From left, a coffee bourbon warmer, a vanilla vodka chai and an autumnal cider toddy at Scratch Distillery. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

From left, a coffee bourbon warmer, a vanilla vodka chai and an autumnal cider toddy at Scratch Distillery. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Winter warmers: 3 cocktails to brighten dark Northwest days

Here are recipes for a coffee bourbon warmer, a vanilla vodka chai and an autumnal cider toddy.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

It’s also dark and dreary. And damp. Walk around town, and you’ll feel the kind of cold that sticks to your skin, a dampness that permeates your lungs. Your fingers turn pinkish and numb, brittle from the cold wind rushing past.

In short, it’s winter in the Northwest.

The best remedy is a warm drink. But sometimes the dark days call for something a little higher in octane than a hot chocolate with those mini marshmallows floating on top. Often you need an adult beverage that will not only warm your hands, but your heart, mind and soul.

We asked a few of our favorite Snohomish County distilleries for their recommendations to go in a warm winter cocktail. Then we hit the lab and started experimenting. What we came up with promises to keep the inner fires burning until the blossoms once again bloom.

It may be cold outside, but, baby, it’s warm inside.

Coffee bourbon warmer

Dark coffee highlights the natural caramel flavors of Arlington-based Bad Dog Distillery’s Mad Dog Bourbon, while the added cardamom bitters play off the sweet whipped cream. This is a warmer that’s delicious while not being too sweet. Perfect for dark coffee lovers.

3 ounces Mad Dog Bourbon

1-2 dashes cardamom bitters (optional)

1 cup very dark coffee or espresso

Sweetened whipped cream to garnish

For the whipped cream:

2 ounces vanilla bean simple syrup (recipe at right)

1 pint heavy whipping cream

Pour 1½ ounces bourbon in 2 glasses. Add dash of cardamom bitters if desired, then top with ½ cup coffee. Top with a generous portion of sweetened whipped cream.

Making sweet whipped cream: Whip vanilla bean simple syrup into the heavy whipping cream.

Serves 2.

— By Erin Pride-Swaney

Vanilla vodka chai

This recipe is from Scratch Distillery in Edmonds and pairs their craft vodka with warm spiced chai and cream. It’s the perfect cocktail version of a chai latte.

4 ounces Scratch Wheat Vodka

12 ounces strong chai or boxed chai latte mix

1½ ounces amaretto

1 ounce vanilla bean simple syrup

1 ounce half-and-half

For the vanilla bean syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 vanilla bean

Combine and split in 2 mugs, then heat for about 10 seconds in a microwave. Alternatively, heat chai and milk together then pour into mugs filled with vodka, amaretto and syrup. Garnish with cinnamon sprinkle if desired.

Making vanilla bean simple syrup: Heat water in a small saucepan until almost boiling. Slowly stir in sugar until fully dissolved. Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape the insides to add to the syrup. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then let cool.

Serves 2.

— By Scratch Distillery

Autumnal cider toddy

Sage, rosemary and orange blend perfectly with Snohomish-based Skip Rock Distiller’s Spiced Apple Liqueur and Rye Whiskey. Amaro lends rich depth to the drink, but if you must substitute, a full-bodied red wine or red vermouth works, although we really prefer amaro.

2 ounces Skip Rock Spiced Apple Liqueur

2 ounces Skip Rock Rye Whiskey

1 ounce amaro

1 cup spiced cider

For the cider:

2 cups fresh-pressed cider

2 slices orange (peel on)

3-4 fresh sage leaves

1-2 twigs fresh rosemary

Making the cider: In a small pot, bring cider, orange slices, sage leaves and rosemary to a simmer over medium-low heat. Once simmering, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove sage, rosemary and orange slices.

Making the drink: Pour 1 ounce apple liqueur and 1 ounce rye whiskey into 2 heat-proof glasses. Add ½ ounce amaro to each. Top with steeped cider and garnish with sugared sage leaves, orange twist or rosemary twig as desired.

Serves 2.

— By Erin Pride-Swaney

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the winter issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to for more information.

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