Don Kavanagh eases into the mellow cheer of hot toddies and buttered rum.
Wow, it didn't take winter long to make its presence felt, did it?
One minute the sun is splitting the stones and the next we've got snow flurries, wild winds, unforgiving temperatures and the inevitable rain.
Still, it's an ill wind that blows no good and at least this miserable weather means we can reach for the kettle and start making hot drinks to stave off winter's deep, sometimes savage, bite.
Hot toddies are well known, but not everyone knows how to make a nice hot drink that uses heat, alcohol and flavour in a really good winter warmer. Probably the simplest and most effective hot drink is the hot whiskey. This has been protecting the Irish and Scots from the baleful climates they live in for centuries and is credited with also protecting against winter colds and chills.
Simply melt a teaspoon of honey into 45ml of whiskey (Powers Irish for preference, but any good Scotch whisky will do, too) and add a lemon slice studded with whole cloves. Top up with hot water just off the boil and enjoy.
Mulled wine is another easy one, but try substituting cider for wine. Indeed, many cider makers are now producing ready-spiced ciders to enjoy warm.
For a nice touch, pour into a heatproof jug, add any extra spices you want (nutmeg and cinnamon are great) and heat by immersing a red-hot poker in the jug. If you don't happen to have a red-hot poker handy, you can simply make the drink in a crockpot.
Rum is another fantastic thing to serve warm and a bar I used to work in served a real treat in winter - hot buttered rum. Get a coffee mug, add 60ml of dark rum, a teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of nutmeg. Fill with hot water and garnish with a cinnamon stick and a floating pat of butter.
The Broken Leg is another cracker. Pour 30ml of spiced rum into a mug and top with hot cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick; easy as pie.
Play around with different flavours, too. Try tequila or brandy instead of rum, or use gin with the hot cider. There's a big world of flavours out there, so don't be afraid to immerse yourself. Stay warm.By Don Kavanagh