Help me find a simple, tasty winter cocktail!
January 5, 2013 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a couple of suggestions of simple, non-summery mixed drinks to try. I love gin and tonics. I'm not a fan of wine or whiskey/bourbon, but I'm willing to try again. In the winter, I usually drink beer, recently IPAs (now that I live in the Pacific Northwest), but I used to prefer brown ales, stouts, and porters. What shall I try when my husband and I go out to a proper bar for drinks tonight?

I'd like to find a relatively simple winter time cocktail. I don't mean something warm or complicated or holiday-ish, but something cold I could order out or make at home when I don't want a beer. I'm not worried about appearing sophisticated, but I'd rather not be drinking something filled with sugar and topped with an umbrella.

I adore gin and tonics, both their taste and simplicity. I thought I'd like manhattans, and I did have a bartender's version of a manhattan a few years ago that I liked (too long ago, though, to check in with them about the recipe), but they haven't tasted great when we've made them at home, even though we bought decent bourbon. The bitters smell good to me, but I'm thinking it's the vermouth that's the problem since I'm not a big wine drinker.

This thread about specialty cocktails for fall has some interesting suggestions, but they focus on bourbon drinks.

When I've had tasty mixed drinks out recently, they've usually been a bar's speciality mixes, and I'm looking for something simpler. Some other things I do and don't like:

Ginger ale, sprite, cream soda
Lemony things
Rum punch-type things
Margaritas without the salted rim

Drinks with cucumber
Coke and whiskey
Rum and coke
Chocolate and mint in drinks, though I usually like them otherwise
Very strong ginger

I'm thinking of trying a Tuxedo or Rye and Ginger. The timing here is that my husband and I will be out tonight and ordering a few drinks, so we can sample competently-made mixed drinks tonight. (And we have kids, so we don't get out too often, which is why I'm overthinking this.)
posted by bluedaisy to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: White Russian
Moscow Mule
posted by bq at 1:41 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you're going to try rye and ginger, you might also like bourbon highballs.
posted by evoque at 1:47 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Seconding the Moscow Mule, as long as they actually use the copper cup.

What about a Negroni, or a Dark 'n Stormy?
posted by brennen at 1:47 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In winter, I like a brandy and dry ginger ale (optional squeeze of lime).
posted by AnnaRat at 1:48 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I'm a bourbon drinker. Luckily for me, whisky is really trendy right now, so there seem to be more options than ever. When i'm at a proper bar, and I've already had a nicely made Old Fashioned I will often ask the bartender if there is a bourbon drink he likes to make.
I have had some wonderful concoctions made with allspice liquer, pear brandy, cynar, and so forth. it never hurts to just tell your bartender what you like and try something new. this works best if there is not a huge crowd, but if you've tipped nicely for your first fancy drink there should be no problem at all.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:01 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Gimlet?
posted by mollweide at 2:03 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Pimm's Cup, hold the cucumber. Yes, it's supposed to be a summer drink, but it's an herbal gin mixture (including the quinine you get in tonic water), plus lemon or ginger ale. If they don't have Pimm's No. 1, ask for a gin and ginger or a Tom Collins.
posted by maudlin at 2:09 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recommend exploring different brands of whiskeys/bourbons with club soda in general

That said, it is the season to try out some champagne cocktails if you want to be especially festive. The Classic is something any decently stocked bar that serves bubbly should be able to handle.
posted by juliplease at 2:24 PM on January 5, 2013

Sour mix is your friend! (That's just an example but you can play with the proportions of simple syrup to lemon/lime juice.) It's slightly time-consuming to make, but you can make it in batches and keep it for a while (or even freeze it).

Then I like to mix that with whiskey & a bit of soda water. (I usually just do a splash or two of the sour mix.)

I also like rum and ginger ale.

I was mixing dark rum with birch beer for a while and that was amazing. I had to cut back on that because it was getting to be too many calories.
posted by darksong at 2:32 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Agree with Greyhound and Moscow Mule. Also have you tried a martini? A little known drink that happens to be the best thing that was ever invented for anything.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Wait. You don't like olives. Make a Gibson; they're better anyways.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2013

Brandy Alexander, "a sweet, brandy-based cocktail consisting of cognac and crème de cacao that became popular during the early 20th century"? Admittedly with the idea of chocolate with the hit of crème de cacao but I don't think it's what one would think of as a chocolate-flavoured drink. Creamy stuff like that is nice in winter -- do you like raspberries? Chambord [raspberry liqueur] and cream is very tasty.

Blueberry tea, Grand Marnier + Amaretto + orange pekoe?

FWIW in the US a bit more than a decade ago I did not encounter a single bartender who knew what a "rye and ginger" was. Once I asked for one while sitting underneath a display of a century-old bottle of clearly marked RYE WHISKY; still the waiter gave a blank look and returned from the bar reporting, "We don't have any 'rye.'" 'Whisky with ginger ale' unless things have changed substantially. ('Rye and ginger' is very common in Canada.)

What kind of vermouth are you using in your Manhattans? A very young bartender once made me one with dry vermouth and it was foul. Asking for "extra cherries" = tasty, if you like maraschino cherries in the first place.

Gin and bitter lemon is delicious but I don't know if you'd be able to find a US bar with bitter lemon. If you want to try it at home any British import store will have bitter lemon. The Fever Tree is great, as all are their mixers -- the ginger ale is excellent.
posted by kmennie at 2:40 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: A copperhead is vodka and gingerale, and it's delicious. Add bitters and it's still delicious, but even though yummly says that's called a "vodka still works," I've only ever heard it called a "copperhead with bitters."
posted by solotoro at 2:48 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: You can always go for the tried and true: 7&7. I know you said you don't like whiskey/bourbon and I don't like the straight taste of them, either, but I've always thought the 7-up cancels out the woody taste of the other 7. :)

Also, you should probably give rum another try, especially if you're a fan of gin. Gin tastes much stronger than rum!

