Something strange about hot cocktails: People are hesitant to cop to liking them, but they seem to really like the actual drinking of them. If that’s why it’s hard to find one that’s not a watery hot toddy with a limp lemon slice, well, we should get comfortable with owning up to our appreciation. Given the chance to experiment with drinks in the canon outside of the hot toddy, we’ve found the city’s bartenders to be remarkably inventive in making cocktails that are just as complex and exciting as their icy cousins, and that warm winter drinkers with every sip. (P.S.: That doesn’t mean there aren’t great hot toddies to be had, too!) Here, the absolute best hot cocktails to drink in New York when the mercury dips below freezing.
The Absolute Best
1. The Duke of Suffolk at Suffolk Arms
269 E. Houston St., at Suffolk St.; 212-475-0400
A previous tenant of the Suffolk Arms space was the dingy sin den Local 269. And maybe it’s the specter of bars past, but there’s still a hint of transgression about here — just in the drink menu instead of in the spilled-Budweiser smell of Local 269. That transgressiveness is on display with the Duke of Suffolk, a cocktail that’s almost confusingly good. Take a sip: The Fruit Loops note is the Earl Grey tea, which is hot and sweetened and poured over the cucumber-y gin into a sherry-style glass. This is all topped with cream, which the bartender shakes aggressively in a squeeze bottle before layering it on top of the drink. That way it doesn’t seep down into the drink (avoiding that coagulated, milk-in-booze look), and when you sip, it’s as soft on your lips as marshmallow fluff.