Around the time of the first snowfall, do you notice that certain drinks take on a new appeal? Just as kids associate cold weather with hot chocolate, adults associate certain drinks with a feeling of warmth. Think about how a glass of red wine or Scotch warms the stomach and spreads out to your fingertips. It’s pretty great, isn’t it? We like to call these drinks winter warmers. Across almost all categories of adult beverage there’s a shift in preferences when the thermometer takes a dive. Here are a few winter warmers:
With winter starting here on Colorado’s Front Range, “the Napa Valley of Beer,” pilsners and hefeweizens are giving way to heavier ales like porters and winter warmers.
“Every year Odell Brewing comes out with Isolation Ale, which does really well over the winter,” says Joe Musa, owner of Campus West Liquors. “New Belgium comes out with Accumulation, which is another heartier beer that they bring out for the season.”
We thought Joe would be a good person to go to for tips and insights on how people keep warm this time of year. We were right. There’s a significant reshuffling of inventory with every change of the season. Here in Colorado, we’re lucky to have four beer seasons (poor California). We’re also keen to talk about our favorite cold weather beverages, and you notice it in our taprooms.
For instance, stouts and porters come into higher demand when the ugly sweaters come out. Many, such as Goose Island’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout (not for the faint of heart) are only produced seasonally.
“Wine preferences also shift from white to red”, Joe states. That’s because cold drinks that hit the spot after a day in the sun hold less appeal if you just changed spent a day skiing in a snowstorm. Cabernets and other red wines are best drunk a few degrees below room temperature, while white wines express themselves best when they’re chilled.
“Pinot noirs go well with Thanksgiving dinner, in general,” Joe advises. “If you’re going to go with a red, that’s what I recommend. If you’re going to go with white, I like to recommend a Riesling or a Gewürztraminer, which are a little on the sweeter side. Gewürztraminer—they call it a spiced wine—has more of a pear taste to it so it goes well with stuffing, turkey, cranberry and so forth.”
Joe recommends any Gewürztraminer made by Chateau Ste. Michelle, a Washington-based winery. One Riesling he recommends is Kung Fu Girl, also out of Washington State.
Spirits and wine variants
Eggnogs made with brandy or bourbon go down well during the holidays. A couple best sellers include Winter Jack, a blend of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and apple cider liqueur, and Evan Williams Egg Nog. But while holiday guests enjoy tradition, they may also appreciate it if you break convention.
“Mead is a honey wine that does pretty well around the holidays. It’s a little heavier than other wines.” Campus West carries honey wine from Palisade-based Meadery of the Rockies made with 100% pure, raw orange blossom honey, as well as Camelot Mead by Oliver Winery. Honey wines are often chock full of fruits such as blackberry, cherry, raspberry and apricot.
Mulled wines are served warm and mixed with mulling spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and sugar. German-style Glühweins (“mulled wines”) can be found bottled, or you can make them at home. Mulled wine is generally made by heating a cheap red wine and mulling spices. The smell will give your house a nice holiday aroma and the drink will warm your belly. There are a lot of recipes online or you can try whatever spices tickle your fancy.
Anything that goes well with coffee or hot chocolate will be a welcome addition to your cupboard this time of year, Joe says. Amaretto, Bailey’s, Frangelico, Peppermint Schnapps clear the shelves a lot faster when snow is flying.
“Bailey’s is a classic winter-time liqueur, many of our customers have been picking up a bottle during the holidays for the past 40 years.”
Naturally, we were interested in hearing about some of Joe’s personal favorites. He keeps things pretty varied, he says, because I suppose it’s the natural thing to do if you own a liquor store.
Having said that, “Every now and then on a snowy night with a fire going, a bottle of port with some walnuts and cheese really hits the spot. It’s comforting.”
Single malt Scotch can also take the chill out of the air like few things can. “McCallen 18-year old is my favorite. … I used to drink it more when it was $85 a bottle.” Prices have recently skyrocketed due to limited quantities and high demand.
If I had been thinking, I may have asked Joe to sell me a bottle of 18-year McCallan for $85, “For old time’s sake.” I don’t know if it would have worked, but dark ales and the occasional single malt will be helping to keep me warm this winter.
What’s your go-to cold weather libation?
Want to read more by RCS? Check out Why Your Liquor POS Gets Better With Age.