As the weather gets colder in New Orleans, the city’s bartenders are bringing out their warmer potions. Cold snaps can leave some of us craving cocktails with a bit of heat – and spiced up with festive ingredients like nutmeg and cinnamon. With this in mind, we asked local bartenders to share some of their favorite winter-time drink recipes. In response, they told us how to make a range of cozy cocktails, from tried-and-true recipes for classics like Hot Buttered Rum to their own creative takes on favorites like the Hot Toddy.
The Naughty List (Toddy)
Casey Jo Holman & Joey Laura – Bartenders, Compère Lapin
For a complex, wildly botanical twist on the hot toddy, Compère Lapin bartenders Joey Laura and Casey Jo Holman began with a seasonal Scottish gin and then tapped several French and Eastern European spirits to accentuate various flavors in the gin.
“We wanted to make a toddy that was more spirit-forward, less acidic and not as sweet,” Laura said.
He and Holman began their concoction with Edinburgh Christmas Gin, a festive liquor made with frankincense, myrrh and holiday spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
The gin provided a lot of flavors to play off of, Laura said, inspiring the bartenders to add two French herbal liqueurs — Dolin Génépy le Chamois and yellow Chartreuse, the génépy to highlight the juniper flavors in the gin and the yellow Chartreuse to accentuate the frankincense.
Then there’s the Becherovka, an herbal Czech liqueur that “smells just like Christmas,” Laura said.
The spirit’s prominent ginger, cinnamon and clove highlights those spices in the gin, he said.
As for the green tea syrup, Laura said the bartenders chose that as a sweetener because it works well with the drink’s earthy flavors.
THE NAUGHTY LIST
Makes one cocktail.
1.5 oz Edinburgh Christmas Gin
.25 oz Dolin Génépy le Chamois
.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.25 oz Becherovka
.25 oz green tea syrup (recipe below)
2 oz sencha green tea
Garnish: charred lemon slice
- Build ingredients in a tempered Irish Coffee glass.
- Steam the cocktail directly in the glass until hot. If you do not have a steaming wand to do this, you can slowly warm the entire mixture on the stove or in a crockpot (this will work better with a batch of the cocktail instead of one serving).
- Char a slice of lemon with a handheld culinary torch. Allow to cool. If you don’t have a culinary torch, you can broil or toast the lemon to get a similar charred flavor.
- Float the charred lemon slice on top and serve.
Green tea syrup:
8 oz hot, freshly brewed green tea
8 oz white sugar
Directions: Stir sugar into hot green tea until completely dissolved.
Boozy Hot Chocolate
Luis Zepeda – general manager and head bartender, The Domino
Hot chocolate gets a rich touch of butterscotch in Luis Zepeda’s flavorful version of this beloved seasonal drink.
Zepeda, general manager and head bartender of The Domino, said he came up with the recipe on a cold night, when his girlfriend really wanted to watch Christmas movies while sipping some boozy hot chocolate.
Zepeda found a recipe online but then tweaked it to create some next-level hot cocoa.
“It’s the most complicated hot chocolate I’ve ever made,” he said. “It’s playful but grown-up because of the booze.”
His recipe calls for Dutch-process cocoa powder — a process that helps neutralize the acidity in cocoa for a smoother, less bitter taste– and semi-sweet baking chocolate. Zepeda added butterscotch schnapps to the mix.
“The butterscotch adds a nice flavor to it,” he said, noting the drink has a low ABV (Alcohol By Volume) level, making the drink a nice way to unwind. “There’s a lot of flavor without a lot of alcohol.”
BOOZY HOT CHOCOLATE
Makes four cocktails.
3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate (finely chopped)
1 cup water
3 cups whole milk
2 oz. Ryan’s Irish Cream (can substitute other Irish creams)
2 oz. DeKuyper Buttershots butterscotch schnapps
Whipped cream (recipe below)
Garnish: Grated baking chocolate.
- Place a medium-sized saucepan on the stove, on medium heat, and pour in the water.
- Mix in the Dutch-process cocoa and stir until dissolved.
- Add milk, place heat on low, and stir.
- Add finely chopped baking chocolate and stir until dissolved. The mixture does not need to come to a boiling point.
- Next, turn off the heat and then mix in the Irish cream and butterscotch schnapps.
- Pour mixture into glass coffee mugs. Spoon whipped cream and sprinkle grated baking chocolate on top and serve.
4 oz. heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
4 to 5 drops Bourbon vanilla extract
- Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker.
- Fit a smaller shaker or a pint glass into the first shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Place mixture in the refrigerator.
