A few simple cocktails help you stay warm while staying at home | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A few simple cocktails help you stay warm while staying at home

"These types of drinks call more for a well-stocked spice cabinet."

Greg DeVries executes a Blue Blazer.
Greg DeVries executes a Blue Blazer.

Sometimes during the winter, you'll find yourself craving a cocktail, but it'll be too cold and snowy to trudge to the nearest watering hole. Don't fret: If you have even a modestly stocked liquor cabinet, the solution is nearby.

"The whole idea of hot cocktails this time of year is have something to warm you up at home," says home bartender extraordinaire Greg "Dutch" DeVries. 

The simplest winter cocktail, he says, is the hot toddy: 1 shot whiskey, 1 tablespoon honey or sugar, 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 ounces of boiling water. 

That's just the basic toddy. "It's fun to play around with these types of drinks at home because they call more for a well-stocked spice cabinet than for obscure liqueurs," says William Lovas, another home-cocktail enthusiast. 

An easy place to start experimenting is by pairing spirits with different sweeteners: Rye and maple syrup, Scotch and honey, and rum and molasses are all harmonious combinations. 

You can look elsewhere in your pantry, too. Lovas says a combination of gin, Earl Grey tea, sugar and orange bitters is a winning twist on the classic toddy. DeVries says you can add spark to a hot cocktail with a spicy pinch of clove, nutmeg or cinnamon. 

Or literally add spark — by lighting the drink on fire.

DeVries favorite hot cocktail is the Blue Blazer. He adds whiskey and hot water to a metal mug, sets the liquid ablaze, then pours it into another mug filled with a few teaspoons of sugar and a lemon peel. He streams the contents back and forth between mugs, creating a blue flame that stretches up to 3 feet long. 

Of course, this can be risky. "The Blue Blazer is not something everyone can or should make," he cautions. 

With or without fire, though, a hot cocktail can be a soothing respite on a cold winter night. "Some people come home and have a cup of coffee or chocolate," DeVries says. "But this warms you straight through."

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