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Texas spirits: 5 cocktails to keep you warm

By Gabrielle Pharms
Special to the American-Statesman

When it comes to crafting the best cocktail ever, you need two things: a quality spirit and fresh ingredients. Texas isn’t short on top-notch, award-winning spirits. So really, it’s all about tapping into your inner bartender and allowing the spirit of choice to do the rest.

One of the most fascinating things about Texas winters is the often 30-degree temperature shift in the course of a day. In the morning, you might be aching for something warm and comforting, and by the early evening, mild temperatures will call for a more refreshing, iced beverage.

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Though happy hours look a little different these days (hello, Zoom and FaceTime), you can still enjoy these drinks in the virtual company of your loved ones. From cocktails highlighting robust whiskey to citrusy sotol, there’s surely a drink that will suit your palate. These five cocktails feature spirits including vodka, gin, whiskey and sotol, with recommended Texas-made brands; you can use your brand of choice, of course. Cheers!

This version of eggnog is a spirit-forward cocktail created by Still Austin Whiskey Co.

Still (Egg) Nog

You can’t go through the season without having at least one glass of tasty eggnog. It’s a wintry rite of passage. This rich recipe, crafted by Austin-based distillery Still Austin Whiskey Co., is not for the faint of heart. It’s a spirit-forward beverage that isn’t overboard on the sweet note, which is something we can appreciate.

Ingredients:

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup Still Austin Bourbon

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla and slowly bring mixture to a low boil.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until yolks are pale in color.

Slowly add hot milk mixture to egg yolks in batches to temper the eggs and whisk until combined.

Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat until slightly thick and coats the back of a spoon but does not boil. (If using a candy thermometer, mixture should reach 160 degrees.)

Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, add Still Austin Straight Bourbon and garnish with ground or freshly grated nutmeg.

Per the distillery, “It’s totally OK to cheat and buy your favorite bottled eggnog instead of the above directions.”

Try sipping the sotol chilled while crafting this seasonal rita.

Seasonal River Rita

Provided by Driftwood distillery Desert Door Texas Sotol, the Seasonal River Rita is an elevated cocktail that’s super easy to create at home. The earthy and bright flavor profile from the sotol combined with the subtle sweet juices is perfection in a glass. Note: We love to drink this complex sotol neat and chilled *while* crafting the rita. This recipe makes 8-10 servings.

Ingredients:

15 ounces Desert Door Original Texas Sotol

15 ounces white cranberry juice

5 ounces fresh lime juice

2 1/2 ounces agave nectar

Rosemary, cranberries and salt (optional)

Add juices, sotol and agave to punch bowl or pitcher. Stir vigorously.

Top with cranberries and rosemary. Optionally, salt the rims of serving glasses. Voila! You’re ready to enjoy.

Winter Gin & Tonic

This VinePair recipe is crafted by Natalie Migliarini, and we recommend trying it with Dripping Springs-based Treaty Oak Distilling's Waterloo No. 9 Gin. Usually, gin and tonics are associated with summertime. With a little bit of orange juice, cloves and allspice, this cool libation will have you feeling warm in no time.

Ingredients:

2 ounces Treaty Oak Waterloo No. 9 Gin

2 ounces tonic water

1/2 ounce spiced simple syrup (recipe follows)

1/2 ounce orange juice

1 1/2 cups ice

For the spiced simple syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 teaspoon whole allspice

1 teaspoon whole cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

To make the simple syrup:

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Simmer mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Cool mixture, then strain.

To make the cocktail:

Combine gin, tonic water, spiced simple syrup, orange juice and cup of ice into mixing glass.

Stir softly to mix ingredients together.

Strain into wine glass over fresh ice.

Garnish with whole cloves, whole allspices and orange slice.

— Natalie Migliarini, VinePair

Pecan Old Fashioned

Pecans, whiskey and bitters — it doesn’t get any more Texas than that. Crafted by Brenda Fisher, tasting room manager at Milam & Greene, as part of the distillery’s 12 days of cocktails takeover on Instagram, the Pecan Old Fashioned is definitely our new go-to wintry treat. This cocktail manifests a confectionary je ne sais quoi that has us glowing from the inside out.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 ounces Milam & Greene Triple Cask Bourbon

1/3 ounce pecan cordial

3 dashes Angostura bitters

Lemon peel and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients into a serving glass and stir with a big ice cube.

Add garnish and enjoy!

When it's cold outside, stay warm indoors with a Tito's Hot Chocolate.

Tito’s Hot Chocolate

No winter cocktail list is complete without a boozy hot chocolate recipe. It only calls for two ingredients: vodka and hot chocolate. Well, three additional ingredients – whipped cream, mint sprig, or a cinnamon stick –  if you’re feeling extra festive. Everything tastes better with a little Tito’s.

Ingredients:

1.5 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka

4 ounces hot chocolate

Add Tito’s Handmade Vodka and hot chocolate to a mug.

Garnish with whipped cream and mint sprig or cinnamon stick.