10 Of the Best Winter Drinks and Cocktails To Stay Warm (and What Foods to Pair Them With)

It’s cold outside, and the best way to combat winter weather is with a warming drink. But leave the hot chocolate for the kids, and instead, opt for a strong red wine, some bubbly, or even a spirit for a little extra heat. From sherry to mulled wine and scotch, these are our recommendations for beverages you should be indulging in this winter.

Best Winter Cocktails and Drink Recommendations
Mulled wine can be concocted in a variety of ways, and makes for the perfect hot alcoholic beverage to enjoy fireside during the winter season.

Mulled Wine

Call it what you want: glühwein, vino caliente, or vin chaud, but hot wine is one of the best ways to warm up, especially if you’re outdoors during inclement weather. Simmer up a batch for a holiday party or for a romantic night in with your significant other. Mulled wine is easy to make at home, and you can add pretty much whatever you want to it. Common ingredients include wine, brandy, oranges, cinnamon sticks, lemon, sugar or maple syrup, and anise. Mix, heat, and flavor to taste with additional spices and fruits as needed. 

The joy of mulled wine? It can be paired with almost anything — or you can drink it alone, too! But here at Winetraveler, we prefer to pair it with equally strong and warming foods, like beef stew, blue cheese, or ravioli.

Moscato d’Asti

This Italian sparkling white wine is a dessert wine hailing from the province of Asti in Italy. Made from the Moscato Bianco grape, Moscato d’Asti is sweet and has a low alcohol content, apt for those wanting to enjoy a little extra of this dessert wine without getting too tipsy. 

Pair this dessert wine with savory foods like cheeses or cured meats — the salt content will balance the sweetness of this drink. Or, serve it alongside winter-inspired desserts with cardamom or ginger. Our top choices would be ginger snaps or carrot cake.


RELATED: Explore the Sparkling Styles and Regions of Asti and Moscato d’Asti


Sauternes Wine Winter Drinks
These raisiny-looking grapes found in France’s southern Bordeaux region yield one of the most delicious, unfortified sweet wines in the world.

Sauternes

Drinking ‘rotten’ wine sounds terrible — but not when the rot is noble! This unique French style of sweet wine comes from grapes suffering from Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. This causes the grapes to become raisined, relieving them of the majority of their water content, therefore concentrating and enhancing the remaining sugar and flavors.

Sauternes can be paired with a wide variety of dishes and desserts. You can either opt for lighter, fruity treats such as pear tarts, peach pie, apricot cheesecake, or even roasted pineapple. Alternatively, it’s famously known as an excellent complement to foie gras and other liver-based appetizers. Lastly, one secret pairing Winetraveler discovered while visiting the incredible region of Sauternes in Bordeaux, is that it works remarkably well alongside sushi and sashimi. Give it a try and let us know what you think!


RELATED: 30 Top Bordeaux Wineries You Can’t Miss on Your Next Trip to France


Amaretto

This Italian liqueur comes from Saronno, made from almonds and fruits like peaches or apricots. Ingest Amaretto cautiously as it contains around 25% alcohol. Serve this versatile drink as an aperitif, dessert, with food, or over ice. It’s also ideal to add into sangria or to make cocktails with, the most famous of which is an Amaretto Sour.

Pair Amaretto with any of those leftover holiday cookies, forest fruits like raspberries, or chocolate-inspired desserts.

Best Winter Alcoholic Drink: Single Malt Scotch
Single Malt Scotch is one of our favorite choices for a strong spirit during the winter season.

Single Malt Scotch

This strong whiskey comes from Scotland, and in order to be considered single malt, it must be distilled with a pot still distillation method at a single distillery and made from malted barley.

Drink single malt scotch all by its lonesome — the strong flavors allow it to be enjoyed both neat or with a drop or two of water (which helps to diffuse the aromas). But if you’d prefer to pair it with food, try something with high-fat content, like cheese, grilled meat, or olives. Smoked salmon also makes for an excellent pairing alongside single malt.


RELATED: 10 Best Scotch Distilleries To Visit in Scotland


Sherry

Close your eyes when sipping sherry, and imagine you’re in Heminway’s Spain enjoying the magic of Andalusia. These fortified wines come from Jerez de la Frontera, a town in southern Spain known for horses, flamenco, and sherry production. Fino is the lightest and most traditional variety, and other kinds include Manzanilla, Oloroso, and Amontillado.

Enjoy sherry on its own, or pair it with savory kinds of seafood, Spanish cured ham, olives, or anything tomato-based. The sherry’s sweet lightness brings out the acidity of the tomatoes and pairs perfectly with Mediterranean-style dishes.


RELATED: The Complete Guide to Sherry Wine and the Sherry Triangle


Shiraz (Syrah)

Winter calls for full-bodied, strong red wine. Shiraz (also known as Syrah) we believe hails from the Rhône region of France, but is now produced in many New World wine regions within Australia and South Africa. With bold fruit, peppery spice and chocolate flavors, Syrah is a warming red wine that can be sipped at holiday dinners, on its own for a Valentine’s Day treat, or to warm up during a winter snowstorm.

Shiraz’s peppery boldness pairs well with grilled meats, cured cheeses, and other meats like duck, lamb, or well-seasoned turkey with gravy.


RELATED: Pros Share Wine and Dessert Pairing Ideas for Valentine’s Day


Baileys Irish Cream

Baileys is a creamy liqueur made from Irish Whiskey, cream, and cocoa. While you can sip this comforting drink alone, it’s used to make fancy cocktails like mudslides or white Russians. Baileys can also be paired with snack items like cherries or unsalted nuts. 

One of the most creative ways to give your winter desserts a warming touch is to add Baileys. You can add it to things like brownies or cakes, and it’s especially delectable when mixed into coffee.

Port Wine: What to drink in winter to stay warm
Port wine, a fortified beverage crafted in Portugal, makes for an ideal winter drink to enjoy by itself or with a rich dessert.

Port

This Portuguese fortified wine is one of the most warming drinks on this list. With varying options like white, ruby, and tawny, take your pick of a lighter white aperitif, a full-bodied red, or the most warming, nutty, wood-aged sweet red. For a serious winter celebration, consider a vintage Port, which is aged in a barrel as well as in the bottle, too.

Drink Port all on its own, pre or post-meal, or enjoy alongside chocolate, cheese, or olives.


RELATED: 11 Delicious Facts About Port Wine and Fortified Wine


Roussane

Winter doesn’t have to be just about red varieties and warming spirits. You can also sip on white wine such as Roussane which comes from the Rhône Valley in France. It’s similar to French wines like Viognier and Marsanne but slightly more acidic. 

Roussane is sort of a holiday in a wine bottle. You’ll catch wintery notes like sweet anise, chamomile, nuts, herbs, and spices, giving you those Thanksgiving and Christmas vibes well after the holiday season ends. Its acidity works well with creamy pasta sauces, veal, pork, and foie gras. 

What to Drink During the Winter

Each wine, spirit or cocktail mentioned on this list is perfect for a cold winter day. But when it comes to winter sipping, drink what you love! You’ll feel warm and happy when you’re enjoying your favorite drinks, whether they’re summery mojitos or rosé, fall wines, or winter spirits.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lori Zaino is a travel expert that's lived in Madrid, Spain for over a decade. A self-taught oenophile and culinary connoisseur, she's just as comfortable backpacking through Latin America's wine country as she is demurely sipping Champagne in French castles.

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