We Asked 19 Bartenders: What’s the Most Underrated Winter Cocktail?

Cold-weather cocktails bring brown spirits, baking spices, and the perfect Hot Toddy to mind. That’s for good reason: They’re easy to go back to time and time again while staying home and bundling up. But even if it’s hard to motivate ourselves to go out to our local bar, there’s no reason not to branch out and try something new while we’re enjoying the great indoors.

For inspiration, we asked bartenders and beverage professionals from across the country for their most underrated winter cocktails. For some, that means a variation on a classic build, while others recommend something tropical to stave off the icy blues. Whatever your tastes might be, we’ve got a sleeper hit for you.

The most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders:

  • Mezcal Negroni with Punt e Mes or amaro
  • Rum
  • Honeysuckle Hottie
  • Coquito
  • Rusty Nail
  • Jack Rose
  • Canelazo
  • Penicillin
  • Gluhwein
  • Grapefruit cocktails
  • Martinez
  • Alpine Negroni
  • Daiquiris
  • Gin Martini
  • Fog Cutter
  • Tiki cocktails
  • Elote Mezcal Old Fashioned
  • Blood and Sand

The Mezcal Negroni is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

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“I usually do a Mezcal Negroni with Punt e Mes or an amaro.” —Martin Fernandez, bar manager Rochambeau, Boston

“Not a cocktail, but a spirit: rum. People think of rum as the perfect spirit for summer or tropical cocktails, but it makes an awesome winter spirit because of the way it pairs with winter spices like cumin, clove, and cinnamon. You can make a delicious variation of an Old Fashioned using rum, spices, and Jamaican bitters.” —Cory Patterson, beverage director, Bucatino, Falmouth, Mass.

“The Honeysuckle Hottie, a vodka-and-tea-based cocktail, offers a unique twist to the traditional Hot Toddy and is a refreshing, sophisticated alternative. The combination of chamomile tea, honeysuckle vodka, and Benedictine creates a harmonious blend of flavors that is both soothing and flavorful.” —Brian Landry, chef and owner, Jack Rose + QED Hospitality, New Orleans

The Coquito is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“One of the most notorious and perhaps iconic holiday drinks is eggnog — people either love it or hate it with no in-between. But eggnog is a classic around the world, and for the naysayers, I believe it’s best to take heed of Puerto Rico’s holiday staple: Coquito. It includes rum, condensed milk, coconut milk, and a little vanilla. Make sure you check your measurements, blend, and enjoy with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.” —Donya El Shoubasi, sommelier, Asador Bastian, Chicago

The Rusty Nail is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“Maybe due to its absolutely zero-frills nature, the Rusty Nail hasn’t evolved from ironic to post-ironic anomaly like the Espresso Martini. It was simply kind of cool, and then mostly ignored. It’s primed to fill a gap: Plenty of cocktails require high effort or ingredients that are expensive or impossible to find, but the Rusty Nail isn’t about any of that. It’s just blended Scotch and Drambuie over ice, preferably not accurately measured.” —Michael Nauer, beverage director, Homemakers Bar and 50/50 Gin Club, Cincinnati

The Jack Rose is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“The Jack Rose. Shaken apple brandy, good pomegranate grenadine, and lemon. Apple brandy can be underwhelming on its own, but in a Jack Rose it screams, um… apple! The magic of the acid, sugar, and tartness from the pomegranate pulls it all together.” —Scott Stroemer, bar director, Galit, Chicago

“I would say I don’t typically see a lot of toddy variations on menus, and there are so many fun things you can make like a Canelazo, a South American-style warm drink made with rum. We make ours with spiced rum, a clove, cinnamon-spiced Demerara syrup, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It’s warming and sweet but still really balanced, and a great beverage to enjoy during the colder winter months after shoveling your driveway for an hour.” —Kodi Satra, beverage manager, Tattersall Distilling, River Falls, Wis.

The Penicillin is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“Generally, when it starts to cool down in Chicago, most people start looking for Old Fashioneds and stirred, brown-spirited cocktails. I like to brighten [things] up a little bit with a Penicillin in the winter time. The smoky Scotch adds a really nice richness to the drink, coupled with ginger-honey syrup, because ginger is good for you and the honey adds that ‘cold season’ ingredient feel. Add a little lemon juice, spritz a little peated Scotch over the top, and you have a stellar, easy-drinking winter cocktail. If you really want to get fancy with it, I have also done this with mezcal in lieu of Scotch, but I generally prefer the new classic.” —Alex Cuper, owner, El Che Steakhouse & Bar and Brasero, Chicago

Mulled Wine is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“My most underrated winter cocktail is gluhwein, also called mulled wine. We make a pot and build a solera of spice and brandy additions each day. By the end of the week, we have something that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. There is something very nostalgic about it, and it’s a great way to use a day-old bottle of red wine.” —Clarke Anderson, beverage director, Rocket Farm Restaurants, Atlanta

