A traditional cocktail can tell you just as much about a region’s culture as a signature dish or a popular landmark. From summer spritzes in Italy to the varied types of pisco sours in Peru or Chile, cocktails bring together all the best and most beloved flavors of a region with a boozy twist. While some of these drinks are year-round affairs, many cultures have familiar recipes designated for colder months to fight the chill and celebrate seasonal flavors.
If you’re looking to venture outside of the U.S. now that the temperatures are dropping, but hopping on a plane is not in your future, it might be time to break out the cocktail shaker and explore your inner mixologist. These are some popular winter drinks from around the world to get you started.
When it comes to eggnog, there are two types of people: those who have been enjoying the stuff for years, and those who are repulsed by the idea of putting eggs in a cocktail and stay far away it. If you’re part of the former group, then you know this holiday favorite of both the U.S. and Canada is so much more than just the sum of its parts. Originating in medieval England, eggnog became popular in the states in the 1700s when eggs, milk, and rum were readily available in the colonies. The drink became a holiday treat once festive spices like nutmeg and cinnamon were added to the recipe. Now, you can find a million ways to make this thick, creamy drink, but eggnog purists will tell you the best recipes include egg yolks, egg whites, milk, nutmeg, and a good bourbon or whiskey.
Coquito: Puerto Rico
Born from the same roots as eggnog, the coquito offers a tropical twist with all the flavors that represent Puerto Rican culture. A highly revered holiday favorite, coquitos have many different recipes depending on the different traditions of the families making them. The foundation of a coquito, though, is typically the same; most feature white rum, coconut milk, cream of coconut, condensed milk, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Jamaica: Sorrel Punch
Sorrel rum punch is a popular holiday tradition in Jamaica. According to NPR, sorrel punch’s roots can be traced to a close drink-relative, red drink, which has deep ties to the African diaspora. The drink gets its signature red color from the dried hibiscus flower used to make it, and typically also includes Jamaican rum, lime and orange juices, and cinnamon, cloves, or ginger for warmth. Unlike some other winter drinks, sorrel punch is served iced.
Hot Toddy: Scotland
Leave it to the Scots to come up with a boozy solution to the common cold. Though far from its roots as an 18th century highland remedy, hot toddies are a winter staple in the U.K. and beyond. And these warm amber cups can be found way after the holidays, thawing frozen hands all the way through spring. Traditional hot toddies typically feature a combination of hot water, honey, lemon, a cinnamon stick and your choice of brown liquor; brandy, whiskey, or rum will do nicely.
Spiked Hot Chocolate: Mexico
In Mexico, hot chocolate is so much more than pouring a pre-mixed powder into a cup of boiling water. Mexican hot chocolate, which is typically enjoyed beyond the holidays into the wintery season, combines a bit of spice from cayenne pepper with a classic mix of cocoa powder, sugar, and milk. To give this drink even more of a bite, add a bit of Mexican tequila and you’re sure to feel warm from the inside out.
Irish Coffee: Ireland
If you go to Ireland and ask a bartender for an Irish coffee, don’t expect a cup of joe spiked with Baileys. Instead, you’ll get a piping hot cup of coffee with some brown sugar, whipped heavy cream, and Irish whiskey. The drink was first served in the early 1940s when a bartender named Joe Sheridan, who was working at an airport at the time, needed to quickly prepare travelers warm food and drinks after their flight got turned around due to bad weather. His solution is now a classic which has been warming Ireland and beyond for decades.
Glogg is a type of mulled wine, served hot and with a Nordic twist. This Swedish holiday favorite typically starts being served in the fall and continues on as a toasty treat passed the New Year when days are still short and nights are long. If you’re looking to create your own Glogg, a healthy alcohol cabinet is a must. Ingredients typically include dry red white, sweet white wine, aquavit, a special Scandanavian spirit, and vodka if you’re so inclined.
Bombardino is an Italian Alpine go-to and a favorite of skiers coming back from a long day on the slopes. Named “the bomb” for its high alcohol content, most believe the Bombardino was invented by a man from Genova who owned a ski lodge in Lombardy. Looking to hastily put together a drink for skiers returning from a blizzard, the man blended milk, whiskey, and egg liqueur together and brought it to a boil. Now the drink is typically enjoyed with the same egg liqueur and either brandy or cognac.
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