When it comes to mixing and drinking cocktails this winter, think sweet, flavorful and warming.
Local bartenders and cocktail experts say drink favorites like a hot toddy, eggnog and Irish coffee are always in demand, but there are other cool-weather cocktails and variations of the classics to keep you toasty all winter long.
At local bars and restaurants, bartenders are pouring some seasonal drink specials including a pumpkin pie martini at Tahoe Joe's Famous Steakhouse in Fresno.
The spice-filled concoction is a sweet-tasting reminder of Thanksgiving's favorite dessert.
"It really does smell and taste like pumpkin pie in a glass," says Reem Atkins, public relations manager at Tahoe Joe's.
The drink combines a homemade simple syrup that includes sugar, ginger powder, salt, nutmeg, ground allspice, cinnamon and water. It also has pumpkin puree, apple juice, vanilla extract and Sobieski vodka and is topped with sweetened cream.
If you are curious, don't delay because the special martini will be available until only Jan. 5.
Also sought after are the chocolate martini, Bailey's Kahlua coffee and the cosmopolitan at the Elbow Room in Fresno.
Restaurant manager Ann Marie Ruiz says the martini's ingredients are a decadent mix of Godiva chocolate, Kahlua, half and half, Grand Marnier and a dash of creme de menthe.
"It's served in a nicely chilled martini glass and its delicious," Ruiz says.
Several coffee drinks are popular at the Elbow Room, including Bailey's with Kahlua and whipped cream.
"It is a favorite among people who walk down Christmas Tree Lane," says Ruiz. "It will keep you warm."
Also likely to keep the winter chill away is Lola's Spiced Hot Cocoa created by the staff at Ficklin-Wilcox: Wine Tasting and Kitchen Goods in Sacramento.
The recipe combines heated whole milk, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a splash of Ficklin Vineyard's 10-year Tawny Port.
Liz Wilcox, president of the Ficklin-Wilcox, says the 10-year Tawny Port also works well in spiced apple cider or as a hot toddy with hot water, lemon, honey and a splash of port.
In Old Town Clovis, retailer Vintage on Fourth is jumping on one of the newest trends in drinks: tea-infused cocktails. Owner Karen Chisum is selling a tea-based liquid drink mix called Owls Brew. The 32-ounce bottles come in several flavors of teas, including black, Darjeeling and English breakfast.
The mixes work well with vodka, tequila and gin and can be used in cold or warm drinks.
If you want to test your drink-making skills, you may want to check out a new book from Maria del Mar Sacasa, titled "Winter Drinks." The 160-page book is a how-to guide for crafting classic warm drinks and creating new ones.
Inside the book are more than 50 recipes for cold-weather cocktails and mixed beverages.
Apple winter toddy
11/2 ounces Caorunn gin (or other gin)
4 ounces pressed apple juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 ounces lemon juice
2 teaspoons caster sugar (or baker's sugar)
Dash of port
Heat all ingredients in a pan until warm or steam with a coffee steamer.
Garnish with clove studded orange and apple, grated nutmeg.
Makes 1 servings
Spiced hot chocolate
1 cup whole milk, heated
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne powder
Splash of Ficklin Vineyards 10 Year Tawny Port
Mix the dry ingredients together in a mug, add a little of the hot milk, mix well to make a smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk and the Tawny Port, mixing very well with a small whisk or fork.
Ficklin-Wilcox Affogato speciale
Makes 1 serving
1 scoop vanilla ice cream or gelato
2 ounces amaretto
1 (2-ounce) shot espresso
6 ounces chocolate stout beer
Place ice cream in a tall glass. Pour liqueur, espresso, and stout over top. Serve with a spoon.
Bloody good punch
Makes 24 servings
4 cups bourbon
11/2 cups blood orange sour mix (see below)
1 cup amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur
2 (750-milliliter) bottles champagne, chilled
Ice mold (see below)
For the sour mix: 3 tablespoons finely grated blood orange zest, 2 cups fresh blood orange juice and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Combine ingredients and stir.
Ice mold: Fill a Bundt pan or medium mixing bowl with water and freeze. To unmold, place container under warm water until the ice begins to loosen. Turn the mold over onto a clean surface and remove the ice. Place the molded ice in a punch bowl.
Stir bourbon, sour mix, and amaretto together in a punch or other serving bowl. When ready to serve, stir in champagne and slide in ice mold.
Makes 4 servings
4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup Nutella
6 ounces hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped, for garnish
Toasted coconut flakes (see note), for garnish
Note: To toast coconut flakes, arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through baking, until toasted. Alternatively, toast them in a large dry skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
Bring milk, Nutella, and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until Nutella is completely dissolved. Stir in liqueur. Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the stove while you whip the cream.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream, confectioners' sugar, and espresso powder on medium speed in a large, chilled bowl until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, beat by hand using a large wire whisk.) Ladle drink into warm cups and top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and coconut.
Cooking tip: A good way to remove hazelnuts' unpleasantly bitter skins is to blanch them. Bring 4 cups water and 1/4 cup baking soda to boil in a large pot. Add hazelnuts and boil for 5 minutes. Drain hazelnuts in a colander and rinse them under cold running water, rubbing them against each other until most of the skins have come off. Place hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel (one you're not too attached to, because it will stain) and rub them with the towel to remove any remaining skins. After removing the skins, place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter. Maria del Mar Sacasa, Winter Cocktails Maria del Mar Sacasa, Winter Cocktails Maria del Mar Sacasa, Winter Cocktails