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Mastering Home Bartending: Top Cocktails to Shake Up Your Winter Nights

Chez Cocktail: Taking Home Bartending and Decadent Cocktails to New Heights

Now that winter is in full swing, the appeal of staying in grows stronger and stronger. But why brave the cold and eventual snow to enjoy a pricey drink at a bar when you can delve into home bartending and make your own quality drink right at home? As a seasoned bartender, I’ve curated a few fun drinks that are perfect for your home bartending adventures, ensuring you can enjoy both making and drinking them with ease and pleasure!

Death in the Afternoon

For a light, bubbly option to keep us in the festive spirit, we can look to a drink made famous by American author Ernest Hemingway! Summertime can keep his daiquiris. Winter is the perfect season for his creative bubbler, Death in the Afternoon. Deliciously effervescent despite its weighty name, this drink requires only two ingredients – absinthe and champagne! Now, a purist would stop there, but I love adding a lemon twist for an extra flavor. Just don’t tell Hemingway; it’ll be our little secret.

You can enjoy this bubbly beverage in a champagne flute or a coupe glass if you want to lean into the prohibition aesthetic. Differeglassware shapes will change this drink’s textures, with a narrower opening that will concentrate the number of bubbles, while a wider opening will disperse them. 

Spiced Old-Fashioned

A Spiced Old-Fashioned is another classic cocktail to add to your home bartending repertoire. I love to use bourbon in an old-fashioned, but if you’re feeling frisky, you could reach for a peppery rye or even an aged dark rum. A mainstay for any home bartender is going to be your bitters. A great way to think of bitters is as a bartender’s seasoning – extra punches of flavor that create a complex taste and mouthfeel.

Add a couple of dashes of each orange and aromatic bitt in your bourbon of choice and a touch of homemade spiced simple syrup in a short glass.

Finish with ice and a good stir, then top it off with a lemon peel!

Adding the expressed lemon peel provides a nice balance to the spices in the simple syrup and bitters. 

Irish Coffees

Irish Coffees are always a delicious and easy drink you can make at home, but we can do better than just pouring some whiskey into a cup of coffee. To spruce up this cocktail, we will make a brown sugar and cinnamon simple syrup and top it off with a boozy whipped cream.

A secret ingredient I love adding to this simple syrup is cayenne pepper! A great bartender I worked with gave me this tip, and now I swear by it: the cayenne heightens the cinnamon and brown sugar flavor, helping it build on the baking spices within the bourbon itself.

The boozy whipped topping is a delicious and indulgent element that adds a silky mouthfeel and cuts some of the acidity from the coffee. This cocktail is perfect for a lazy Sunday, curled up in front of the fireplace, watching the snow fall, or reading a great book. 

Foggy Lake

This last cocktail, I’m calling the Foggy Lake, is an ode to Ohio’s proximity to Lake Erie and is a play on a lavender London Fog. This drink does take the longest to make due to the bourbon and milk infusions, but it is worth the effort! Since we’ll be infusing the whiskey, we don’t need to reach for the higher quality liquor we used for the old-fashioned or the spiked coffee cocktail; anything that would be a “well liquor” in a bar or lower on store shelves will work just fine.

The infusion process is too simple: add two to three Earl Grey tea bags into your bottle of whiskey and let the tea bags do their magic for a couple of days. The infused miltake only takes you about 20-30 minutes, too. If you aren’t a fan of lavender, you can skip this step, but skeptics be warned it’s supremely delicious. Once all the elements are made, you can enjoy this drink two ways: either chilled on the rocks or with some added hot water for an authenticate London Fog replica. 

I hope you have fun making these cocktails! Bartending and building flavor profiles is always a subjective experience. For sweeter drinks, you can add more or less of the simple syrups for your tastes if you favor a more bitter flavor profile. Happy sipping! Cheers! 

