Drink up, stay warm

Hot drinks make for a cool winter season

Photo By David Robert

Yeah, there’s ice-climbing, snowman-making and big turkey dinners to warm you up all winter. But really, nothing does the trick as fast as a steaming hot cup of something sweet, spicy and spiked. (Or a glass of something wet, foamy and chilled in the kegerator.)

Tis the season for the sun to set earlier each day until it starts to drive us desert-dwelling-sun-seekers nuts. The impetus is upon us to find some creative ways to fill those many dark hours after 4 p.m. One way, of course, is to find creative ways to fill a glass with wintery beverages, then toast the solstice, the snow, the guy dressed up as Santa or whoever’s keeping you toasty.

Reno’s brewers, bartenders and spirit retailers have gotten a jump on the project and started preparing their signature seasonal drinks. Here’s the unofficial, non-comprehensive guide to which wintery libations are flying off shelves and flowing from taps now that there’s a substantial chill in the air.

“We’re always trying to come up with new and interesting things,” says Jessica Kleiderman, one of the owners of Satellite Cocktail Lounge. If you get bored with the usual, she’ll think of something to break the same-old, everyday vodka-tonic stride. The bar doesn’t have a printed menu touting its drink specials, but ask a bartender for something imaginative to warm your belly, and you may end up the lucky imbiber of a hot sake with butterscotch or peach flavoring.

“We also do a mulled wine. It’s a spiced, sweet hot wine with cloves and ginger,” Kleiderman says. Fresh off the drawing board is the Hot Lips, a raspberry-flavored hot toddy made with hot water, Chambord, thinly sliced lemons and a little kiss of sugar.

Satellite always honors the chilly season by pouring up Hot Apple Pies, a favorite Reno mixture of warm apple cider, Tuaca and whipped cream. Liquid dessert.

Kleiderman also has an answer for those who are less sugar-toothed: “I like bourbon, so I drink hot toddies, and we have this ginger juice that we put into it. I do a regular hot toddy with ginger added to it, so it’s ginger, honey, hot water, lemon juice and bourbon. If someone is into a hot drink, I always tell them about it.”

If you prefer to stick to the frosty, fermented stuff, brewers Mike Cronin and Trent Schmidt of Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery are putting the finishing touches on their South Hound Spiced Holiday Ale. They’re aiming for perfection, Cronin says, so there’s no release date yet.

“I don’t put anything on tap until I feel that it’s done,” he explains. “We have a rough idea, but if we feel the beer needs another day or two to taste even better, we’ll give it another day or two.” Meanwhile, he says, when it starts to get cold, his patrons tend to put down their thirst-quenching pilsners and wheat beers and start lifting the heavier, darker stuff. In wintertime, the brewery does a brisk business in the more robust porters and stouts. Later in the season, the brewers plan to release the even bigger, even darker, even stronger Big Daddy Hooch Doppelbach.

Wine drinkers, says Curtis Worrall, owner of Whispering Vine Wine Co., leave the chardonnays and sauvignon blancs in the fridge and break out the bigger flavors during the winter.

“Port wine sells really well in the wintertime,” Worrall says. “That’s got more alcohol in it; it warms you up when you drink it. When winter hits, we start selling the big blends, the hearty zinfandels and cabernets.”

He says that in December, customers gravitate toward spiced wines that are consumed warm, such as mead and its German cousin, Glühwein. Worrall confesses that these spicy libations seem to maintain their esteemed status on holiday grocery lists more out of tradition than refinement. They connote festivity, which is likely to keep their sales up.

With a glass or mug of your favorite libation warming your hands, the impending snowstorms, ice and freezing winds suddenly don’t sound so bad.