We don’t have too many cold days in Texas, but when temperatures fall below, oh, 65 degrees, we pull out scarves and winter jackets. A winter night cap is a well-known remedy against the cool night air, so I put together a quick list of some of my favorite winter drinks, featuring some of the usual suspects (sherry, whiskey, port) and one spirit some people might not think of during the winter. Below, a short list of Texas-produced wines and spirits to make things a little cozier during the long, cold nights.
Swift Distillery Single Malt
Swift Distillery recently released its first single malt whiskey, a spirit crafted after owners Nick and Amanda Swift did some personal research through Scotland, Ireland, and along the Kentucky Bourbon trail (it’s a rough research job, but someone had to do it). Made from authentic Scottish malted barley, the whiskey is produced from grain to bottle at the Dripping Springs-based distillery after aging in both Kentucky bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry barrels. The result is a clean spirit rich with notes of peach and toasted almond, and hints of jasmine and rose.
Haak Winery Blanc du Bois Madeira
A long-time favorite of mine, the Haak Blanc du Bois Madeira never disappoints when opened during the final stages of a dinner party—even if coming to the final stages of a dinner party is a disappointing moment. Haak is riffing off of the classic Portuguese fortified wine, which is best know for its “baked” quality (it’s aged in the Portuguese heat in the rafters of buildings). The Texas version has fragrant notes of dried apricot and lemon curd, and flavors of wildflower honey and caramel. This style of wine was a particular favorite of founding father George Washington, and Haak’s version, made from grapes grown in the Galveston area no less, would surely be something the first president would sip.
McPherson Cellars Chansa Cream Sherry
When it comes to wines, the old adage of “patience is a virtue” is often thrown around—but it’s especially appropriate when it’s applied to sherry-style wines. Originally from the Spanish Jerez region, sherries are typically produced through a “solera process,” which ages the fortified wine in a series of barrels stacked on top of each other (youngest wines on top, oldest vintage at the bottom). When the winery is ready to bottle the final product, it taps part of the liquid from the oldest vintage, but not all. The remaining liquid is mixed with contents from the next oldest vintage, so the bottom barrel is constantly being mixed with younger wines. McPherson’s version has been aged for two years in American oak baking out in the hot Texas sun in Lubbock. Showing a bit of oxidation through its rich caramel color, you’ll find bright acidity with overlying nutty tones as well as toasted lemon peel and a soft creaminess. This is an excellent treat enjoyed on its own, or with a nutty dessert such as pecan pie or almond tart.
Messina Hof Private Reserve Pappa Paulo Port
For those that like something a little on the devilish side, this opulent port style wine may be just the thing. Similar to a ruby port (as opposed to long-aged tawny ports), this is a young fortified wine brimming with fresh characteristics of dark blackberry, currant, and raspberries. It works well on its own, but also is a nice complement to chocolate cake and raspberries. Or liven up your average bowl of vanilla ice cream with a splash of this over the top.
Stonehouse Vineyards Scheming Beagle Port
Made from the lesser known native American grape, Norton, which is grown exclusively out at the Stone House Vineyards near Spicewood, this rich, velvety port is a show stopper. With a deep violet color and beautiful notes of plum, blackberry, boysenberry, and baking spices, this wine is both decadent and elegant. Aged for eighteen months in oak barrels, followed by a few more months in the bottle, for those who love the “real thing,” the Scheming Beagle is a Texas-native answer to the classic young ports of Portugal.
Dulce Vida Extra Añejo Tequila
Tequila is often associated with margaritas, a drink typically enjoyed during our summers, but Austin-based Dulce Vida’s recent release of their special Extra Añejo tequila tastes extra good during the winter months. The “extra” in this añejo’s name signifies that the spirit has been aged five years, rather than the typical three years, giving it deeper, integrated flavors imparted from oak barrels. You’ll find a certain creaminess on the palate with notes of toffee, caramel, and vanilla married with the fragrant vegetal qualities of agave. Just be sure to savor this spirit on its own, either neat or with a cube or two of ice.