Cocktail Recipes For The Home Bartender

Death in the Afternoon

  • 1 oz. absinthe 
  • 4 oz. champagne or sparkling white wine 

In a champagne flute or coupe, pour in 1 ounce of absinthe. Fill the rest of the glass with champagne, around 4 ounces, depending on the glass size. Vertically peel off a piece of lemon rind and express the oils into your champagne flute before rubbing the peel around the rim of the glass. Drop the peel in the glass and enjoy! 

Spiced Old-Fashioned 

  • 2 oz. spirit of choice (bourbon, rye, or rum)
  • .5-1 oz. of spiced simple syrup 
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters
  • 2 dashes of aromatic bitters 
  • Spiced Simple Syrup: 
  • ½ cup white sugar 
  • ½ cup boiling Water 
  • 2 tablespoons whole mulling spices 

To make the simple syrup, combine equal parts boiling water and equal parts sugar, stirring until thoroughly combined. Once the syrup is fully mixed, add in your mulling spices and let it steep until the syrup comes to room temperature. Strain out the mulling spices, and then store them in the refrigerator. Combine all ingredients with the cocktail and ice into a short glass, and stir to incorporate flavors. Enjoy! 

Cozy Coffee

  • 1.5 oz. Bourbon 
  • .75 oz. brown sugar cinnamon syrup 
  • 4-6 oz. Coffee, depending on the mug size
  • 3 oz. boozy whipped cream  
  • Brown Sugar Cinnamon Simple Syrup:
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup boiling water 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • Boozy Whipped Cream:
  • ½ cup Irish or bourbon cream of choice 
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream 

Make the simple syrup and let it cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon sticks once they are cooled and store in the refrigerator. For the whipped cream, use a milk frother or a hand mixer to blend the two ingredients until soft peaks form. Store in the refrigerator.

To make the cocktail, add the bourbon and syrup into your coffee mug before pouring it into your coffee. Leave about a quarter to half an inch for your whipped cream in the mug. Carefully spoon the whipped cream on top of the coffee mixture. Enjoy!

Foggy Lake:

  • 2 oz. earl grey whiskey  
  • 1 oz. vanilla simple syrup 
  • 2 oz. lavender infused milk  
  • 4 Fourz. boiling water (optional)
  • Earl Grey Whiskey:
    • 2-3 Earl Grey tea bags 
    • 750 ml – 1000 ml whiskey of choice
  • Vanilla simple syrup:
    • ½ cup white sugar
    • ½ cup boiling water
    • 1-3 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • Lavender Infused Milk:
    • 1-2 teaspoons lavender flowers 
    • 1-2 cups milk of choice 

For the infused whiskey, pour out a few ounces of your base whiskey to make room for the tea bags. Tie the tea bags together and carefully insert them into the bottle keeping the ends out, place the cap back on the bottle so the ends of the strings remain out holding the teabags in place. Set the bottle aside and let infuse for 2-3 days before making the other ingredients.

Make the simple syrup as you would the others, adding the vanilla extract after the sugar and water are thoroughly combined, letting it cool to room temperature, and storing it in the refrigerator.

To make the lavender milk, bring the milk to a boil before adding in the lavender flowers, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Be careful not to let the milk scald. I recommend stirring occasionally.

For the chilled version of the cocktail, add the first three ingredients to a short glass with ice, give a good stir, and enjoy! For the hot version, add all ingredients to a mug and enjoy! 

Mastering home bartending is an art that brings warmth and flavor to your winter nights. With these five unique cocktails, you’re creating experiences and memories right in the comfort of your home. Whether it’s the effervescent charm of Death in the Afternoon or the soothing richness of the Foggy Lake, each cocktail offers a distinct taste of joy and sophistication. So, gather your ingredients, embrace the spirit of mixology, and toast to the delightful journey of home bartending. Cheers to many more nights filled with exquisite cocktails and cozy moments!

If you are experiencing cabin fever and looking to have someone else pour your drinks, visit the winter edition of Compass Ohio, Find Your Winter Spirit, and discover unique breweries, distilleries, and wineries across Ohio and beyond.

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