Our winter has been unpredictable as of late, but if you live in Canada, you’re privy to these long, cold winters that make you want to curl up under your blankets and stay there until spring blooms.
I’ve always advocated for a seasonal palate – for your house wine to rotate with the season. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the fall, Cabernet and full-bodied reds in the winter, rosé in the spring and anyone who knows me knows I’ll be guzzling Riesling like it’s going out of style in the summer… which isn’t actually a concern because Riesling will forever be that little black dress, ultimately never going out of style.
But just as the perfect wine and food pairing is entirely dependent on the ingredients and the wine’s ability to stand up alongside your dish, the temperature outside can drastically affect your perfect drink pairing for any scenario and sometimes traditional still wine just won’t cut it.
This is why we crave a cozy hot chocolate or cappuccino after frolicking in the snow or perhaps why teenage girls flock to Starbucks for their skinny-extra-whip-pumpkin-spice-frappucino as the leaves drop in the cool fall…. no, I kid… I couldn’t possibly justify that bizarre craze.
I suppose my point is that as I wrap myself in a blanket and call it a scarf, I’m dedicating myself to finding the best, warming drinks to get us through another long, Canadian winter.
These are my top 5 drink choices to warm you up from the inside-out.
1. Lagavulin 16 Islay Single Malt Scotch
Scotch can certainly warm your soul and the Lagavulin 16 is my go-to. From Islay, Scotland, this Scotch is a heavily peated single-malt whisky with notes of leather, smoke, stewed peach and charred lemon. The palate is rich and full with notes of vanilla, sweet sherry and baking spice. This whisky finishes long and powerful while warming you up on its way down.
2. Taylor Fladgate Late Bottle Vintage 2011 Port
Port is a fortified wine, which is a wine with added distilled grape spirit often bumping the final alcohol percentage to 16-20%. Port, produced in Portugal, is often full-bodied, rich and sweet. Taylor Fladgate delivers consistency in quality. This 2011 LBV (late-bottle-vintage) is loaded with rich, sweet fruit. On the palate, sweet fruit, violet flowers and a long, warm finish tying together the grape tannins with the sweet fruit. My favourite pairing is blue cheese.
3. Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Tawny ports are another style of port often blended from more than one vintage of wine and then matured in oak for an extended time. During this time in oak, tawny ports experience intentional oxidation contributing a complex range of flavours. In this Fladgate 10 Year, the colour is lighter and the nose is dominated by roasted nuts and bruised fruits. On the palate, still full and sweet, but with layers of dried fruit, tea leaf, caramel and leather. The finish is warm and lingers on beautifully.
4. O’Casey's Irish Cream Liquor
If you don’t love a warming whisky or a full-bodied wine, this Irish Cream can help spike your coffee or hot chocolate. Simple, creamy and sweet with notes of honeyed nuts, caramel and vanilla spice.
5. Courvoisier VS Cognac
Last, but certainly not least, one of my absolute favourite ways to stay warm is a beautiful cognac warmed in a classic snifter. When you warm the glass, the cognac will often open up allowing the sweet fruit and spice to increase. Reasonably priced and delivering quality is this Courvoisier VS. Incredibly pronounced on the nose with rich toffee, caramel and nutmeg. The caramel follows through to the palate with an added layer of vanilla oak and candied fruit.
With temperatures well below 0, have your bar cart ready to go because it looks like bud break won't happen anytime soon.