Winter Cocktails Take The Chill Out The Season

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A dash of sugar, a touch of spice, these are the ingredients that make winter cocktails so nice. Hotel Viking bartender Brad Head, who knows a thing or two about creating custom cocktails, adheres to that philosophy, incorporating sweet and spicy flavors like cardamom, honey and muddled cranberries into his winter warmers.

“Winter cocktails tend to be a little heavier with more complex flavor dynamics such as allspice, cinnamon, fresh cranberries and cardamom,” said Head.

Take, for instance, Head’s cold-weather version of Jameson Green Tea, a popular summer blend of peach schnapps, Sprite, sour mix and Jameson Whiskey.

“I put my own twist on it by adding lemon and muddling fresh mint with honey,” Head said of Hotel Viking’s Jameson Tea & Honey. “In my opinion, nothing goes better with green tea than mint and honey.”

But it’s not just the winter flavors that entice patrons at Hotel Viking’s One Bellevue to choose a cocktail over, say, a hearty merlot on a cold winter evening. Cocktails, in general, are experiencing a renaissance. “I think people are starting to look at it as a craft again,” he said. “There is something to be said about telling a bartender what you like to drink and having them mix a cocktail for you that you really enjoy.”

Head’s observation is right on point. Beverage industry insiders have been watching the trend toward cocktails over the past decade. In fact, many pundits trace the resurgence of cocktail culture to the widely popular AMC television series, Mad Men and its lead character’s predilection for the Old Fashioned.

“Twelve years ago, it was nowhere,” cocktail historian David Wondrich said of the Old Fashioned in a 2012 New York Times article timed to coincide with the premier of Mad Men’s final season. “You could go into an old-man bar, and if you insisted, they would make you one.”

Classic Old Fashioned, winter cocktails at Hotel Viking

Today, the Old Fashioned routinely ranks among the top three most popular cocktails ordered in the United States and it’s a fan favorite at Hotel Viking.

“My inspiration was to bring the drink back to its roots, to an era when people spent a little more time and really hand crafted the cocktail,” Head said of Hotel Viking’s Classic Old Fashioned. “Before Prohibition, the Old Fashioned was simply sugar, bitters and bourbon. As time went on, the muddled cherry and orange were added.”

“I created an Old-Fashioned syrup … made with angostura bitters, orange bitters, cherries, oranges and sugar water, then boiled down into a syrup to blend with Bulleit Bourbon,” he said.

But not all winter cocktails tend toward heavy flavors. With the right finesse, a winter warmer can also be a refreshing drink. Hotel Viking’s Orange & Cran Fizz is one such beverage.

Orange Cran Fizz - Winter cocktails at One Bellevue

“It’s an original made with Plymouth Gin,” said Head. “I wanted to create it to have something refreshing, but still in the holiday spirit, so I incorporated the tartness of the freshly muddled cranberries. I think the Orange & Cran Fizz does a good job of being a tart winter drink, but it’s also refreshing enough that it could be served on a hot summer day.”

Feeling thirsty for something new? With a little bit of information, Head will create a custom beverage.

“If someone asked me to create a drink for them my first questions would be, ‘What spirit do you usually prefer to drink? Do you like sweet or sour? Do you like the taste of alcohol? Straight up or over ice.’”

The options are only limited by imagination. Cheers!

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