Hot winter drinks

MICHAEL RIETMULDER | Updated 1/2/2014

Kill the chill with these warm-up concoctions from local bars.

It takes a special breed to handle a Minnesota winter. Between our Nordic blood and Midwestern grit, we don’t bat a frozen eyelash when the thermometer dips to miserable lows. Hell, we’ll probably go ice fishing. For fun.

Minnesotans have been fortified by years of tundra-prairie life, making the mid 30s feel like T-shirt weather. But sometimes we need some amenities to deal with the constant nip in the air, and a good hot drink is up there with remote car starters and pocket-sized heat packs.

Fight off the Minnesota cold with these sippables.


Mulled cider at Saffron

123 N. 3rd St., Mpls. • 612-746-5533.

If to-go cups were a thing, this Warehouse District restaurant and cocktail spot could make a fortune slinging its mulled cider to jacketless clubgoers destined to freeze while standing in line. The caraway-heavy blend, also steeped with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon, is served as is, or with a spirit of your choice. Mixed with rye whiskey, the various spicy flavors fire in unison — an invigorating fusillade that jump-starts the palate like a frozen car battery. For a more soothing, easy chair of a tipple, try it with cognac. The French brandy complements its sweeter apple flavors, making for a lip-smackable core-warmer.


Hot chocolate at Bradstreet Craftshouse

601 1st Av. N., Mpls. • 612-312-1821

Proving Swiss Miss is mere child’s play, this week Bradstreet debuts an adult hot-chocolate program that redefines decadence. Each rum-spiked drink is made to order, with guests picking between dark, milk or white Callebaut chocolates and four types of booze-infused creams. White chocolate and a Becherovka (a slightly cinnamon-y herbal liqueur) cream is an unabashedly extravagant combo of pure rich, silky lavishness. The lynx fur coat of cocktails. A milk chocolate/Fernet Branca-cream pairing might be more traditional, but one sip of this deeply cocoa-y dessert cocktail and you will forgot about those thin, marshmallow-topped drinks of your youth.


‘Under the Kilt’ at Icehouse

2528 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. • 612-276-6523

Bradstreet isn’t the only cocktail bar rolling out new hot drinks. Icehouse just added a few belly-heaters, including a delicately maximalist take on the classic hot toddy. Despite being in the brandy-loving Midwest, the Eat Street bar looks to Scotland for this version of the cold-season favorite, calling for Laphroaig 10-year and a faintly present Hendrick’s Gin. The peaty Scotch permeates the drink, synergistically kissed with minty Fernet Branca and ginger syrup, alongside honey syrup and Fee Brothers’ Old Fashion bitters. A hot water bath melts the competing flavors into an ameliorative winter elixir.


Beer and a shot at Merlins Rest

3601 E. Lake St., Mpls. • 612-216-2419

The time-tested beer-and-a-shot combination gets even better in the colder months, but there’s no reason to settle for swill. Instead, take shelter from winter’s bite at whiskey emporium Merlins Rest. The Longfellow pub offers more than 200 single-malt whiskeys, plus a decent roster of blended whiskeys. Nerd out all season with its “Whisky Bible” — a lengthy catalog separated by regions, rare selections, new arrivals and more; with detailed tasting notes to help you pick your poison. Sure, Merlins has a handful of actually hot drinks, but why not warm up to the best Scotch selection in town?


Hot chai at Verdant Tea House

2111 E. Franklin Av., Mpls. • 612-223-8907

Unfortunately, there are bound to be times this winter when a stiff drink might be inappropriate — a job interview, your niece’s first communion, driving. During life’s sober moments, let Verdant provide your liquid jacket. Where a chai can be the nonalcoholic equivalent of a White Russian — thickly creamy and hyper sweet — the Seward tea house’s version is a spicy antidote. The three-tea blend, served with almond milk, is neither dense nor sugary and allows an amiable medley of spices (from saffron to black peppercorn) to shine. Take home a batch of this microbrewed tea for when your car won’t start.