Fall into winter’s cold with these old-fashioned cocktails

Autumn’s here, with Halloween only weeks away and cold weather on its heels. While icy drinks are the star of al fresco summer shindigs, icy winter needs the opposite strategy.

Winter parties call for warming cocktails, and here are three universally suited to fall’s cool and winter’s chill, beginning with Halloween. For that occasion, what could prevail but the Bloody Mary, a cocktail that, like a scary costume, invites creativity.

While not a heated drink, its best character, besides its name, is its hot spiciness. Plus, there’s the unique touch you can give each drink by your choices in garnishing. Go ahead. Stir that pickled asparagus with the skewer of beef bites into your cocktail and see if you can stand the heat!

The other two cocktails below are hot, too, but in temperature, not spices. From medieval years, the toddy, which marries tea with hard liquor, and the wassail, which began as a winter ritual to honor apple trees and encourage them to a good harvest the next year, warmed the body on cold days at home or in the taverns. Today their popularity pays homage to the ancestors who carried this tradition forward to our modern winter gatherings.

Each cocktail can be enjoyed with or without the alcohol content and suggested substitutions are included.


Get creative with the cocktail that practically screams Halloween

32 to 48 oz. container Bloody Mary mix

Garnish, among the options: hot sauce, quartered limes and lemons, celery ribs, pitted green olives, pickle spears, whole pickled peppers, pickled asparagus or green beans, beef sticks cut bite-sized, toothpicks or skewers.

Fill glasses with ice, add 2 oz. vodka to each, then top with Bloody Mary mix. Invite guests to garnish drinks as desired. Makes 4 to 8 drinks.

Note: For a Virgin Mary, per glass, pour 1/2 glass of tomato juice or V8 juice over ice and add 1-2 tablespoons of bottled lemon and/or bottled lime juice and let guests add Bloody Mary mix to taste. Garnish.

Tip: Add to the atmosphere by serving this cocktail in glasses embellished with Halloween art. Use felt-tip markers and your imagination.

Also, if you can’t find prepared Bloody Mary drink, see next recipe to make your own.


3 Tbsp dijon mustard

3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp prepared horseradish

2 Tbsp hot sauce (like tabasco)

2.5 oz lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1.5 oz lime juice (about 2 limes)

2 Tbsp olive brine (the juice in a jar of green olives)

1 tsp celery seed

2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

2 tsp kosher or sea salt

64 oz tomato or tomato-vegetable juice

Mix all of the ingredients together except the tomato juice. It should yield about 1 1/4 C of mix. Add as much or as little to the tomato juice as you prefer.  Start with about 1/2 C of mix for every quart of juice. Store, tightly covered, in refrigerator.


Old-time hot cocktail warms family and guests on wintry days

1 C simmering hot water

1 tea bag, traditionally black tea, but your choice

2 oz. whiskey (bourbon works best, but you can use any whiskey or dark rum)

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 lemon slice, cinnamon stick, or star anise (optional)

Pour hot water into a mug and steep the tea for two to three minutes. Remove tea bag and stir in honey, whiskey, and lemon juice.

Garnish with lemon slice, cinnamon stick, star anise. Makes one drink.

Note: To make hot toddy for kids use apple juice or apple cider instead of liquor.


The traditional hot libation for winter celebrations

2 ripe red apples

8 C apple cider

2 C orange juice

½ C lemon juice

4 whole cinnamon sticks

12 whole cloves, or 1 tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

2 C whiskey, brandy, or dark rum

Add all ingredients but the apples into a large pan. Insert six whole cloves around each apple and place the apples into the liquid in the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium to low heat, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 40-45 minutes to blend the flavors. Pour wassail into a heat-proof, large bowl, or punch bowl. or leave in pan, if more convenient. You can leave the apples in the hot punch if desired for atmosphere. Remove cinnamon sticks.

Ladle wassail into heat-proof mugs or glasses. Serves 8 to 10. Optional: Garnish with fruit slices, cinnamon sticks, mint sprigs or mini candy canes. Makes 8-10 servings.

Note: To accommodate all guests, including children, consider making the wassail without the alcohol, offering a choice of liquors to be added individually to each mug and gently stirred in. While traditionally made with alcohol, this wassail is delicious and warming even without it.

— By Jean Redstone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.


Swedesboro NJ
May 21, 2022, 4:22 am
real feel: 69°F