Syrup Ingredients
2 c. Granulated sSugar
2 c. Water
1 Vanilla bean

Vanilla Syrup directions
1. Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar, and stir until completely dissolved. 
2. Slice open the vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and add the seeds and bean to a container with the syrup. 
3. Let the syrup cool and then refrigerate for at least a few hours, or longer for a stronger vanilla flavor.

Port in a Storm

Beauport Hotel, Gloucester
Crafted by bartender Gail Bissel

1½ oz. Beauport’s Double Barrel Privateer Rum
½ oz. Taylor Tawny Port
½ oz. Cinnamon syrup*
¼ oz. Lemon juice 
3 oz. Hot apple cider 

Build drink in a heatproof mug. Garnish with a lemon wedge studded with whole cloves.

*Cinnamon Syrup Ingredients
6 Cinnamon sticks
1 c. Water
1 c. Sugar 

Cinnamon Syrup Directions 
1. Toast the cinnamon sticks in a pan on medium heat for about three minutes. 
2. Add water, and then sugar, bringing to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
3. Rest overnight in the fridge with cinnamon sticks. 
4. Strain and store in the fridge for one month.

Glühwein ohne Wein

Deacon Giles Distillery, Salem
Crafted by Co-Founders Jesse Brenneman and Ian Hunter

(4 servings)
Mulled Grape Juice Ingredients
3 c. Grape juice (Welch’s Concord Grape Juice preferred)
1 Mulling spice packet (Salem Spice or Trader Joe’s preferred)
1 Whole star anise
½ Cinnamon Stick 
6 cloves (approximate)
Half an orange (It can be whole, but you’ll use half for mulling, and half for garnish)

The Booze, Etc. (per serving)
½ oz. Orange juice (You can use the peeled half of your orange for juice.)
1½ oz. Deacon Giles White Rum
½ oz. Brandy (We like apple brandy.)

1. Pour grape juice into a 1- or 2-quart saucepan. Add the mulling spice packet to the juice. 
2. Peel the half orange (use a vegetable peeler—you want strips of orange skin with minimal pith, not the whole skin) and add peels, anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves to the pot. Cover pot and heat on low until just simmering (don’t boil it or you could burn the juice!). Allow to just barely simmer for 10-15 minutes, then remove from heat. 
3. Using a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, remove all the spices. While still hot, pour tmulled juice into four mugs, leaving space for adding the rum and orange juice (about 6 oz. juice per mug). 
4. To each cup, add orange juice, white rum, and brandy amounts listed above. Stir gently and serve with a cinnamon stick and a slice of orange (from the unpeeled half) for garnish.,,