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From toddies to mulled wine, Houston bartenders show off their cold weather favorites

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Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Mike Sammons tops the toddy with fresh whipped cream
Mike Sammons of Mongoose versus Cobra tops his toddy with fresh whipped cream. Photo by Darla Guillen
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Irish coffee at Mongoose
Irish coffee at Mongoose versus Cobra Photo by Darla Guillen
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Matt Tanner warms the cocktail with hot water
Matt Tanner warms the cocktail with hot water. Photo by © Shannon O'Hara
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Calvados Toddy at Anvil
Calvados Toddy at Anvil Photo by © Shannon O'Hara
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Crave will feature spiked cupcakes this season
Crave will feature spiked cupcakes this season. Photo by Elizabeth Harrison
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Mike Sammons tops the toddy with fresh whipped cream
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Irish coffee at Mongoose
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Matt Tanner warms the cocktail with hot water
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Calvados Toddy at Anvil
Darla, cold weather drinks, November 2012, Crave will feature spiked cupcakes this season
Darla Guillen, head shot, column mug, November 2012

The recent series of cold fronts means that the hot toddy season is upon us, and in a city teeming with brilliant chefs and bartenders, you can be sure that Houston's winter drinks are heading beyond mere hot water and whiskey.

Down House makes a bone-warming Isla Toddy served with a chamomile tea bag still steeping in the cup; it’s earthy and floral and the perfect transition into winter. Bartender Jeremy Olivier also makes a spicy pine-scented mug of comfort with Zirbenz, butter and, at chef Benjy Mason’s suggestion, a fresh bay leaf. Olivier’s tip is to avoid too much citrus because it kills the heat in your drink.

It took two months (and probably a lot of drunken nights with bartender Shafer Hall) for Mongoose versus Cobra co-owner Mike Sammons to decide on the perfect proportions for their take on a traditional Irish coffee. Sammons is reluctant to disclose too much about the top-secret recipe, but he was willing to share a few tips: The coffee should go through a cold brewing process, Mongoose replaces the hot water with Irish whiskey and the cream that tops the toddy is made-to-order whipped for each cocktail.

Check out Double Trouble for their variety of caffeinated cocktails, featuring one with Tex-Mex flair. A combination of mezcal, Oaxacan brandy and boiled coconut cream with milk in a strong cup of Joe will make for the perfect dessert substitute. (Although it might not keep you as awake as an espresso.) Their other winter offering, and one of my favorites, is a spicy mulled wine, with Berwick's recipe shared below.

“One of the things that’s so wonderful is the way that seasonal drinks smell,” co-owner Robin Berwick says. “Mint cools you down in the summer, and it’s that wintery spice, the clove and allspice, that makes you feel warm in the winter.” 

“One of the things that’s so wonderful is the way that [seasonal] drinks smell,” co-owner Robin Berwick says. “Mint cools you down in the summer, and it’s that wintery spice, the clove and allspice, that makes you feel warm in the winter.”

Absinthe Brasserie might not have a designated cold weather drink, but their selection of absinthe and Czech-style preparation will definitely keep you comfortable in the winter months. Bartender Alex Lloret pours hot water over fire-lit sugar cubes and into your choice of absinthe. (I usually stick with Pernod.)

With three expansive patios and the temps dropping, Cottonwood is coming up with menu additions that well let you enjoy the outdoor seating well into winter. Bartender Cheryl Gibbs and staff have already created a spicy, peach-hued toddy with rooibos tea, agave syrup, Maker’s Mark and cinnamon. The naturally sweetened cup of warmth will steady trembling hands on the bocce courts.

Made with French apple brandy, the Calvados Toddy at Anvil is a year-round menu option. Even when the temperature doesn’t justify boiled water, bartender Matt Tanner says that the combination of spices and heat will “make your throat feel really, really good.” Tanner generously offered up some of his cold-weather recipes below.

If warm liquor creations aren’t your thing, you can always resort to a spiked dessert. Crave cupcakes is serving up a limited edition holiday cupcake made with spice cake and a shot of Maker’s Mark. You can be everyone’s favorite holiday party guest for $36 a dozen.

Double Trouble’s Spiced Mulled Wine

  • 750 ml cabernet
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 oz. dark Jamaican rum
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • Peels and juice from 2 oranges
  • 1-2 anise stars
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 small red apple stuffed with about 12 cloves

Anvil Bar & Refuge's July in Christmas

  • 1 1/2 oz. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Trader Tiki Orgeat
  • 5 oz. coffee
  • Grated nutmeg to garnish

Nigel's Peaches and Cream at Anvil Bar & Refuge

  • 1 oz.  Citadelle gin
  • 3/4 oz. Mathidle Peach Brandy
  • 1/2 oz. honey syrup (3 parts honey, 1 part hot water)
  • 3/4 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz. Earl Grey tea
  • Garnish with a cinnamon stick

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