A roundup of winter cocktails by neighborhood and spirit.
Forget dry January, it’s cold out and we can’t resist the temptation of cozy bars begging us to come inside and have a stiff one. But not just any drink will do. We set out to find the cocktails that would thaw our hands, warm our insides and blur our senses. The favorites subtly play on holiday spices like clove and coriander without explicitly hurtling them in our faces– there is always Starbucks for that. They thrive on the reality that calories don’t count until spring and awe us with the creativity of our city’s rockstar bartenders. For the sake of geographic convenience, we listed our six favorites by neighborhood and spirit to make sure we have every booze-loving Washingtonian covered. Armagnac in Chevy Chase, Rye in Georgetown and so on.
1. Fainting Goat: Cinnamon Toast Punch
V O D K A // U Street
Your favorite childhood cereal is being reincarnated on U Street– run, don’t walk. The drink evolved as a joke between bartender Ben and beverage director Ian Fletcher, ‘what if?’ they thought and thank god they did. They opted to soak Cinnamon Toast Crunch in almond milk instead of regular dairy which threatened to make it overly rich and heavy. Civic vodka takes a natural backseat to the vanilla and cinnamon flavor profile, making its presence barely noticeable. The punch is served over ice with a touch of amaretto, vanilla and cinnamon. It’s a stroke of genius. Fainting Goat is also serving a seasonal mulled wine and a spiced cider Cider House Rules worth checking out – they all pair well with the goat cheese fondue, just sayin’. 1330 U St NW $9.
2. Dirty Habit: Coco des Alpes
G E N E P Y // Penn Quarter
The successor of the old Poste space inside Chinatown’s Hotel Monaco had to capitalize on what can only be described as a gargantuan outdoor space equipped for the winter months with fire pits and fuzzy robes.The patio area opens when the temperature reaches 45 degrees and above. To complement/ help you forget the cold weather, resident mixologist Sarah Ruiz put together three warm cocktail variations employing unexpected ingredients like cotton candy and thyme. She based her creations off warm drinks people normally drink in the cold weather like tea and hot chocolate then proceeded to “jazz them up and make them boozy.” The resulting Firescape series includes Train to Kyoto (St. George Terroir Gin, Kombu green tea and cotton candy) Coco des Alpes (Genepy, chocolate, salted coconut milk and coconut whip topped with almond and thyme) and Chai Me Up! (Cognac, De la sirene amaro, chai syrup, cardamom bitters and fig and brown butter espuma). We recommend the creamy, smooth and all around decadent Coco des Alpes. It’s basically liquid dessert. Off the regular menu, Rice ‘N Roses will satisfy any time of year. 555 8th St NW; $11-13.
3. Macon Bistro & Larder / Magnolia Room: Ode to Roxane
A R M A G N A C // Chevy Chase
Beverage director Andra (AJ) Johnson doesn’t ask guests what kind of spirit they prefer, she asks what types of flavors they like. True mixologists are not limited by a smoky bourbon or a piney gin, but instead empowered by them. Ode to Roxane serves as point and case. It’s driven by Armagnac and complemented by Fernet Francisco (an amaro out of San Francisco) and ginger liqueur Domaine de Canton. Johnson adds a house-made cinnamon-fig shrub syrup that is equal parts sweet and tart. As for the name Johnson turned to the history of Armagnac, a small batch brandy aged for five years in the Gascony region of France. She found the protagonist of a 19th Century play, a homely nobleman Cyrano de Bergerac (also from Gascony), ghost wrote love letters to a beautiful heiress named Roxane, fearing that revealing his true identity would disappoint her. Lets just say Roxane would not be disappointed. Also worth sipping: Basque in the Glory, made with calvados, East India sherry, aperol and barrel aged orange bitters. 5520 Connecticut Ave NW, $14.
4. Eat the Rich: Buzz, Your Girlfriend, WOOF!
G I N // Shaw
Many of the festive folks out there braved long lines to check out the District’s very own holiday mecca, where mixologist-extraordinaire Derek Brown transformed his bars Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich and Mockingbird Hill into a giant Christmas spectacle called Miracle on Seventh. In perusing the holiday-themed menu, it would be a lie to say Buzz, Your Girlfriend, WOOF! did not jump right off the page because, as only diehard “Home Alone” fans can understand, that is one of, if not THE, most underrated lines of the movie. Almost more exciting than the name, the drink itself features a handful of Christmas tree. This cocktail is the roundup’s most refreshing with citrusy notes from a rosemary grapefruit soda that playfully hints at spring. But the addition of pine liqueur emboldens the gin and abruptly brings you back to the sad reality it’s only January. On that note, have another drink– anything from Brown’s repertoire is a safe bet. 1839 7th St NW; $13.
5. Jack Rose: Chai My Buns
R U M // Adams Morgan
We typically rely on Jack Rose for our whiskey fix, but when we spotted dessert floating in their festive rum cocktail, we had to backtrack our usual order. Chai My Buns is made with Captain Morgan’s spiced rum, chai tea, soy milk and simple syrup. The combination is rather light, proving a necessary balance in partnership with the hefty pastry and whipped cream accouterments. The cocktail will be served alongside a Mexican Chartreuse Hot Chocolate and spiked cider throughout the remaining winter months on Jack Rose’s heated rooftop terrace and enclosed balcony room. 2007 18th St NW; $10.
6. The Rye Bar: Applishion
R Y E // Georgetown
The swanky lobby bar in Rosewood Hotel is the perfect setting to impress a date, guy or girl. Dudes will love the selection of whiskey and ladies will love the intimate space, set between rich mahogany walls and a bar that glows. It’s a place Daddy Warbucks’ might chill, if he were a real person. Grab a pair of tall leather loungers and rundown the seasonal rye-focused cocktail menu which includes classics like egg nog and hot cider. We recommend the Applishion where Redemption rye whiskey and Cappelletti aperitivo are tamed with a spice and citrus-infused cider that hits all the right notes. 1050 31st St NW $16.
R U M // at home
The holidays may gone but our egg nog cravings are not. The newish Silver Spring bar and eatery All Set shares their foolproof recipe:
Scratch Spiked Eggnog
1 Quart Whole Milk
1 Quart Heavy Cream
2 TBS Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
1 Vanilla Bean, Scraped
1 Dozen Eggs (just yolks—should be 1.5 cups)
1 cup Sugar
In a saute pan, toast cinnamon and cloves until fragrant. Remove from heat and add to a sauce pan (4Q or bigger). Add milk and cream, whisking to combine. Set burner on very low heat and allow it to come to a gentle simmer.
While milk mixture comes to a simmer, take a stand mixer (small will do) and add egg yolk. Beat for approximately 5-7 minutes on the lowest setting, or until the color is consistent. Slowly, gradually add the sugar, allowing it to incorporate as you go. Be careful not to overbeat.
Once the sugar-egg mixture is blended, turn off the mixer. Remove the now simmering milk mixture from the heat and fine-strain through a chinois or bouillon strainer into a large container, preferably square (a rounded bowl will be really difficult to not spill from in the next step). Very gradually add the sugar-egg mixture to the milk mixture, whisking aggressively and constantly as you go. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all remaining sugar-egg mixture into the container.
Eggnog base is good for 2-3 days, depending on how much alcohol you add to it when you shake it.