- When done building hot chocolate, spoon the cream onto the top of each drink.
Hot Buttered Rum & Chartreuse Toddy
Daniel Victory – Owner, Victory
When reaching for winter cocktail recipes, Daniel Victory goes straight for warm, cozy and maybe even healing.
Victory, who owns Victory bar, describes his go-to Hot Buttered Rum recipe as a mixture that says “come on in, relax” when the air turns chilly.
“I think it’s about the whole experience,” he said.
The recipe is well-tested: he’s used it for over two decades, since his bartending days at The Fairmont (now The Roosevelt). Victory’s other standard hot drink incorporates a spirit he adores: green Chartreuse.
“Chartreuse is very near and dear to my heart,” he said.
His obsession with the herbal French liqueur led him to substitute Chartreuse for bourbon in a classic Hot Toddy recipe.
“I thought, ‘‘Why not Chartreuse?’” he said. “There’s much more flavor.”
He said he recommends the Chartreuse Toddy to patrons who are feeling a bit under the weather, calling the cocktail his “get-well drink.”
HOT BUTTERED RUM
Makes one cocktail.
1 ½ oz aged Venezuelan rum (can use other aged rums, like Bacardi Gold)
1 bar spoon brown sugar
1 pat of butter
- Place rum and brown sugar in a glass coffee mug and mix until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add hot water and stir.
- Gently add a pat of salted butter to the top and serve.
Makes one cocktail.
1 ½ oz Green Chartreuse
½ oz honey
½ oz lemon juice
Garnish: Lemon peel, cinnamon stick
- Place green Chartreuse, honey and lemon juice in a glass coffee mug and then add hot water.
- Stir the ingredients.
- Add lemon peel and cinnamon stick and serve.
Noelle Wilcox – bartender, Sylvain and The Rusty Nail
For Noelle Wilcox, a good holiday drink not only pleases the taste buds, but can permeate the whole atmosphere, filling a space with the smell of warm, festive spices.
Wilcox, who bartends at Sylvain and The Rusty Nail, shared a toddy with mulled wine and mulled cider flavors, which she created last year’s winter menu at Paladar 511.
To make the drink, she combines apple brandy with Dornfelder, a sweet and dry German red wine — and adds juice from locally grown oranges. She then brightens up the orange flavors with a bit of lemon.
Then there’s the baking spices and cinnamon.
“It’s just super warm and comforting.” “It’s with all your favorite winter flavors.”
The recipe calls for making cinnamon simple syrup, a process that adds to the holiday vibe. “Who doesn’t want their kitchen or home smelling like cinnamon in the winter?” Wilcox asked.
Makes one cocktail.
1.5 oz Dornfelder red wine (*any sweet, dry red wine will work)
1 oz Apple brandy (she uses Clear Creek’s 2 year Apple Brandy)
1 bar spoon (about ⅛ oz) of Allspice Dram (she uses St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram)
½ oz local fresh-squeezed orange juice (store-bought will work, but adjust sugar to taste as local fruit tends to be a bit more acidic than store-bought)
¼ oz fresh lemon juice (optional)
⅓ oz cinnamon simple syrup (adjust to taste based on ingredients, recipe below)
Hot water, about 2 ounces.
Garnish: Orange twist expressed.
- Use a heat-resistant glass, like a tumbler or a coffee mug.
- Fill with hot water to warm up the glass.
- Once glass is warm, dump the water.
- Build the drink by placing cinnamon syrup in first, then juices, then dram, brandy, and wine.
- Give a quick stir.
- Add hot water to taste and stir again to incorporate the flavors.
- Finish by expressing an orange twist over the drink and placing on the rim or dropping it in.
(If making in large batches for a group, turn ounces into cups. For a large batch, start with a small amount of water and then taste to gauge the dilution. Adjust to your palate).
Cinnamon simple syrup:
10 good-sized cinnamon sticks
1 liter of water
2 quarts sugar
- Place cinnamon sticks into a pot and toast them.
- When you start to smell the cinnamon and they start to brown, add the water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cover pot for about 15-20 minutes.
- Strain the cinnamon sticks out of the water, but keep them off to the side.
- Add two quarts of sugar to the hot water and stir until dissolved. Do not add sugar to the water over a flame or you will end up with an unbalanced syrup that will turn to rock candy in your fridge.
- Once sugar is dissolved, put the cinnamon sticks back in and let cool on the counter until room temperature. This will prevent your syrup from turning into rock candy/crystallizing in the fridge. The syrup can live in the fridge up to a month.