5 Spicy Cocktails to Warm You Up

Booze, spice and everything nice


Despite the freak snowstorm in October, this time last November we found ourselves walking outside to warmth, sunshine and no snow in sight. This year, late fall is as it should be: chilly, windy, and bitter enough that a light jacket will not do. As the seasons change, so does our change of pace when it comes to the cocktails in which we indulge.

The upcoming late autumn and winter months are begging for drinks that will warm up your chilled bones. Swap out the late-summer and early-fall flavors of cucumber and strawberry for blackberry and cherry, and throw in flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Don’t be afraid to kick it up a notch with some truly hot add-ins, too. Spicy ingredients like jalapeno peppers, cayenne and even serrano chilis will keep those insides nice and toasty. With these late fall-friendly ingredients, we can mix up some truly warming cocktails, each with a nice spice to keep you chill-free on colder nights.

Spiced Cider image via Shutterstock
Below are a few spicy cocktails to warm you up. All feature the most seasonal of ingredients and the best spices with which to warm up. Cheers, and happy cocktailing!

Spiced Holiday Punch


6 cups apple juice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
12 cloves
1 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups cranberry juice
Sparkling wine


Bring the apple juice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon stick to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, then cool the mixture slightly and chill. In a large pitcher, combine the mixture with the cranberry juice. Fill individual glasses partway with the juice mixture and top with sparkling wine.

Spicy Rum Punch


1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
6 star anise
4 3-inch cinnamon sticks
2 64-ounce bottles cranberry-pineapple juice drink
2 cups dark rum (We recommend Bacardi Oakheart)
4 12-ounce bottles ginger beer


In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine the first five ingredients. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl and discard the solids. Chill completely. Mix in the rum and ginger beer just before serving.

The Burning Mandarin

Katsuya, Brentwood, CA

2 thin slices fresh serrano pepper, divided                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1 1/2 ounces mandarin vodka (We recommend Absolut Mandarin)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 orange wedge


In a cocktail shaker, muddle one slice of serrano pepper. Add in the vodka, lemon and orange juices, simple syrup and cranberry juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously until combined. Use the orange wedge to rim a rocks glass and dip the glass into the sugar. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Coat the remaining slice of serrano in the additional sugar. Float on the drink as a garnish.

Medicine Man

Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco, CA

2 ounces white rum (We recommend 10 Cane White Rum)
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 sage leaves, divided


In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, paprika and three sage leaves. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the leftover sage leaf.

Celtic Smash

Bourbon and Branch, San Francisco, CA

For the Honey Syrup

1 cup honey
1/2 cup boiling water

For the Smash

1 1/2 ounces Glenrothes Alba Reserve Whiskey
3/4 ounce Benedictine
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce honey syrup
2 orange slices


Combine the honey and boiling water in a heatproof bowl. Whisk the honey until it is completely dissolved. Let cool.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the whiskey, benedictine, lemon juice, honey syrup, orange slices and mint leaves. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and strain into an old fashioned glass with large ice cubes. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

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