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Brown booze, red wine raise winter spirits

4 min read



Cocktail fans turn to hot toddies, tipplers sip warm brown whiskies and wine drinkers often put away the rosé in favor of something deep and red to keep the winter chill at bay. It may be meyer lemon season and time for light aperitifs on the west coast, but in colder climates cocktail fans seek out beverages to warm them up inside and out.

“They’re going for a lot of the same things that they’ve been going for for a while, a lot of bourbon and whiskey, but they’re getting a lot more creative this winter,” said Adrian Watson, owner of mobile bartending service VIP Mixologists.

Aged rums are growing in popularity as people get more adventurous, he said, and hot eggnogs, ciders and exotic liqueurs in flavors like pomegranate are pleasing more palates. One new specialty for VIP, which serves cocktails made with fresh, organic ingredients, is a hot cider made with fresh apples, cinnamon and aged rum, and another is a chai tea spiked with bourbon and cinnamon.

“Cinnamon is such a winter spice, and cloves as well. And straight bourbon too and whiskey, those are classic across the board for winter time — that hasn’t changed either, but we’re just incorporating more interesting liqueurs as well.

“But mainly now, it’s the visuals,” Watson said. “With the new hot drinks, the glasses are more fancy and appealing to the eye, so when you look at them, you want to drink them.”

Watson is based in New York City, where this week’s cold and snow turned residents’ minds to warm, fortifying beverages.

Stories about long lines outside New York City’s supermarkets didn’t tell the whole story — Manhattanites were stocking the bar as well as the fridge. As dire warnings about the blizzard of the century filled the Manhattan airwaves Monday, residents turned to local liquor stores to stock up on their favorite warming wines and spirits. At Financial District Wine & Liquor, several trends were in play, said sales representative Norman Bent.

While plenty of customers were opting for their standard vodka, many others were opting for whiskies and other brown spirits that are traditional for warming the winter season, as well as red wines, he said. And there was definitely a generation gap — millennials were choosing vodkas while baby boomers were more likely to stock up on whiskey and wine.

And, while many patrons pick out seasonal spirits, many others stick to what they know and love, even the white and rosé wines that scream summer to the rest of us, he said. In fact, so many customers fell in love with the Miraval Rosé owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that the store stocks it year-round. “People love what they love,” he said.

New mobile applications like Drizly and Minibar that offer home delivery reveal that a growing number of customers who opt for home delivery instead of shopping in the store stick to what they know and enjoy, he said, and many simply create a standard order that they refill on a regular basis.

Minibar launched in New York City a year ago next week, and it has since expanded to new markets including Los Angeles, Dallas and Miami. Sales have doubled each quarter since the launch of the app, which teams up with local liquor stores to fill orders. In New York on Monday, orders were up nearly 300% over a typical Monday as app users braced for the big storm, said co-founder and co-CEO Lindsey Andrews.

This time of year red wines are proving popular, she said, along with bourbons and whiskies. She agrees with Bent that many of the app’s users are creatures of habit who stick with what they know and like, but for many that means opting for seasonal choices within a category — wine drinkers stick with wine, but many will shift to the rich cabernets and pinot noirs from the lighter whites they like in the summer, she said.

Whatever they’re ordering, one thing is clear — weather like the city saw this week is a big boost for Minibar’s business.

“When it’s colder and the weather’s more miserable, we see a spike in orders. When it’s nicer, people are more willing to go out and enjoy the day or meet friends instead of staying at home.”


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