By Anna Thomas Bates | Photo By Jim Klousia 0
In Wisconsin, we don't hide out inside when the snow falls and the mercury drops. It's a white wonderland out there, and single digit temps aren't going to keep any of us from enjoying the frosted woodlands, frozen ponds or souped up snowmobiles.
But after hours in the snow, even the downiest parka begins to let the cold seep in. When that happens, it’s time to head inside and enjoy a crackling fire and a hot—possibly boozy—drink.
Cozy blankets warm from the outside, but nothing warms the inside like a winter beverage. The drink may be piping hot, or it may have a bracing hit of alcohol (or both). Either way, the heat travels from your mouth to your stomach…and then creeps to your fingers and toes making your soul and spirit toasty-warm.
Alcohol makes your blood vessels widen and blood flow increase, bringing a pleasant flush to the skin. Imbibing a straight hot beverage may not physically raise your body temperature, but it sure feels like it.
Winter moves farmers markets indoors and last summer’s gardens and fields look like the Arctic tundra, but preservation and value-added products ensure there is plenty of local bounty to add to your glass.
The recipes here take advantage of Wisconsin’s fruit, either whole or processed into cider and wine. Honey and dairy are plentiful all year. Coupled with the bright note of winter citrus and the warm nose of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and other spices, a local winter drink repertoire is not difficult to pull off.
Whether you are hosting a holiday open house, a New Year’s Eve blowout, or need something to warm up the kids after ice skating, Hot Buttered Cider or the Wisconsin Bishop can be left to gently simmer on a back burner, filling the room with their spicy aromas.
Warm feelings become portable with a well-insulated thermos. Pack a simple winter picnic with cheese, hearty bread, salumi and cookies for dessert. Noshing and cradling a warm mug in your hand while braving the elements is a magical experience.
Is it time to go home already? Well, maybe just a half a drink more. With these warm Wisconsin beauties, how can you refuse?
Hot Buttered Cider: This is a sweet, non-alcoholic riff on hot buttered rum. Using local cider and a rich, salted butter makes it all the more delicious. (And no one’s telling if you add some rum.)
The Wisconsin Bishop: This is a British spiced wine, Wisconsin-ified. The English Bishop was what Scrooge mixed up on Christmas Day after his revelation. Serve warm, room temperature, or slightly cooled, depending upon the weather or your mood. I used Wollersheim Winery’s port.
Cranberry Milk Punch: Milk punch is a colonial cocktail that is now commonly served at brunch in New Orleans. Today’s version is a simple concoction of milk, alcohol, sugar and spices served cold. This version is true to its historical roots—milk is heated then added to sugar and citrus juice to curdle. The curdled milk is filtered out, resulting in a spicy, sweet, boozy drink that is blushed with Wisconsin cranberries and richened with our state’s most famous drink, milk.
Cold-Kicker: When winter slams you with a head cold, this drink is a welcome respite in a mug. When I’m sick, it clears up my congestion for the evening. Serve very hot, preferably with raw, local honey. The full amount of ginger brings a healthy burn—use the smaller amount if you prefer a less spicy drink.