For me, cooking in the winter is best done with a wooden spoon in one hand and a seasonal cocktail in the other. I also really enjoy the challenge of pairing the drinks with the meal. The cider vendors at the market are still going strong in December, offering not only gallons, but hot, single cups for a dollar. (And I usually spring for both.)
While I love cider, hot or cold, all on its own, it also makes for some of the year's most remarkable (and remarkably simple) libations.
apple brandy and cider
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 c apple brandy (preferably Laird's Applejack*)
2 tbs dry vermouth
Few dashes bitters
orange twists for garnish
Combine all ingredients, divide between two glasses, and garnish with orange.
sparkling cider and cognac
2 tbs cognac (we like Remy Martin)
1 c chilled hard apple cider (the better the cider, the better the end result, but we've used Woodchuck in a pinch)
Pour the cognac into the bottom of two glasses (1 tbs each), and top with hard cider. Finish with a dash of bitters, if you like.
*Laird's is America's oldest family of distillers and their Applejack isn't actually straight apple brandy (which is distilled from concentrated hard cider). It's blended with 65% whiskey: unique and delicious.