7 winter cocktail recipes to try

Nearly as important (and in some cases, more important) as many people's favorite Lake Tahoe ski run is their favorite Lake Tahoe cocktail. For many, it's the Bloody Mary (which is taken very seriously at Northstar California), for others the Wet Woody, and still others, an adult version of a hot chocolate. But as head of mixology at Northstar, one of the questions I get most often is that of what's in the cocktails we make, especially since many of our cocktails are our own renditions of classics. Well today, you get to not only find out what's in some of my favorite winter cocktails, but learn how to make them at home. It's the perfect remedy on those "sick days" or times you can't make it to Northstar to have the real deal. 

So below find 7 great winter cocktail recipes to try at home. 

The Dirty Snowman

  • 2 oz. Absolut Vanilla Vodka
  • 2 oz. Frangelico Hazelnut Liqueur
  • 1.5 oz. Baileys Irish Cream
  • Hot cocoa

You’ll need at least a 12-ounce hot cup or mug for this one. Pour the spirits together into a mug before filling the mug with your favorite hot cocoa. Then top it with whipped cream, and you are ready to enjoy this drink anywhere you choose to après.


  • 2 oz. Marshmallow Vodka
  • 1.5 oz. Butterscotch Liqueur
  • 1.5 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
  • 5 oz. cold chocolate milk or cocoa
  • Honey
  • Crumbled graham crackers
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Marshmallow

To make the S'more-tini, you'll begin by filling a shaker with ice and then adding the first three ingredients. Pour the cocoa or chocolate milk into the shaker, which should leave about an inch and a half of room. Close the shaker and do your best Tom Cruise impression from Cocktail while you shake your drink. Then set the shaker aside and grab your martini glass. You'll roll the rim of the glass in honey, then immediately roll the honey-covered rim in the crumbled graham crackers. And now this is where we are going to get a little artsy. You'll take your chocolate sauce and while holding the martini glass between your fingers, spin a few spirals of chocolate into the glass. Lastly, strain the drink into the martini glass and float a marshmallow right on top. And with that, you have the best adult s’more you could ask for!

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe's version of a s'more martini.

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe's version of a s'more martini.

Vanilla Chai Cider

  • 2 oz. Absolut Vanilla Vodka
  • 1 oz. chai concentrate or 1 chai tea bag
  • 8 oz. hot cider
  • Cinnamon stick

If this drink sounds like it was handed to you by your local barista, then it’s for good reason, since that’s where we took our inspiration from. Inspired by a holiday drink that many baristas make for themselves, we just stepped up the experience a little by adding alcohol. Take your hot cup of choice, add vodka, and then add either chai tea concentrate or a tea bag. Then fill the cup with steaming hot apple cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Now sit back and enjoy!

Perfect Hot Toddy

  • 10 oz. glass hot mug
  • 2 oz. honey whiskey of choice
  • .5 oz. Tuaca
  • 1 packet of honey
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 oz. hot water

This is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to winter cocktail recipes. We’ve all heard that hot water, lemon, and whiskey is good for the sniffles, but sometimes you just need a really tasty hot drink during those bitter cold nights. To make it, take your glass and add the packet of honey first to start breaking down with the liquor. Add the honey whiskey and Tuaca next, and then swirl the glass a little to start mixing the honey with the liquor. You'll then squeeze the lemon wedge into the glass, fill with hot water, and stir to fully dissolve the honey. Add your cinnamon sticks and find a fireplace to sit next to and enjoy!

Irish Coffee

  • 2 oz. Irish whiskey of choice (I prefer Bushmills)
  • 1 oz. Irish Cream (optional)
  • 2 sugar cubes
  • 10 oz. hot glass
  • Hand-whipped cream

We’ve all heard of the Irish Coffee cocktails served at the Buena Vista in The City. And while I can’t promise to re-create that experience for you, I can get you awfully close. First, fill your mug with hot water to pre-heat the glass, and then empty it. Then fill the glass with 7 ounces of fresh hot coffee and add 2 sugar cubes (make sure the cubes have fully dissolved before moving forward). Next, measure out a couple ounces of your favorite Irish whiskey and add that to the coffee. And this is when you would add the dash of Irish cream (if that is your style). The aroma of the coffee, sugar, and whiskey should be tantalizing your nostrils by now, so let’s add the final touch. Take a spoonful of hand-whipped cream, and gently lay it on top of the coffee so it looks like a miniature pint of Guinness. This beverage is best enjoyed in the company of friends and while hot. Slainte!

Caribbean Grog

  • 2 oz. Dark Rum
  • .5 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of cloves
  • Fresh brewed coffee
  • Coffee mug

Yarrrrr matey! This winter cocktail will be putting the likes of ya in a wonderful mood after a day of winter festivities (or skiing). Start with your coffee mug and pour Grand Marinier and rum into it. Add brown sugar to the mug and stir together to mix. Lastly, fill with fresh coffee and add a pinch of cloves. And voila! 

Holiday Mulled Wine

This is a big-batch drink, intended for parties of 4 or more.

  • 1 bottle of Burgundy wine
  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 2 oz. Tuaca
  • 1.5 oz. Orange Curacao
  • 1 packet spiced cider mix
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tea infuser
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon sticks

In a large pot, empty your bottle of Burgundy and proceed to add brandy, Tuaca, Orange Curacao, cider mix, and brown sugar. Bring all these ingredients to a gentle heat (do not boil the mixture.). A slow heat to about 130 degrees is where you want to be.

While you are waiting for your mixture to heat, add the cinnamon and nutmeg together with a pinch of cloves in your tea infuser. If the mixture is spilling out of the tea infuser because the holes are too big, just use a coffee filter and rubber band to shut it. Toss the packet into the wine pot and let it simmer with everything for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, ladle the wine into mugs, and garnish with cinnamon sticks. Cheers!

Maxx was born and raised in Southern California, moving to Lake Tahoe in 2004 for college, which he worked his way through, eventually earning degrees in business management and entrepreneurship. Throughout Maxx's life, he's always tried to be outdoors as much as possible. Nothing relaxes him more than being 30-40 miles out in the woods making camp. He got into the world of craft cocktails shortly after college, eager to master a new adventure and field of study. That great new adventure was learning the art of the cocktail. For the last few years, he's been designing drinks professionally, and just this summer, Maxx and his wife launched a new microbrewery line called DNA Brewing.