It's cold and snowing as I write this. Winter has us in a headlock, and spring is still a ways away. Just as there are summer drinks, usually marked by wheat beers and fruity cocktails, winter has its own special brand of drinks, considerably more manly and better for your image than sipping an umbrella drink on a patio. What follows is my (admittedly biased and unscientific) list of the best cold weather drinks.
Guinness. Quite possibly the greatest beer in the world. Ireland is located northwest of England and it is surrounded by the North Atlantic, which means it just doesn't get warm there. Ever. So the folks in Dublin came up with this gem in the late 1700's, and its thick, rich flavor allows you time to warm up in the bar after coming in from the cold. It is the Godfather of all stout beers, and all stouts aspire to be as good. Ideally, it should be served somewhat warm, a departure from our American sense of ice cold beer, but that's the way they roll in Ireland.
Newcastle. A nut brown ale from England, it's a hearty beer that doesn't allow you to chug it through a funnel at a kegger. If you are drinking Newcastle in this manner, it is time to step back and reevaluate your life and priorities. Ales should be treated with respect, as the hangovers can be wicked. Newcastle continues a long line of fine British beer that evokes ideas of pubs with fireplaces and comfort food on the menu.
IPA. Boulevard has a number of pale ales, but the best for my money is the Single Wide IPA, or India Pale Ale. As noted above, ales are sipping beers, and the IPA is the one with the most flavor. As you drink it, note its hoppy flavor, and the goosebumps that will show up on your arms with the first swallow.
Whiskey. Encompassing everything from Irish whiskey, like Jameson and Tullamore Dew, to bourbons like Jim Beam, whiskey is always a crowd favorite and is good all year round. So why put it on this list? Whiskey will warm the blood on a cold winter night like few other liquors. Mix it with coffee and you've got one of the classic cold weather drinks known to man.
Brandy. Brandy is simply distilled wine that drinks like a hard liquor. I grew up in Wisconsin, which has far colder winters than Kansas City, and that state drinks more brandy than anyplace in the world, except for California. There's a reason for this. Brandy helps with stuffy noses and sore throats (or so Grandma claimed, and would grandma lie?) and it warms the body as it goes down. Old school parents would give a teaspoon of it to their kids to calm them down and ward off chills. You can warm it slightly for a nice nightcap, and as long as you don't overdo it, the buzz goes pleasantly all through the body that makes you want to curl up under the blankets. Needless to say, I think brandy is one of the greatest cold weather drinks ever.
Vodka. Ahh, the Russians. This list wouldn't be complete without their contribution to the world's supply of booze. Known for brutally cold winters, they came up with a liquor that was made from potatoes and apparently mixes with just about anything. Vodka is the #1 selling liquor in America, possibly the world, and if you ask any bartender, they will admit they sell more vodka than anything else. Good vodka, like Stolichnaya, Grey Goose, and the like, can be drank straight, on the rocks, or as a shot (as was proven to me by a Swede who bought me a shot of Absolut in Westport last January). It is a clean booze that will warm the blood, which is why I believe the Russkies created it in the first place. If you ever meet a Russian supermodel doing a shoot in Aspen, buy her a shot of the most expensive vodka in the place. You could do much worse.
Any other ideas on good cold weather drinks? By all means, leave them in the comments.