Booze has long been the Clevelander's most indispensable winter survival tool. But, like the hunter-gatherers who plied their trade across this great region until frontier businessmen from Connecticut had them all killed so we could build shopping centers, hunting and gathering your own booze requires leaving the confines of home. You could get a single fix in a fine local bar, or you could stock up and keep the juices flowing at home. When there's an Alberta clipper careening our way, we know which route we're taking.
There's nothing like a hot toddy to thaw body and soul, and it sounds like you could use a reminder. "People don't ask for them like they used to," says Tommy Mullady, the quite-nearly legendary barkeep at the Fairmount Martini and Wine Bar in Cleveland Heights. And that's a pity, because there's a spirited hot concoction for every mood and taste — and you don't need a Mullady to make one.
He suggests a classic toddy "straight out of the 1920s," and it's perfect for fireplace gazing. In a 10-ounce glass — or hell, a spare cup from Taco Bell, we're all friends here — pour a double shot (quarter cup) of rye whiskey or brandy, add two sugar cubes or two teaspoons of honey, an orange slice studded with four cloves (don't even think of using three or five), plus a lemon slice, a pinch of nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick. Fill with hot water, stir, steep, and sip.
Not hitting the slopes this year? Re-create ski-lodge ambiance with this knock-your-boots-off Nordic glogg from Market Avenue Wine Bar's Joy Valentine. (It's special-event-only fare there, so you'll just have to make it at home.) In a large stainless-steel pot, combine a bottle of red wine, a bottle of red or ruby port, four cinnamon sticks, 10 cracked green cardamom pods, 24 whole cloves, and the peel of a large orange — pith removed. Heat gently to a slight simmer. "No matter what you do, do not boil it!" Valentine says. In another pot, heat and stir two cups of sugar with three-fourths of a bottle of brandy until it becomes a slightly caramelized syrup. Add the syrup, a cup of blanched almonds, and half a cup of raisins or dried cherries to the wine mix and heat for another hour. Put on your fluffiest robe, then serve each mug with some of the almonds and dried fruit along with a cinnamon-stick stirrer.
If afternoon tea time is your thing, try this pick-me-up from Mullady: the Negrita Grog from 1940s Puerto Rico. Pour a shot of brandy, one of rum, and a half-shot of cointreau into a 10-ounce glass. Add five ounces of strong brewed tea — Mullady suggests an Earl Grey or English Breakfast — and finish with a lemon slice floated on top. Watching the snow swirl and drift outside your window while sipping a cup of tea will never be the same.
Here's a Scene staff favorite après-sledding toddy. You're making hot chocolate for the kids anyway, so double the recipe and spike some for yourself. Pour one shot of chocolate vodka or chocolate liqueur (or, if the kids have been a challenge today, pour both), plus a splash of peppermint schnapps in a tall mug. Stir with a cinnamon stick while adding your best homemade hot cocoa or the richest from-a-mix hot chocolate you can find. Top with little marshmallows or whipped cream. Drink. Repeat as necessary till the kids resemble angels again.