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Winter warmers: A guide to serving hot cocktails

Winter might not be for everyone (or anyone!), but it's that special time of year when hot cocktails are welcome. These indulgent little treats warm you from the inside out after a bitter snow shoveling session or chilly ski trip. There are plenty of recipes floating around out there, so instead we've got a few serving tips instead.

1. Who needs baking? These drinks are usually sweet and rich, so present them as dessert. This is especially handy for last-minute company. As long as you keep a moderately stocked bar, you're only a few steps away from a sweet, satisfying and relaxing dessert.

2. Spice it up. Not only do spices add that finishing touch and an extra dash of warmth, they turn simple hot chocolate into gourmet instantly - perfect for those who don't drink alcohol. I love this idea - display and store your spices in corked test tubes to create a neat but fun way to concoct your drinks. Talk about mixology!

3. Extra cookies? Fancy garnish. If your New Year's resolution slim-down means there's a post-holiday cookie pile-up, here's your opportunity to get rid of them. Crush those ginger snaps, sugar cookies and shortbreads, dip the rim of your mugs in water, and then into your cookie crumble. You could even use brown sugar or finely crushed leftover candy canes. Sweet tip - instead of water, use a tiny bit of frosting. Just don't blame us when you end up licking the mug.

4. Transform your kitchen table into a DIY bar. Let your guests be their own bartenders. Put everything out on the table. Irish cream, whiskey, rum, brandy, chocolate, cookie crumbles, whipped cream, lemon, tea, coffee, honey, spices...it's the adult equivalent of an ice cream sundae bar! If you use the test tube spice storage idea, it can be a cute but classy visual on your table. Make sure you only share the dessert-friendly spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend.

Also have some favorite recipe cards ready to go, and be sure to leave some blank to write down any recipes you or your guests might discover together.

5. Don't forget mocktails. It's important to drink responsibly, so be sure to serve responsibly. Keep mocktails in mind for designated drivers and the kids. Recreate your "bar" with the same ingredients except for the spirits. Especially if you're hosting around a big table, having a second set of ingredients can also quell the "can you please pass the..." and prevent spills from big reaches.

What are some of your favorite hot chocolate or winter cocktail recipes?

Image courtesy of stock.xchng

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