Winter Warmers, just what are they, exactly? According to our good and trusted friend Wikipedia: “Winter warmer is a traditional malty-sweet English Strong Ale that is brewed in the winter months. It is usually quite dark, but not as dark as a stout, with a big malt presence. Sometimes, winter warmers have a few spices, especially in the United States, although spices are not necessarily a required ingredient in a Winter Warmer. The primary characteristic is strength; the average alcohol content by volume ranges from 6.0% to 8.0% ABV and some Winter Warmers reach 10% ABV or more.”
But how many of us really choose a mug of Ale to warm us up after a day spent out in the snow and cold? Here are some other warming options from the authors of Winter Warmers. A seasonal anthology from Lou Harper, Clare London, JL Merrow, Chrissy Munder, and Josephine Myles. Five stories of winter romance from Britain and the USA that are guaranteed to raise your temperature and soften your heart in time for the Holidays.
Josephine Myles: Sweet, dark, and with a bit of a kick, a Brandy Alexander is the perfect warm-me-up beverage for a chilly night.
1 1/3 msr brandy
1 1/3 msr darke creme de cacao
1 1/3 msr double cream
Shake with ice and strain into a champagne saucer. Garnish with grated dark chocolate. Incredibly quick and easy to make, but it tastes absolutely delicious!
Chrissy Munder: The characters in Butterscotch Kisses, my story in the Winter Warmers anthology, mix together hot cocoa and butterscotch schnapps for a quick and wonderfully tasty beverage. Try it the next time you come in after sledding with the kids and make some hot cocoa. But to truly experience a Butterscotch Kiss, you need a few other ingredients:
2 oz Everclear® alcohol
2 oz butterscotch schnapps
4 oz club soda
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a collins glass half-filled with ice cubes, and serve.
Lou Harper: Cold and windy outside makes me reach for something warm and soothing inside. Try my favorite:
Hot Apple Cider
2 quarts of apple cider
10 whole cloves
1 orange, thinly sliced
1/3 cup of brown sugar packed
6 whole allspice
pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup dark rum (can also use spiced rum)
4 cinnamon sticks
Combine ingredient in a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat. To really bring the flavors together, allow to simmer for at least half an hour before serving. Garnish with a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick.
It’s okay to keep the pot warm for hours – a crockpot is perfect for this purpose.
Clare London: I’m pitching in with Mulled Wine as it plays such an important role in “Lucky Dip” in Andy and Greg’s reconciliation!
As famous British chef Jamie Oliver says, “This is dead easy to make and tastes like Christmas in a glass. It’s a lovely celebration of those traditional festive spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you’ve got your own favourite spices, then feel free to add those to the pot too. Let everything cook away and warm up gently so the flavours have time to mingle with the wine. I like to leave my mulled wine ticking over on a really low heat and just ladle some into glasses as and when guests pop in.” Jamie, I agree!
peel of 1 lemon
peel of 1 lime
250g caster sugar
6 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
1 whole nutmeg
1 whole vanilla pod, halved
2 star anise
2 bottles of Chianti, or other Italian red wine
Peel large sections of peel from the clementines, lemon and lime.
Put the sugar in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the pieces of peel and squeeze in the clementine juice. Add the cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and about 10 to 12 gratings of nutmeg. Throw in the halved vanilla pod and stir in just enough red wine to cover the sugar.
Let this simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved into the red wine and then bring to the boil. Keep on a rolling boil for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until you’ve got a beautiful thick syrup. This creates a wonderful flavour base by really getting the sugar and spices to infuse and blend well with the wine. It’s important to make a syrup base first because the mixture needs to be quite hot, and if you do this with both bottles of wine in there you’ll burn off the alcohol.
When the syrup is ready, turn the heat down to low and add the star anise and both bottles of wine. Gently heat the wine and after around 5 minutes, when it’s warm and delicious, ladle it into glasses and serve.
JL Merrow: My favorite Winter Warmer has, without question, to be Glühwein. This is very similar to English mulled wine, but often has an extra kick, due to a dash of brandy or port. I have fond memories of a long winter’s weekend in Vienna, when the temperature fell to -15 degrees Celsius, snow was thick on the ground – and Glühwein was available everywhere. There’s nothing quite like it for giving you a wonderful, Christmassy glow…
1 bottle of red wine. A good general rule is to use something full-bodied, but inexpensive – and if it’s really rough, just use more honey!