As far as gin goes, however:

6 AM Sunrise
and perhaps...
Mountain Breeze

(both recipes can be easily googled)

**and as an edit, I think I must have misread, since none of these drinks are specifically winter-related. Sorry!**
posted by camylanded at 3:05 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Came to suggest a Dark and Stormy.
posted by ChuraChura at 3:34 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: If you're going to a "proper bar" (and sitting at the bar itself, and it's not crazy busy) tell the bartender what you've told us about your taste preferences and let them make you something. Portland has a great cocktail scene and a lot of really talented bartenders, let them do what they do best.
posted by Jawn at 3:41 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I'm a gin granny and the French 75 is my new favourite. I also love a Tom Collins, but I think of that as summery.

You might like an Empress Martini, which is probably just what they called them at this one bar I used to go to. It's ice cold gin and Chambord, I'd say at a 2:1 ratio. I make it at home with blackberry infused gin and it's totally lovely.
posted by looli at 3:51 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Yep.
Bourbon and Ginger.
Gin Rickey.

Oh - also?
St Germain and Gin. Totally summer but soooo tasty!
posted by grateful at 4:02 PM on January 5, 2013

Pimm's Cup is great, assuming the bar has Pimm's.

What about a real Daiquiri or a Hemmingway Daiquiri? The real thing is far from the machine-mixed nastiness.
posted by radioamy at 4:40 PM on January 5, 2013

Rusty Nail? It's Scotch with a bit of Drambuie floated on the top; you sip the Scotch through the sweet Drambuie and it's delicious.

I also second an Old Fashioned, since you like bitters but didn't like the Vermouth in the Manhattan. I like mine made with Bourbon, but others prefer Rye and, in Wisconsin, people also make them with Brandy.
posted by carmicha at 4:44 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: An Old Fashioned is a great winter cocktail, IMO, but it's not one bar in twenty where you'll get one that's not a disgusting, oversweet, diluted hash of waxy fruit.
posted by brennen at 4:56 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I like the Old Fashioned suggestion and you might request a Tequila Old Fashioned to mix it up.

Mrs. Mmascolino suggests a Godfather which is roughly equal parts whiskey and amaretto.
posted by mmascolino at 5:06 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: An Old Fashioned. Please instruct them not to muddle the fruit or you will get what brennen warns of.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:07 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Daquaris and vodka gimlets are my go-tos.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:29 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I've been enjoying seltzer water with cranberry juice, vodka, splash of key lime juice and ginger syrup to taste. Cheers.
posted by jennstra at 5:37 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Since you like gin, you can also try gin and orange juice, gin and ginger ale, gin and cranberry and my favorite, gin and grapefruit juice, all easy to make at home.
posted by 445supermag at 6:58 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: If you enjoy lemony drinks, try a Tom Collins; it's basically two parts gin, one part lemon juice, simple syrup and some seltzer to top it off. Very simple and refreshing.

I do find it a bit summery though. You said you live in the Pacific Northwest so try to substitute the gin for aquavit, especially if it's House Spirits' Krogstag aquavit. Aquavit is spicy like gin but with more caraway overtones and a deeper mouth feel that is perfect for winter.
posted by mlo at 8:01 AM on January 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I had a delicious Moscow Mule last night (no copper cup, though I forgot to ask). My husband had some bourbon cocktail and I didn't like it at all, so maybe the bourbon is the problem.

And now I have a great list of more drinks to try. Hurray!
posted by bluedaisy at 12:09 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think brandy and cognac are good for winter. Since you like lemony, try a sidecar (brandy, triple sec, lemon), and I've recently taken to "the classic" which adds maraschino. I was also going to suggest the vieux carre, (rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, angostura, peychaud's) depending on if it's bourbon you don't like or if rye and all whiskies are out.

My favorite gin cocktail of late is the Pegu club (gin, triple sec, lime, angostura). And since I was trying to figure out how else to use the maraschino, I found the Martinez (gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino) be quite enjoyable.

posted by JoeGermuska at 8:31 PM on January 6, 2013

Can I vote for the Jack Rose? Made with applejack, lemon and homemade grenadine, it's not too heavy and altogether delicious.

I think of applejack as a more approachable cousin to bourbon. "Instead of bourbon's maple and oak flavors, with applejack you catch soft tones of apple, like walking past a giant apple tree on a fall day." Plus as a bonus, it's generally less expensive.

This one is a make-at-home cocktail for me since discovering real grenadine was seriously a game-changer. Start with a bottle of fresh pomegranate juice and combine equal parts pomegranate juice and sugar in the blender, whiz for a couple minutes, then pour back into the pomegranate juice container. Don't worry if the sugar isn't all dissolved, overnight in the fridge and a good shake will solve that.

Some recipes call for heating the juice, but it's not as brightly flavored afterwards and some call for adding a bit of vodka as a preservative, but I have yet to have any go bad (I do keep it in the fridge though).

I'd also second the French 75 and the Sidecar mentioned above.
posted by becca.rice at 11:38 AM on January 7, 2013

If you make a dark & stormy, my advice is find any ginger beer other than reeds. Maybe it's just me, but I LOVE dark & stormy's unless they're made with reeds. Even the gosling brand ginger beer in a can is better.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:49 PM on January 7, 2013

« Older Reams and reams of paper   |   Best On The Road Tablet For Grandma? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.