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Toast to the Cold: How to Stock a Bar for the Best Winter Cocktails

When it comes to the perfect winter cocktails, there is no shortage of lovely libations to sip on chilly nights. Here are tips from award-winning cocktail makers for what to have on hand for the best delicious winter cocktails.

A table with several winter cocktail drinks and berries on it.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

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Sometimes a delicious winter cocktail is just the ticket to warming up in the cold weather. I know there are days I wonder if I’ll survive the cold weather, and I can’t drink holiday coffee drinks after noon, so cocktails are a great choice.

I’m so excited about these festive ways to celebrate the season around the Christmas tree. Getting together with friends, gift-giving, hosting holiday parties, and savoring the cheer are my favorite things this time of year.

Liquor to Stock for Winter Cocktails

When stocking a bar for winter, you want to ensure that you have the basics, the spirits most commonly used to warm us up on chilly nights. Essential winter cocktails include hot toddies, eggnog, Irish Coffee, and smoked gin and tonics. 

Our Favorite Spirits for Making Cocktails Are

  • Brandy
  • Whiskey 
  • Rum 
  • Gin 

When choosing spirits for winter,  look for richer spiced, bourbon barrel-aged, and fragrant notes to be the base of warming winter cocktail recipes. 

A tray of drinks with rosemary sprigs in them.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

The Mixers

Stocking a bar for winter is as simple as building out some commonly used mixers like: 

  • Cranberry juice
  • Apple cider
  • Tonic or club soda

Each can sweeten or cut a cocktail, add acidity, and are vital ingredients to building flavorful, balanced drinks. I enjoy Fever Tree tonic and club sodas for mixing cocktails. Their bubbles hold up and create an enjoyable sipping experience.

Fever Tree Premium Tonic Water
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Simple Syrups 

Simple syrups offer an effortless way to sweeten a drink. But even more so, they are a straightforward trick to infusing flavors into cocktails.

A simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water. Once the sugar has dissolved in the water,  you can add fragrant ingredients as the syrup rests, creating subtle flavor infusions for future cocktails. In winter, I particularly love chai syrup for instant spice, pine syrup for winter gin and tonics, and smoked gin martinis. 

Things You Can Add To Simple Syrup to Flavor Your Winter Cocktails

 Besides a syrup made of sugar and water, maple syrup is another great winter cocktail sweetener.

Gourmet Vanilla Beans
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A copper mug with a holiday cocktail garnish on a bar.
Photo credit: Pexels.

Bitters

Bitters are the secret that elevates a cocktail from good to extraordinary. They stimulate our tastebuds, accentuating the drinking experience. You might think of Angostura bitters in cocktails, like the Old Fashioned, but changing what you’re using can pack a subtle but powerful punch. 

For Winter, You’ll Love Using 

When adding bitters to a cocktail, a simple dash of one to three bitters is all that’s needed.

Once your spirits, mixers, simple syrups, and bitters are stocked, you can craft unique winter cocktails like any expert mixologist. 

Make sure your bar also has a stock of cocktail glasses, as the shape of the glass is also a component of the cocktail experience itself. One set of martini glasses, rocks glasses, and glass drinking mugs with sturdy handles are all you need for a perfect winter bar.

If you’re big on wine, you’ll want to explore the best wine glasses too. Knowing how to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew sure does come in handy, if you ever lose or misplace your tool.

Tools Every Bar Setup Needs 

  • Shaker
  • Strainer 
  • Jigger
  • Muddler 
  • Stirrer

These don’t need to be extravagant or fancy and can often be found as kits or sets to get your bar started all at once. Buying a bartender kit with all the essential components is an easy way to set up.

Bartender Kit with Stand
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And finally, every cocktail is complete with the perfect garnish. So add the festive finishing touches to your winter cocktails with garnishes like cinnamon sticks, star anise, orange peel, cranberries, and fresh rosemary from your indoor herb garden

Keeping these ingredients and tools on hand can make various delicious winter cocktails and impress your guests. So whether you’re mixing a smoked old-fashioned or refreshing cranberry gin martini, once your bar is stocked, you can enjoy cozy winter cocktails without leaving the comfort of your home.

Three glasses of mulled wine with oranges, cinnamon, and star anise.
Photo credit: Deposit Photos.

FAQ

Why should I add bitters to my winter cocktail?

Adding bitters to your winter cocktail enhances its overall drinking experience. It does that by stimulating and accentuating your taste buds as it adds more taste to your drink’s flavor profile. If you want a subtle yet powerful flavor profile to your cocktails, you can use black walnut, orange, cardamom, or bonfire bitters.

Do I need a specific glass for my cocktail? Why?

Yes, you will need a specific glass for your cocktail, even when you’re just making it at home. You might not notice it at first glance, but your chosen glass can enhance the aromas of your cocktail. It can also influence its temperature, affecting your overall drinking experience. 

A coupe glass, for example, is good for cocktails stirred with ice or shaken. It has a longer stem that you can hold, so the cocktail doesn’t heat up as you sip it. Meanwhile, a neat glass is ideal for straight, boozy drinks and spirits you don’t want on the rocks.

What garnishes would fit my winter cocktail?

There are many garnishes that you can choose from when making winter cocktails. Give your drink a festive finishing touch by opting for blood oranges, Meyer lemons and other ingredients mentioned previously. You can also experiment with the spices to see which suits your tastes best.

Do I need specific bar tools to make winter cocktails? If so, what tools do I need?

Specific bar tools for making winter cocktails at home are essential for precision and an enjoyable drinking experience.

If you’re shopping for bar tools, put these on your list: a shaker, jigger, strainer, muddler, and stirrer to make a perfectly balanced drink. They also make the process easier and make your drinks visually appealing, which is helpful, especially if you have guests over.

As always, cocktails are intended for responsible consumers over the US legal drinking age of 21. Please also consume these drinks in moderation.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

Nora

Monday 18th of December 2023

Love the festive glass ideas. Nice to have the information and recipes all together in one post. Thanks!

Easy Homemade Life

Monday 18th of December 2023

Thanks for the comment, Nora. Let us know which drink recipe you try!

Rita

Thursday 14th of December 2023

This will be my first year hosting for the holidays and I'm very excited to craft some unique holiday drinks for my friends and family. Thanks for breaking it down into easy parts!

Easy Homemade Life

Monday 18th of December 2023

You're welcome, Rita. Happy hosting!