So you’ve been drinking Negronis all year round (extra strong ones since March perhaps!), but as we enter the brumal months you’re wondering what your cold weather drink of choice should be.
Well, you could stick to the Negroni, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you could branch out with it’s brown spirited cousin the Boulevardier. Think of it as a Negroni, with winter socks on. The gin is replaced with bourbon, bringing comforting woody notes and vanilla sweetness, and the whiskey still plays beautifully with the bitter loveliness of sweet vermouth and Campari.
Don’t mistake this for a modern day rehashing of the venerable Negroni. The Boulevardier actually harks all the way back to the Gatsby era. It first appeared in the 1927 cocktail recipe book Barflies and Cocktails, by notable barman of the day Harry MacElhone. It’s creation was credited to Eskine Gwynne, American expat writer, socialite, and nephew of railroad tycoon Alfred Vanderbilt. The cocktail was eponymously named after his monthly literary magazine. Knowing this, can we assume that the Spectator Cocktail is merely pending?
30ml sweet vermouth
Method: Stir the ingredients with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass (or tumbler). Can also be served over ice if desired. Garnish with an orange twist
The Port Wine Negus
A wonderful winter warmer, the Negus is a hot spiced wine concoction, popular in England during the early 19th century. Made with a variety of spices including cinnamon, mace, cloves and all-spice, you may use any type of wine as the base, though the Port Wine version was by far the choice du jour. The prevalence of the Negus during that time is evidenced by its many mentions in classic literature; from Jane Eyre to David Copperfield, Vanity Fair and A Christmas Carol.
The creator of this tipple was Colonel Francis Negus,- Parliamentary representative for Ipswich from 1717, until he died in 1732. The Colonel created it sometime in the early 18th century, most likely during the reign of Queen Anne, but alas he didn’t live to see the drink’s glory days which followed a full century later.
In 1827 the Negus made its first appearance in a recipe book — a small pamphlet sized tome titled Oxford Night Caps, written by a student at the University named Richard Cook. Used as a guide by fellow collegians to make the popular beverages of the day in the University Halls of residence, it’s actually the earliest collection of drinks recipes on record. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that it would be the work of a precocious young Oxonian, even if Cook’s motive was simply to lay out clear instructions for his pals to get heavily sauced.
The book’s use on campus had no doubt faded into obscurity by the 20th century but one can romanticise about other illustrious alumni putting it to good use: Evelyn Waugh reading aloud the instructions for cutting citrus peel and macerating spices in his plummy received pronunciation; perhaps the hangover from too many Port Wine Negus’ leading him to exclaim “It was neither the quality nor quantity that was at fault. It was the mixture.”
Or a young Christopher Hitchens half a century later, sitting at his writing desk with a Negus at hand (and a cigarette in hand), sharpening his mordant wit and gestating future hitch-slaps — years before his predilection for Johnnie Walker Black and Perrier had set in.
As with the Hot Toddy — a widely accepted excuse to drink when you’re sick — the Port Wine Negus is also known for its ‘ameliorative’ qualities.
90ml Tawny port (other types of port work fine as well)
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup (2 parts caster sugar to 1 part water)
Top up with boiling water
Method: Take a large handled glass and fill with boiling water to heat the receptacle. Discard after half a minute or so, then build the ingredients into the glass, topping up with boiling water.
Garnish: Use a vegetable peeler to cut a long, flat peel of lemon. Spear with cloves and drop into the drink. Grate nutmeg on top to finish.\
Hot Buttered Rum
Let’s be honest, hot buttered anything sounds pretty appealing and this drink is no exception.
Although butter has been added to hot drinks in Britain since the time of Henry VIII, the Hot Buttered Rum most likely originated in New England, USA around the 18th century. New England was then a big-time producer and consumer of rum, and the already well known drink the Hot Toddy was already popular in the region.
The first time you hear it, it may seem odd or jarring to add butter to a drink. However once you’ve tried it you’ll rue the privation you’ve endured all these years. Be warned, the Hot Buttered Rum has a soporific effect, so its best consumed whilst seated in a comfy chair. The perfect nightcap for a wintery evening.
Batter (roughly 20 portions)
250 grams butter (unsalted)
350 grams brown sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla paste
To make each drink:
2 tbsp of the batter
50ml dark rum
Top with hot water
Method: For this drink it’s easier to make a batch of batter which can be used straight away, or put in a tub in the fridge/freezer and portion out as required.
Simply add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat gently until they are fully melted, and you’re good to go. For each drink, in a pre-heated mug, add two tablespoons of the batter, then add the rum, and top up with boiling water. Stir the mixture thoroughly before serving. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and grated nutmeg on top.
The Tom & Jerry
It’s no wonder the Eggnog is an enduring wintertime classic. A combination of egg, spices, milk/cream and dark spirits, it’s essentially a dessert that you can drink, and one that will get you merrily loitered in the process. The Tom & Jerry is essentially a riff on an Eggnog, the only difference being that it is served hot. It’s certainly no less delicious.
It was a highly popular drink in America in the 19th century, especially the latter half — a staple of the winter season. The batter would be served in a communal ‘Tom & Jerry’ bowl’ and ladled individually into mugs, topped up with hot water or milk. The cocktail was ubiquitous enough that this signature bowl and cup set were standard mise-en-place in many households.
This is a great drink to serve when you have multiple thirsts to quench, as once the batter and hot milk have been made, dishing them out is easy work, leaving the host more time to, well, host.
We’re not sure who the creator is but it is sometimes miscredited to English writer Pierce Egan who wrote a stage play in 1821 called ‘Tom and Jerry, or Life in London’. It’s possible the name stems from Egan’s characters, though he’s certainly not responsible for the drink.
Batter (serves 10-12)
2 cups icing sugar
30ml dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 mug of batter
Top with hot frothed milk
Method: Divide the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls. Whisk the egg yolks, then add the sugar, rum, spices and whisk again until well mixed. In the other bowl, whisk the whites until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold the whites into the yolks until properly integrated. Spoon this batter into a mug or toddy glass, filling it about halfway. Add the cognac, and top up with hot frothed milk (as you would a cappuccino). Garnish: Grated nutmeg
As distinguished readers of the Spectator would know, sherry’s reputation as the saccharin atrocity, shunted to the back of the larder, kept at room temperature for decades, and wheeled out once in a blue moon to be served in lilliputian wine glasses, is anachronistic and unjust. Sherry is as complex as any wine, and has thankfully been receiving the recognition it deserves in recent times.
It also shows great versatility as a cocktail ingredient, as showcased in this cracking sherry cocktail, the Adonis. A wonderfully dry, low alcohol cocktail, it was named after the very first Broadway musical in 1884. The show starred Henry E. Dixey in the role of Adonis, and ran for more than 600 performances. As with all the greats it’s simple in its constitution, easy to make, and even easier to quaff. Chin chin.
50ml dry sherry (Fino or Manzanilla)
25ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Cas Oh is the author of CO Specs – an A to Z guide to classic cocktails