Warm up for winter

Hot beverage production can be an afterthought in the land where margaritas reign supreme…

By Jeans Pineda

Ordering that innocent cup of rooibos at a bustling bar top is more like throwing a monkey wrench through a couple bottles of Cointreau. If the bar showcases their glassware in overhead racks, you’ll see that margarita coupes outnumber insulated mugs in a ratio of roughly 35,000 to 1. 

File Photo

There’s snow on the ground, the temperatures are dropping, and a few questions run through your mind. One of them is: How many layers will I need today? The other: Where can I get a hot alcoholic beverage to stave off the chill or later to warm up after a day out in the cold? Luckily options abound near Taos Plaza. Here’s where to go to warm yourself up from within:

You can go to the Gorge Bar and Grill for a hot toddy. The bartenders there are experienced, as in they thoroughly dissolve the honey. Plus, The Gorge has quite the selection of quality whiskeys. There are top shelf heavy hitters, such as Blanton’s, Nikka, and Bookers. You wouldn’t want to ruin the complexity of these beautiful spirits in a soup of honey water and lemon but I’m sure you’d still have a good time consuming them. An excellent, affordable, and off the beaten path approach to ordering a hot toddy is to have it made with some Clyde May’s Alabama style whisky. It’s got a sweet and spicy depth that easily lends itself to the warm and soothing character of a traditional hot toddy.

Over at the Rolling Still Lounge options in whiskeys abound but you will want to try the recently-debuted Ponderosa brand whiskey dubbed Sidewinder 4.2, which happens to be a solid locally-distilled whiskey that incorporates several New Mexican flavors. First, it is made from locally-grown rye that comes from Taos Land Trust at Río Fernando Park, has water sourced from Phoenix Springs (found above Taos Ski Valley), and is aged in pecan wood barrels (the wood comes from Las Cruces) and also features the unique flavors of Ponderosa pine tree bark from Garrapata Ridge, found between San Cristobal and Lama. Or you could be a maverick and try ordering any hot drink with their Red Chile Vodka instead as the smoky heat adds a nice touch. Or try a Macho Mule, their version of a Moscow Mule, featuring the Red Chile Vodka, Green Chile Vodka or Christmas (both). And in true mise en place form, they’ve got a fast water kettle station right behind the bar.

Over at Martyrs, the drink menu essentially doesn’t change for the winter. Instead, each night the bartender on duty will pick the drink specials. Popular hot drinks they serve during the winter include Hot Toddy’s, apple cider, hot chocolate with Bailey’s, coffee with Bailey’s, and hot spiced rum. Or you can opt for warm carafes of hot sake from either Donabe or Sushi Siam. Donabe has a brand specific Gekkeikan machine that takes all the guesswork out. There’s something magical about drinking out of those small ceramic cups (chokos), just remember to never pour sake for yourself or you risk bad luck. 

Outside of the town of Taos, on State Road 150, you can reliably get a hot cocktail from the Medley bar. They’ve got one of those heavy duty Astoria espresso machines, and the metal accents tastefully mirror the copper sheen of the bar top. Irish coffees come with whip cream whipped up by the pastry chef. This gives the drink the texture of an affogato, velvety and easy to finish.