Enjoy Margaritas, Daiquiris, Juleps, and Mojitos no matter the season.
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winter cocktails
Credit: Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Emily Nabors Hall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

There might seem no more incongruous a thing to drink in winter in Minnesota than a Margarita. But at Baldamar in Roseville, bar manager David Marzorati Jr. makes it work. A heady combination of aged tequila, mulling spices, lime, and peak-season oranges, Marzorati's Gingerbread Margarita tastes like a mash-up of Cinco de Mayo and Christmas.


"We look for our drinks to reflect the intense seasonal changes here, from the days of relaxing on patios to snuggling up inside for warmth," says Marzorati. "So we adapt our summer cocktails to be in line with that."


All over the country this winter, I've noticed mixologists tweaking the bright flavors of alfresco refreshers—Daiquiris and Juleps and Mojitos—toward richness and warmth, adapting them for bone-warming sipping against the cold. Some bartenders tweak the spirits. For his Margarita, Marzorati swaps out blanco for añejo tequila to bring the charred, caramel flavors to the glass and uses a brandy-based orange liqueur to deepen the drink's intensity. He also introduces clove, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg to bring a gingerbread vibe to the drink. "People associate winter with holiday baking, so we play to that," he says.


At Kata Robata in Houston, bartender Anh Ngo's winter mojito uses dark spiced rum over summer's white rum. But that's just the beginning. "When I think of winter, I think of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas," says Ngo. "This means winter herbs." 


For his cheekily named Ho-Ho-Jito, the woody aromatics of the holiday table—sage and rosemary—add savory flavor to the sweet, fresh drink. Ngo is careful to use them in a way that won't erase the original cocktail's DNA, though. "I wanted to preserve the classic ingredient of the Mojito, which is the mint," he says. "That's why I infuse the simple syrup with the sage and rosemary, rather than muddling them inside the cocktail." For the garnish, all three herbs take their place along the rim, their aromas mingling in an all-seasons perfume.


For Charleston restaurateur Brooks Reitz, the founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., winterizing a Gin and Tonic is a snap. All it takes is a bit of hot water to give the drink a toddy-like edge. And while that idea may sound strange, his Gin Toasty is truly delicious. "It's a great winterized summer drink because the botanicals in a great dry gin are really lovely when heated—almost like mulled spices," says Reitz. 


Using tonic syrup instead of tonic water is crucial to the drink because hot water does the same trick that effervescent bubbles do: It ferries the aromatics in the gin and the syrup right up to your nose. You get the full-on flavor of the summertime drink, but with the comfort of a winter-warming liquid.

4 Ways to Winterize Your Summer Cocktails

1. Oak-Aged Spirits 


Barrels bring cinnamon, vanilla, and other wintry flavors. At Chicago's Three Dots and a Dash, Kevin Beary switches light rum for amontillado sherry in a winter Daiquiri that's big on nutty, caramelly taste.

2. Warm Spices 


A flaming, rum-soaked tea 
ball of spices adds drama to the cold-weather version of the namesake drink at Julep in Houston. Any spice you'd throw in a fruitcake or pumpkin pie will do the trick.

3. Woody Herbs


Take inspiration from the rosemary-laced Gimlet at Pasjoli in Los Angeles: Add earthy, foresty flavor by infusing syrups, shrubs, and even spirits with hearty aromatics, including spruce tips and pine.

4. Heat 


Nothing says it's cold out so much as a hot drink. Heat soothes, and it amplifies flavor. The Gin Toasty at Charleston's Little Jack's Tavern proves that if rum and whiskey can be warmed up, so too can gin.

Recipes

Gingerbread Margarita

Gingerbread Margarita

This winter margarita has a warm, cozy, cake-spice panache that wouldn't be out of place at a holiday party. The spiced syrup is key: It intensifies the orange flavors of the cocktail while adding a seasonal spice hit that brings much-needed warmth during the winter months. 
Ho-Ho-Jito Winter Mojito

Winter Mojito

Bartender Anh Ngo's Winter Mojito (playfully named Ho-Ho-Jito on the cocktail menu at Kata Robata in Houston) riffs on a classic mojito. Sage and rosemary infuse the simple syrup, adding savory flavor to the sweet, fresh drink, and dark spiced rum (instead of a classic mojito's white rum) brings richer flavor. Garnishes of rosemary, sage, and mint provide the final touches that transform a summery mojito into a cozy, cold-weather sipper.
Gin Toasty

Gin Toasty Cocktail

All it takes is a bit of hot water to give this warm alcoholic drink—a riff on a gin and tonic—a hot toddy–like edge: When heated, the botanicals in gin act like mulled spices. Using tonic syrup instead of tonic water is crucial to the drink; hot water does the same trick that effervescent bubbles do to ferry the aromatics in the gin and the syrup right up to your nose. The result is an ingeniously simple warm cocktail, perfect for a snowy winter day.