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Spirited Spirits: Winter Warmers, According to the Downtown Experts

When the air and the spirits are damp, a tipple or two is just the ticket—just ask the experts in the Downtown beverage world.

Cold beer, warm vibes at Flying Saucer Draught Emporium
In business for 18 years, the Main Street mainstay keeps patrons happy with a seasonal but diverse selection of beers, along with rare casks and unique-to-the-location brewery collaborations. Manager Joshua Justice says that although some patrons drink their favorite styles year-round (a preference the Saucer is happy to oblige), others shift to “darker, heavier and spiced beers,” as the weather cools

If you’re hoping to stop in for stouts, porters, and barrel-aged craft beers, plenty of options await. We asked Josh for just three recommendations to seek out when the weather dips.

Great Divide Brewing Company’s English Style Old Ale, Hibernation
This seasonal dry hopped “old ale” makes for a malty and rich brew that’s great for pairing with winter-spiced comfort food (like the Saucer’s seasonal house-made chili).

Odell Brewing Company’s Isolation Ale
A winter warmer by style, this malty ale offers notes of toffee, caramel, and a little bit of warming alcohol, with raisin and plum flavors that bring it all together.

Alesmith’s Speedway Stout
The coffee imperial stout packs a punch at 12.5percent ABV. The makers send variants made with exotic coffee beans specially to Flying Saucer, so customers get a one-of-a-kind taste even if they’ve had this beer in previous years.

Cocktails with a (warm) kick
Classic cocktails are Houston Watch Company’s specialty, and that’s a boon for Downtowners on the prowl for a night at the bar. As co-owner Erik Bogle says, “There’s something about 100 plus year-old oak lining the walls and mezzanine, and the low incandescent lighting seems to warm your spirits before you even get a chance to sit down. And it never hurts to look at a big wall of beautiful brown whiskies when you're looking for a warming environment.” 

We asked Erik for his top three cocktail picks to savor during short, dark days and long cold nights. In his own words:

Hot Buttered Rum
This year we are working on a house recipe for a Hot Buttered Rum. This classic drink starts with the preparation of a compound butter mixture of things like brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. A bit of this mixture is combined with aged rum and hot water to create a rich and creamy warm drink.

Vieux Carre
Barrel Aged Vieux Carre is one of our favorites. We prepare a batch of this 1930s New Orleans classic—a mixture of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine and bitters—and then age it in a charred oak barrel. The barrel aging gives the cocktail time to oxidize and round out the sharper alcohol esters, and interaction with the charred oak adds additional caramel and vanilla notes. Topped with an Italian black cherry, its complex flavor profile is a slow sipper sure to warm you from the inside.

Miss Baker’s Elixir
This summer we did a collaboration with 8th Wonder Brewery and used some of their beer to create a hybrid beer cocktail. We love their Rocket Fuel beer and ended up using it to create something that works very well in the winter. Dedicated to the first monkey to successfully return from a trip to space, Miss Baker, we combined a Bourbon cream (think Irish cream, with Bourbon instead of Irish whiskey) and delicious French banana liqueur with their Vietnamese coffee-inspired porter. It drinks much like the classic White Russian but with a distinctive and welcome twist. The main danger with this one: trying not to have too many of them.

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