Five Spirited winter warmers to try during the colder months
These heated drinks are perfect evening accompaniments to autumnal and winter evenings
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the history of the cocktail begins with cold drinks. Not so; as our new book Spirited explains, the first mixed, alcoholic libations were warm, not cool. “The Greeks and Romans regularly doctored their wine with honey, water and herbs, giving rise to mulled wine and its many variations, including Wassail, mulled beer from Medieval England,” writes Adrienne Stillman in this major new global celebration of classic and cutting-edge cocktail recipe. “The English also mixed wine and beer with milk, eggs, honey, and spices, a mixture that eventually became Eggnog and the Hot Ale Flip.” As the mercury drops and nights draw in, we should give thanks to these ancient mixologists, and perhaps even try one or two of their heart-warming concoctions. Here’s a handful of winter warmers from the new book.
Lamb’s Wool The name of this very old English drink “may come from the ancient Celtic pagan festival, La Mas Ubal, which means Day of the Apple,” explains Stillman. “Or it may be because the puréed apples in the drink resemble lamb’s wool. On Twelfth Night in January, households in medieval England would make a batch of Lamb’s Wool and, armed with torches, and beating pots and pans with wooden spoons, go out into the garden to drive off spirits from the old year and welcome the new.” To make it you core and bake six apples; scoop out their insides, and blend this in with a heated mixture of a litre and a half (one and a half quarts) of English ale or hard apple cider, as well as nutmeg, sugar and ginger. A final whisk creates the frothy head.
Wassail Another English wintertime drink, dating from the medieval period, the name of which is “derived from the old-English phrase ‘was hál,’ literally meaning ‘be hale’ or ‘be healthy,’ which was used as a greeting often before drinking,” explains Stillman. This recipe also calls for half a dozen baked apples, this time stuffed with sugar, as well as two litres (two quarts) of hard cider, two cups (50ml) of Oloroso sherry, ground nutmeg and ginger, as well as a cheesecloth pouch stuffed with strips of orange peel, cloves, crushed cinnamon sticks and allspice berries. Heat the spices with the cider and sherry, pour in any cooking liquid from the apples, then add the apples themselves, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour all this into a bowl, before ladling servings into heat-proof mugs.
Glögg “The mulled wine of Scandinavia, Glögg (pronounced glue-gh) derives from the old Norse for ‘glowing ember’, which is apt for this warming, Christmas treat,” writes Stillman. This drink requires for half an orange, two table spoons of fresh ginger, a few cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves, as well as sugar, water, raisins, a bottle of dry red wine, a bottle of ruby Port, and one to one and half cups of aquavit, brandy or vodka, and slivered almonds to serve. You peel the orange, place the zest in the along with the spices in a cheesecloth pouch, and add this and the other ingredients to a pan, to heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Grog "Legend has it this cocktail derived its name from Admiral Vernon, nicknamed ‘Old Grog’, in the British Navy in the 1740s,” writes Stillman. “He cut his sailors’ rum ration in half, diluted it with water, and added lemon or lime juice to combat scurvy.” To recreate the drink, take 1/2 oz (45 ml) of aged rum, 3/4 oz (22 ml) of lemon or lime juice, 1 oz (30 ml) of honey syrup, and 1/4–1/2 cup (60–120 ml) of hot water combine all the ingredients in a heatproof mug and stir, before garnishing with a cinnamon stick and lemon twist.
Apple Toddy A fruity, American take on the traditional toddy “using apple brandy and a baked apple,” explains Stillman. For this you’ll need 2 oz (60 ml) of apple brandy; 3/4 oz (22 ml) of demerara syrup; as well as half an apple, a little boiling water and some freshly grated nutmeg. First bake the apple, then combine the brandy, demerara syrup, and some boiling water in a mug. Add the baked apple, and stir to dissolve it, then top up with boiling water. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
For more detailed recipes, as well as variations on these drinks and details of many, many others, order a copy of Spirited here.