As the temperature continues to drop in the Merrimack Valley, folks are looking for ways to stay warm. ’Tis the season for dusting off our sweaters, donning fashionable scarves, and pulling those comfy woolen mittens from the back of the closet. For our money, the best defense against the cold is mounting a strong offense in liquid form, imbibing hot cocktails that’ll warm up even the frostiest New Englander.
We’ve scoured restaurants in the Merrimack Valley, sampling every pumpkin sugar rim (in the name of research, of course), and found incredible drinks designed to keep your insides cozy. And, as a boozy bonus, we’ve included full recipes for each of these craft creations so you can take the DIY approach and build a fire in your belly, cinnamon stick by cinnamon stick, from the comfort of your own home.
As the bar manager at Horseshoe Grille, a family-owned restaurant and watering hole that’s let loyal patrons drink and be merry for nearly a century, Peter “Werm” Wermecke relies on his 15 years of behind-the-bar experience to concoct his seasonal bar menus. “As far as creativity goes, anyone can make an espresso martini, but I like to do things that you won’t get anywhere else,” he says. “I like to make the drinks easy to make for the bartenders, but we do a lot of prep work ahead of time.” Depending on the time of year, Werm moves from local “fall festival and harvest” flavors like pumpkin and apple to “more cranberry-oriented cocktails” during the winter. His flavorful creation delivers a twist on classic combinations and promises to envelop barflies like a warm hug.
WARM FLANNEL TODDY
1 1/2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
5 ounces hot tea (orange pekoe seems to work best, imparting softer tannins)
1 ounce spiced apple coulis
Garnish with a cinnamon stick and apple wheel. Drizzle lightly with caramel sauce.
SPICED APPLE COULIS
6 cups apple cider 2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole nutmeg 1/2 cup brown sugar
Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring often until reduced to a maple syrup consistency. Add brown sugar a little at a time. Do not allow to boil or the apple pectins may solidify.
Peter “Werm” Wermecke
Assistant General Manager / Bar Manager, Horseshoe Grille
North Reading, Mass.