Cold days ask for warm drinks

By Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi For me, January is the cruelest month. When winter first descends there is cheer with the festive season and powdery snow. By the middle of January, I long for warmer longer days of spring.

Sometimes a warm boozy drink can take the edge off a frosty January evening. My favorite kind of midwinter day is bookended with hot green tea as soon as I wake up and cinnamon brandy with a splash of boiling water before I go to bed.

There is a hot drink for every occasion: Mexican hot chocolate with rum for Sunday brunch. Bourbon, bitters and honey in a cup of chamomile tea while watching late-night television. Vanilla-infused hot milk with a shot of herbal Benedictine when you tuck yourself in.

Traditionally hot drinks have been served around the world in wintertime, with wine as the base. Certain types of sake in Japan are only served warm. Fruit, wine and spices make a delicious combination in may parts of the world. In Scandinavia, glogg is a classic warmer. Mulled spiced wine is served on the streets of Germany at Christmastime. In Britain a rough recipe for mulling wine was published in 1869 (in Mrs Beaton's Book of Household Management). Classic Chilean navegado (from the local word for 'to sail') contains sweet wine with slices of orange, almonds and raisins. Vin fiert, the Romanian version, has apple slices along with orange and cinnamon.

Moving on from wine, Irish coffee contains whiskey, brandy goes in toddy, and hot, buttered rum contains rum.

Cocktails come a close second to desserts in being able to shock, surprise and thrill all five senses. My approach to creating them is to think like a perfumer. What spices and citrus oils suffuse the senses when you lift the glass to your mouth? With heat, aromas become stronger and more volatile. What is the first taste on the tip of your tongue? What lingers on the sides and back of your palate a few minutes after the last sip? Warmth enhances sweetness and spice. For example, try muddled strawberries and peppercorns in warmed vodka, the rim of the glass rubbed with the skin of an orange. The same drink, chilled, tastes quite different.

Hot cocktails are also easier to show off at parties, since they can be built or layered. The heavy liqueur, coffee, or chocolate goes at the bottom, a lighter alcohol floats on the top and then maybe, a swirl of whipped cream and a flaming twist of orange zest can complete the dressing and provide the top notes. Served in a tall glass or a mason jar, a hot drink can provide both deliciousness and drama.

Here are a few recipes that help me lower my shoulders from my ears and melt me inside out.

Grog My version uses a splash of orange juice in addition to golden rum, lemon juice, sugar and spices. One shot golden rum Juice of one lemon Two tablespoons orange juice One tablespoon brown sugar Two cloves A pinch of nutmeg powder A mug of boiling water Cinnamon stick

Put the first six ingredients into a large bowl-shaped mug. Pour boiling water into the mug. Swirl with cinnamon stick.

Ginger Toddy The warm spices in this drink make it taste like an Eastern herbal potion that could warm the coldest chest. Half-inch knob of fresh ginger 1 teaspoon of chopped lemongrass leaves 1 tbsp honey Bourbon Hot water

Muddle the first three ingredients in an Irish coffee glass. Add bourbon and hot water. Stir.