photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia; pictured: Grafton's hot toddy
The days are getting shorter—an ominous indication that tolerable weather is on the downswing. On the horizon: glacial L platforms, relentless darkness and the awkward asanas necessary for squeezing into seven pairs of thermal underwear. Electric heaters and mittens only do so much; a true thaw starts from the inside, with a bubbling hot cocktail. Before you strap on a barrel of Baileys and coffee, check out these pours that promise to quell the winter blues.
Cinnamon Toast at Moody's Pub
Curling up next to one of the stone hearths at this Edgewater pub is a pretty reliable way to stave off sub-zero temperatures, but supplementing the experience with a soothing cocktail never hurts. The "Fireside Fantasies" menu features several crowd-pleasing variations on hot chocolate and coffee, but there's one drink guaranteed to conquer even the stingiest bout of seasonal affective disorder: Cinnamon Toast, hot apple cider spiked with amaretto, crowned with whipped cream and coated with ground cinnamon, is just sweet enough. Between the roaring fires and lodge-like environs, it's tempting to plant yourself in a booth, instruct the waitress to keep 'em coming and just wait for spring to come. And at only four dollars per drink, you can afford to do just that.
Eskimo Kiss at the Silver Cloud
Featuring concoctions like Hot Buttered Rum and a java-boosted Minted Mocha, Silver Cloud's "Winter Warmers" menu is full of reasons to brave the cold. At first glance, settling on just one of these inviting options seems impossible. But the Eskimo Kiss has an edge; it plays into one of winter's most widespread absolutes: On a snowy day, there's only one thing more comforting than a toasty mug of hot cocoa—a toasty mug of hot cocoa that can get you drunk. Blended with Dark Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and a splash of Cheri-Beri Pucker, this creamy cocoa is topped with a fluffy mountain of whipped cream. For $6.50, you can wrap your hands around your very own mug.
Glögg at Simon's Tavern
On Thanksgiving Eve in Andersonville, the locals have a more important thing to celebrate than the pending holidays: This is the night that Simon's introduces its batch of Glögg for the year. Strong enough to cut through the bite of the coldest winter day, this Swedish mulled wine is served piping hot. A brew infused with a veritable potpourri of spices—cardamon seeds, orange peel, cloves and cinnamon—the tipple also has drunken raisins that settle to the bottom. Served with pepparkakor, a sort of Swedish gingersnap, this creature comfort is a steal at only $4. Although several North Side bars offer their own takes on the classic, Simon's has held the standard for decades. So what distinguishes proprietor Scott Martin's Glögg from the rest? He's not telling. And after that first soothing sip, you won't care.
Hot toddy at Grafton Pub & Grill
Long regarded as the ultimate cold weather cure-all, hot toddies remain the quintessential winter drink. Nothing will thaw a person out faster than this sweet and spicy tonic with some kick—but that's just about the only thing toddy connoisseurs agree on. Every pub, corner tavern and fawning grandma argues over what a hot toddy should contain. Brandy or rum? Honey or brown sugar? Lemon or orange peel? Indeed, it's difficult to truly mangle this classic libation, but those who get it absolutely right are few and far between. Made with a generous amount of Irish whiskey, brown sugar, lemon and whole cloves, The Grafton's toddy can pummel the winter blahs right out of anyone, all for only $6.50. For an added dose of warmth, the house beef and Guinness stew makes a great accompaniment.
Puerto Rican Coffee at Signature Lounge
You'd have to be crazy to spend $11 on a cup of coffee, right? Well, maybe just really, really dizzy. Drinking in a swanky lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock building can do that to a person. During a snow storm, experiencing the elements in this sky-high haven can result in full-blown vertigo, but rest assured the Signature Lounge's Puerto Rican Coffee is actually worth its high sticker-price. Topped with the requisite whipped cream, this specialty drink is made with Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, Kahlua, Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur and coffee. Even as you gaze out over Chicago from 1,080 feet above, this spicy treat is potent enough to carry you to the tropics until the very last drop.