“I am always on a mission to remind people that citrus fruit is winter fruit. Most folks that didn’t grow up in Florida (like I did) or in Texas tend to believe that it’s summer-y. On the contrary! Lemons, oranges, and limes are all at their peak during the winter. The Rio Star grapefruit, which is what we prefer to use at Superica, [a hybrid of] the two reddest varieties: Rio Red and Star Ruby grapefruit. I [especially] love grapefruit drinks, like the Greyhound and the Paloma, in the winter when we all need that extra dose of vitamin C to fight off the germs going around. At Superica, we make a house cocktail called the Red Headed Stranger, named in honor of Willie Nelson’s album and featuring Rio Star grapefruit juice, Deep Eddy’s Ruby Red vodka, and Campari. It’s bittersweet and a perfect winter sipper.” —Lara Creasy, beverage director, Superica, Nashville

The Martinez is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“A Martinez. It’s a classic cocktail which most consider to be the reason we have modern Gin Martinis. It’s great this time a year because the swapping of dry vermouth for sweet vermouth and the addition of Maraschino liqueur gives a bit of sweetness that is comforting, and can help get you through the cold winter months.” —Kyle Kuchler, bartender, Six Seven, The Edgewater, Seattle

The Daiquiri is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“I think some of the best winter drinks are the ones that give you hope when you can’t handle one more dreary day. That’s a classic like a Daiquiri or a Margarita, but with a heartier sweetener like Demerara, sorghum, or maple. Switch out lighter spirits for a dark, ester-y rum or a reposado tequila and you’ve got a cocktail that will manifest warmer weather, but still drink perfectly and appropriately in the dead of winter.” —Sean Umstead, co-owner, Kingfisher, Durham, N.C.

“I would have to go with an Alpine Negroni. It’s a delicious, pine-forward, extra-bitter style of Negroni that I generally like served up in an extra-frosty glass. In a landscape full of Hot Toddy riffs, it’s nice to find an escape in a forest-forward Negroni. Bitters and liquor can raise the temperature just as much as a glass of hot water and whiskey.” —Nikolas Vagenas, bartender and co-owner, Mr. Melo, Brooklyn

“Look, when it’s wintertime I want it to be summertime, so I like drinking Daiquiris to try and convince myself that I am actually in a warm place even though I am in NYC where it is constantly cold and raining. Instead of using a light rum, using a rum with some age — like El Dorado 12 or Chairman’s Original — can give you a cozier feel for winter. Adding a splash of a little Jamaican rum can add a lovely little funk and bump up the ABV to keep you warmer in the winter.” —Patty Dennison, head bartender, Grand Army Bar, Brooklyn

The Gin Martini is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“In the world of winter cocktails, I’ve noticed a common belief that richness and heaviness are the keys to a satisfying drink. I’ve come to challenge this notion. Winter cocktails don’t have to adhere to the rules of rich reds, big bourbons, or brandy drinks. Instead, I propose embracing a winter-oriented Gin Martini using a gin with floral and spiced flavor notes like Douglas fir, sage, or cinnamon. Adding a twist of grapefruit to this unconventional mix brings the warmth and freshness we crave during chilly seasons.” —Jill Mott, director of wine, The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel, NYC

The Fog Cutter is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“Tiki drinks are surprisingly great winter cocktails. Anything from a Singapore Sling to a Saturn will do the trick, but my personal favorite in the winter is a Fog Cutter, which is served in a traditional mug and features London dry gin, light rum, Cognac, citrus, orgeat, and a float of sherry. I love going for tiki drinks in the winter because it feels like a little tropical vacation without actually having to book a trip. Especially living in the Pacific Northwest, it is nice to have something reminiscent of sunshine to consume!” —Brooke McKinnon, director of tasting room, Freeland Spirits Tasting Room, Portland, Ore.

“Tiki. They’re often associated with summer, but when you get right down to it, the backbone of most tiki cocktails is rum, citrus, and spice — all of which are arguably better in winter. Try a classic Mai Tai with notes of almond and bitter oranges or a Zombie with hints of cinnamon and anise.” —Erik Lombardo, general manager, Lupetto, NYC

“Our Elote Mezcal Old Fashioned is the perfect wintertime cocktail: spirit-forward, stirred, and the spice is just the ideal finish. It’s a delicious cocktail using Ilegal Reposado and nixta, a corn liqueur from Mexico that gives it this wonderful flavor and silky texture. It’s finished off with bitters and a housemade elote-seasoning tincture, which adds a hint of spice with citrusy notes.” —Evan Hawkins, owner, Romeo’s, NYC

The Blood and Sand is one of the most underrated winter cocktails, according to bartenders.

“An oft-forgotten cold-weather favorite of mine is the dramatically named Blood and Sand. The deeper, Rob Roy notes of Scotch and sweet vermouth pair especially well with the winter months, while the fruitier elements keep you coming back for another sip. Add a splash of lemon juice, give the glass a quick rinse with a peaty single malt, and you’ve got a heady, wintry sipper that promises a bright spring ahead.” —Collin Frazier, head mixologist, Great Jones Distilling Co., NYC