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Spirited cocktails for winter

There is a certain wind-chill factor seldom mentioned on weather reports. It's the point at which consenting adults agree that "having a drink" means sipping something hot.

There is a certain wind-chill factor seldom mentioned on weather reports. It's the point at which consenting adults agree that "having a drink" means sipping something hot.

Winter is no time for a "tall cold one."

Whether you plan to meet at a bar, a gastropub, a cafe, or on the couch, your wintry drink should be warm to the touch and the taste.

In this economy, you might want to experiment at home, and stock up on less expensive alternatives, applejack brandy instead of Calvados, or triple sec instead of Cointreau.

At home you can keep it simple with hot chocolate (or coffee) and a splash of Godiva, Frangelico, or Kahlua; or hot apple cider with a shot of applejack brandy.

Or try a toddy. Basically a blend of booze, hot water, spices, and sugar, toddies are old-style, 18th-century drinks that imbibers referred to as "doctor's orders for what ails you."

At the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., on 18th Street below Chestnut, head 'tender Al Sotack makes a Scotch Skin he calls Rush's Rx. Do try this at home:

A dash (1/4 teaspoon) of tincture of cinnamon and clove. A splash of Angostura bitters; a teaspoon of honey syrup; maybe some demerara sugar; a shot of a blended whiskey; hot water; and the peel of a large lemon.

Franklin Mortgage has been named one of the Top 25 Bars in America by GQ magazine, and one of Esquire magazine's Best Bars in America, thanks to Sotack, who develops and writes the lengthy descriptions of each of the cocktails. Do not shrink from his Hot Milk Punch (hot milk, Jamaican rum, cognac, some demerara, and nutmeg).

Getting the balance of ingredients right is a matter of alchemy at Franklin Mortgage - and at the city's other moody (and totally legal) speakeasy, the Ranstead Room, tucked away on a small street below Market, off 20th. There, try the Spiced Cider made of fresh-pressed, steamed cider, spiced in-house with cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon and spiked with either rum or bourbon.

Elsewhere in the city, Cuba Libre, on Second Street in Old City, makes a Cafe Cuba Libre with Cuban coffee, steamed coconut milk, and spiced rum.

McGillin's Olde Ale House, tucked away on Drury Street, south of Chestnut and east of Broad, emphasizes chocolate and cream. Try the Snowshoes (hot chocolate, butterscotch liqueur, whipped cream); or the Drury Sleigh Ride (hot chocolate, creme de menthe, Ryan's Irish Cream, and whipped cream).

Twenty Manning Grill, on South 20th Street off Rittenhouse Square, makes a Hot Toddy with Bushmills Irish Whiskey and Devil's Charm Honey (see recipe) and a Cafe Canela, made with Snap, Siembra Azul Blanco, Licor 43, and coffee.

At Dark Horse Pub, on Second Street below Lombard, try the Smoking Bishop, a wassail-like drink made of red wine, port wine, oranges, cloves, sugar, and spices. This 17th-century English specialty was made famous when it was mentioned by Dickens in A Christmas Carol (at the end, when Scrooge is finally in a good mood and he's making nice with Bob Cratchit, suggesting they get together for a drink).

Smoking for the steam that rises from the pot as it cooks, and Bishop for the color that resembles a bishop's cloak, says Dark Horse general manager Kevin Hourican. The drink was on the menu of the Dickens Inn, which occupied this spot before Dark Horse Pub took over in 2002.

"And we've been serving it ever since," Hourican says. His Smoking Bishop is served from an ancient-looking cauldron with a spout, set right on the bar. (See recipe.)

Another atmospheric spot is Bar 210 at Lacroix, which has a Hot Scotch Toddy for Two, served in a single teapot for sharing.

The Farmers Cabinet, on the 1100 block of Walnut, has a toddy on the menu now, and head bartender Phoebe Esmon plans to roll out a new menu of hot cocktails in mid-January.

Meanwhile, if you find yourself walking in the woods on a snowy evening, stop in the Valley Green Inn for a hot spiced cider, or hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey's Irish Cream.

Or, apres ski, stop in the heated tent for Chaddsford Winery's annual Snow Bar. The winery, on Baltimore Pike, will be serving hot mulled drinks such as Spiced Apple wine and Harvest Grog Saturdays and Sundays, Jan. 7 through March 31.

Hot Toddy From Twenty Manning Grill

Makes 1 servingEndTextStartText

1 1/2 ounces Bushmills Irish Whiskey

1 1/4 ounces Devil's Charm Honey (see note)

1 1/2 ounces hot water

2 orange wedges

2 lemon wedges



1. Pour whiskey, honey mixture, and hot water into a warm snifter.

2. Squeeze 2 orange wedges and lemon wedges and drop them right into the glass. Stir until honey mixture no longer settles and enjoy.

Note: To prepare Devil's Charm Honey, mix 1 cup water, 1 cup honey, 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks, 2 whole nutmegs (freshly grated), and 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (this can be altered at your discretion).


Smoking Bishop

Makes 15 to 20 servings


5 unpeeled oranges (Seville variety recommended)

1 unpeeled grapefruit

36 cloves

2 bottles of red wine

1/4 pound sugar

1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup apple brandy (optional)

1 bottle port


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Wash the oranges and grapefruit and bake in the oven, turning once, until they are pale brown on all sides; about 20 minutes. Allow to cool until you can handle them.

3. Put about 5 cloves into each piece of hot fruit, and then put the fruit in a large, heavy pot. Add the wine (but not the port), sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and apple brandy, if using.

4. Heat to a simmer, stirring well to combine. Cover and leave in a warm place for a day.

5. Cut the fruit and squeeze it into the wine and strain to remove seeds and cloves.

6. Transfer the liquid back to the pot, add the port and heat. Some recipes warn against letting the drink come to boil, others recommend bringing it to a boil and then simmering for an hour.

7. Serve in warm mugs or glasses.

Hot Buttered Rum

Makes one cocktail


1 teaspoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 ounce light rum

4 whole cloves

4 ounces hot water



1. Preheat a coffee mug.

2. Mix butter, sugar, rum, and cloves in the heated mug. Fill with hot water and stir. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.