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces 1 – 2 inches each
12-16 whole cloves
2 tablespoons clear honey
1 heaped teaspoon allspice
1 glass of water
1. Put water in large pan and place over medium heat.
2. Add cinnamon, honey and allspice.
3. While honey is dissolving cut the orange into slices. Push cloves into each slice and add to the pan.
4. Pour in all the wine. Yes, all of it. You’ll get to drink it later…
5. Turn up the heat. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL – do you want to waste all that lovely alcohol? Let the spices infuse for 30 minutes (if you’re impatient) or an hour (if you’re a purist). I know, it’s a long time to wait. It’ll be worth it, trust me!
6. Taste it. If it’s not sweet enough, add some more honey or sugar. Now is the time to slosh in a dash of brandy or port, if you think it needs a little extra kick.
7. Spoon out into a heatproof glass or mug, leaving the oranges and cinnamon behind.
9. Repeat as necessary. And yes, it’s necessary.
And, in honor of our publisher, Pink Squirrel Press, here’s an extra warmer for us all to try:
1 1/2 msr white creme de cacao (dark will do, which makes a Dirty Squirrel)
1 1/2 msr amaretto
1 msr double cream
1/4 msr grenadine
Rim a champagne saucer with lemon and sugar. Shake with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry and flaked almonds sprinkled on top. Mmm… tasty and sophisticated looking!
What’s your favorite Winter Warmer? Alcoholic or otherwise? Raise your glass and pick up your copy of Winter Warmers: http://pinksquirrelpress.wordpress.com/winter-warmers/
Mulled wine. Butterscotch kisses. Hideous sweaters. Candy at the beach, or a trip to a sex shop in Amsterdam. And the man of your dreams, wrapped around you…
Winter warmers come in many shapes and sizes, from the tongue-in-cheek to the hot-as-hell. Enjoy a quintet of heart-warming tales of men loving men from Clare London, Chrissy Munder, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, and Lou Harper that are guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.
One thing’s for sure—it’s going to be a red-hot Christmas!
Lucky Dip by Clare London
Andy Jackson always knew that class 2C’s help in preparing for the annual Christmas Fair would be a mixed blessing. Then he’s paired up on the Lucky Dip with Greg, the man who dumped him but now can’t keep away, the pupils are either lecturing him on his lovelife or losing bladder control, and no one’s fixed the broken handle on the storage room. It may all be one whoopee cushion too far for him.
Butterscotch Kisses by Chrissy Munder
Matthew Morrison is determined to conquer his fear of heights and achieve a winning outcome. At least, that’s what the best-selling, self-help book he’s listening to promises. Being stuck on a three-story tower in the middle of a snowstorm wasn’t part of the plan. With no St. Bernard in sight, it’s Cute Ticket Guy Adam to the rescue, and an outcome Matthew never anticipated.
Wintertide by Lou Harper
May meets December when Jem and Oscar chance on each other at the Santa Monica Pier, only weeks before Christmas. The two men are separated by age, social status, and their taste in candy, yet if they are both naughty and nice, they might just find holiday cheer together.
When in Amsterdam… by Josephine Myles
Brandon is on his first visit to new boyfriend Jos’s home country, just in time for their Sinterklaas celebrations. But an unexpected detour into a sex shop leads Brandon to new discoveries about himself, and a whole new dynamic to their relationship. The weather may be cold and damp, but Brandon and Jos soon heat things up!
A Pint of Beer, a Bag of Chips, and Thou by JL Merrow
What’s the best gift a young man could get for Christmas? Mohawked saxophonist Liam wouldn’t have picked the hideous collection of knitwear he’s presented with by his mum and his aunties. He’d rather have the gorgeous older man he sees every day while busking at King’s Cross. But with a little Christmas magic in the air, maybe those garish garments are just the thing for attracting a silver fox…
Winter Warmers – Now available at your favorite eRetailer including:
Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Smashwords / All Romance Ebooks