3 Slow-Cooker Cocktails Perfect for Cold Winter Nights

Your favorite kitchen appliance is also genius when it comes to cocktails. Plug in your slow cooker for these boozy beverages perfect for a holiday party.
Andrew Purcell

I love a warm cocktail in the wintertime. But when you keep a pot of spiced wine going on the stovetop, it’s hard to keep the heat low enough so that the drink doesn’t taste overly cooked and reduced. Also, alcohol burns off at about 170°F, so if there’s booze in that simmering pot, it has lost its potency.

The solution: Serve a cocktail in a slow cooker set on warm. It’s the perfect temperature for sipping and for maintaining the alcohol’s pop. In the unlikely event of leftovers, all these cocktails keep well in the fridge for at least a week and can also be served chilled.

1. Swedish Spiced White Wine with Almonds

(Far left, above)

This aromatic cocktail with cardamom, ginger, and orange and makes a refreshing change from more common (and, let’s be honest, kind of dull) mulled red wine. The slivered almonds give a gentle flavor and crunch.

1 Tbs. green cardamom pods

4 cinnamon sticks

One 2-inch ginger knob, peeled and sliced into thin planks

12 whole cloves

1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Two 3-inch strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler

1½ cups sugar

Two 750-ml bottles dry white wine

1 cup dry rosé

1 cup vodka

½ cup slivered blanched almonds

  1. Put the cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves on a piece of cheese­cloth and tie it into a bundle using kitchen twine or a thin strip of cheesecloth. Put the bundle into a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Using a sharp paring knife, halve the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and add the bean halves and seeds to the slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Set the slow cooker on LOW and cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to WARM and cook for an­other 30 minutes to infuse the aromatics into the wine and warm the cocktail through.
  1. Uncover, remove and discard the cheesecloth, vanilla bean halves, and zest strips with a slotted spoon, and serve from the slow cooker with the setting still on WARM.

MAKES ABOUT 12 SERVINGS

2. Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate

(second from left, above)

Traditional Mexican hot chocolate is more complex and aromatic than its American counterpart. This big-batch, slow-cooker version is flavored with vanilla, almond, warm spices like cinnamon, and a little bit of cayenne. You can make the hot chocolate ahead through step 1 and then refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Pour it into the slow cooker and reheat on WARM until it’s warmed through, about 1 hour. Whisk to smooth it out and proceed with step 2.

14 oz. dark or bittersweet (about 70% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped (about 3 cups)

½ cup packed light brown sugar, plus more to taste

3 cinnamon sticks

Generous pinch of kosher salt

1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract

1 to 2 tsp. almond extract, to taste

½ tsp. nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne, plus more for topping

Whipped cream and cocoa powder, for topping (both optional)

Mezcal or tequila, 1.5 oz. per serving (3 Tbs.), for spiking (optional)

  1. Combine the milk, chocolate, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and salt in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Whisk well, then cover and cook on LOW heat until the chocolate is melted, about 1 hour. Whisk vigorously until the mix­ture is smooth.
  1. Reduce the heat to WARM and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, and cayenne. Taste and whisk in a little more sugar if you would prefer it sweeter. Serve from the slow cooker, still set on WARM, and if desired, top each mug with whipped cream, a light dusting of cocoa, and cayenne. Spike with mezcal or tequila if you’d like.

MAKES ABOUT 10 SERVINGS

3. Warm Triple-Citrus Bourbon Punch

(Second from right, above)

This is for occasions when a real cocktail is called for: It’s boozy and not too sweet, very citrusy. In the first step, you macerate orange peel and sugar to make an aromatic sugar called oleo saccharum, which is a fancy ye olde cocktail term for oily sugar. It punches up the orange flavor substantially.

Zest of 1 orange, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler

⅓ cup sugar

3 cups orange juice

1 cup grapefruit juice

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more if necessary

4 thin lemon slices

¼ cup honey, plus more to taste

10 whole cloves

4 cups bourbon

2 tsp. orange curaçao (optional)

10 dashes of bitters, preferably orange bitters, but any kind will do

Orange wheels or twists, for serving (optional)

  1. Combine the orange zest strips and the sugar in a zip-top bag. Close the bag and massage the mixture to combine. Let it sit at room temperature, massaging once or twice, for at least 5 hours. (You can also throw the bag into the fridge and let it sit for up to 2 weeks before using it.)
  1. Scrape all the sugar and syrup off the orange zest strips and put the sugar and syrup into a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Discard the orange zest strips. Add 2½ cups water; the orange, grapefruit, and lemon juices; lemon slices; honey; and cloves. Cover and cook on HIGH until hot, 1 to 2 hours.
  1. Reduce the heat to WARM and pour in the bourbon, curaçao (if desired), and bitters. Stir to combine and taste. Add more honey and/or water if the cocktail is too acidic for you or more lemon juice if you’d like it tang­ier. Serve from the slow cooker, still set on WARM, and if desired, garnish with orange wheels or twists.

MAKES ABOUT 16 SERVINGS

by Sarah DiGregorio. Copyright © 2017 by Sarah DiGregorio. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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