Whether it’s the mountain weather having a schizophrenic episode or the slow crawl of global climate change toward the end of days, an Asheville winter is about as predictable as a bouncing football. But on those ass-clinching, 20-degree nights when you have standing plans that you just can’t cancel, you can find warm solace in the loving grasp of a hot cocktail.
Such a beverage is more than just a cold easer. There is a coziness to holding a warm drink, and warm alcohol gives a soft, almost lazy feeling that makes an excellent counterbalance to a long, and often cold, winter. Toddies are a common “cure” for a wintertime cold. A hot buttered rum harkens back to cozy celebrations. And I’m sure we’ve all made our coffee “Irish” from time to time.
Wrap your frigid digits around one of these beverages, warm up from the inside out, and enjoy.
MG Road Lounge (19 Wall Street, 828.254.4363)
Tiki Toddy: Dark rum, tiki bitters, garam masala, and lime.
This delicious twist on a toddy can easily fit into any cocktail lover’s “new favorite drink” category. While many warm drinks tend to be in the “warm and creamy” category, the Tiki Toddy is surprisingly light and refreshing. Elements of sweet, smooth, and spicy find the perfect home in this warm little friend. The taste can come across like a hot tea, with a nice lift courtesy of a fresh lime. The bitters used in this excellent new favorite are exceptional: Elemakule Tiki Bitters are typically used in tropical drink recipes and naturally pair well with rum, but in this iteration, the exotic spices and syrups are the perfect partner to show off the warm rum without overpowering it.
Hot Buttered Rum: House-made spiced butter mix (brown sugar, powdered sugar, house-made vanilla ice cream, and freshly ground cinnamon and nutmeg), and Sailor Jerry rum.
Rum is the common denominator for most of our selections in this Amuse Booze segment, and MG Road’s Hot Buttered Rum is a strong representative of this classic warm cocktail. The house-made spiced butter mix is deliciously creamy without being thick—and surprisingly light without being thin. The nutmeg in the spice mix gives the drink a nice earthy flavor, and the Sailor Jerry balances well with the butter mix. It’s a strong drink, but not harsh. You will taste the booze in this one.
Posana Café (1 Biltmore Avenue, 828.505.3969)
Hot Mulled Blueberry: Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, acai blueberry juice, house-made blueberry agave, lemon juice, cloves, and cinnamon.
Oh my. If the word “blueberry” ever was a better fit with any words other than “hot” and “mulled” then we haven’t heard it. Tart and sour meets fruity and sweet in this excellent use of a lovely warm rum cocktail; the cloves and cinnamon bring it down to earth, and a twist of lemon gives it a little brightness in the finish. This is a very drinkable drink. Too drinkable. There’s not enough hyperbole in the world, really, to express how much you will want to order another.
ROOT Cider: Art in the Age ROOT, Carriage House Apple Brandy, local honey, cinnamon, and house-made apple cider.
What is ROOT, you might ask? Welcome to the rebirth of a pre-Prohibition classic liquor. Once called Root Tea, this once-herbal remedy of sassafras, sarsaparilla, and birch bark grew in strength and potency until a Temperance-era pharmacist took out the alcohol and named it “root beer.” ROOT, thankfully, doesn’t taste anything like our modern version of root beer. This liquor blends birch bark, black tea, cane sugar, sassafras, citrus, and a variety of spices, including allspice and anise, into a lovely, spice-filled flavor that makes this variation on a hot apple cider an absolutely dynamite drink.