Here in Sonoma County, our nights and sometimes our days stay chilly through February and even into March. When you want to get cozy with a drink that matches your wintry mood, check out these season-inspired drinks from three of Sonoma County’s finest cocktail bars. Though these drinks are served cold, their flavors complement brisk, late winter nights and will carry your spirit into spring.
Whisper Sisters, Petaluma
The Tea Service: This twist on an old fashioned is made from rye whiskey, lapsang souchong and Monarch cherry bitters made in Petaluma.
Why it’s good for winter: Spirit-forward, stirred cocktails are for sipping slowly; they’re meant to fortify you, not quench thirst. Even though it’s chilled, the high proof has a warming effect as you drink it. This cocktail’s key is the lapsang souchong, and the flavors of whiskey and smoky pine immediately conjure coziness.
The Oakland: This pale-pink drink is a zesty blend of tequila, mezcal, cinnamon, port wine, grapefruit and banana.
Why it’s good for winter: Grapefruit is a mouthwatering winter citrus that adds character to any drink. Intense flavors in cocktails often need other bold ingredients to stand up to their strength. Here, grapefruit is a good match for smoky mezcal and sweet-spicy cinnamon. Port wine and banana add surprising richness for a complex and balanced drink.
Whisper Sisters Cocktails & Provisions, 190 Kentucky St, Petaluma, 707-774-6689, wspetaluma.com.
Perch & Plow, Santa Rosa
The Rendezvous: This not-too-sweet treat of a drink features vanilla-infused vodka, thyme, huckleberry and egg whites shaken and strained into a chilled martini glass and garnished with bitters and baking spices.
Why it’s good for winter: Fresh huckleberry is a summer fruit, but the spice profile on this jammy cocktail calls to mind a winter cobbler a la mode. Because the creaminess comes from the vanilla-infused vodka and the velvety feel of the egg white rather than from heavy cream, the drink feels decadent and delicate at the same time.
Cantina Candy Apple: Apple cinnamon-infused Heradura tequila meets maple syrup and lemon in a Collins glass topped with cinnamon foam.
Why it’s good for winter: Spiced apple makes my shortlist of most comforting flavors and the distinctive nuttiness of maple syrup makes it my favorite way to sweeten almost anything. Perch & Plow emphasizes freshness and balance, so they do a great job of making fruit-forward drinks that never feel cloying. A dollop of cinnamon foam is the delicious finish that brings this all together and makes for a lovely presentation.
Perch + Plow, 90 Old Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa, 707-541-6896, perchandplow.com.
Fern Bar, Sebastopol
Suburban Bourbon: Another apple delight, this one’s got bourbon, ginger gomme syrup, apple butter, Cardamaro and lemon. It also has a cute origin story.
Why it’s good for winter: For many of the same reasons the Cantina Candy Apple is a yummy, homey cocktail, so is Suburban Bourbon. Here, ginger and cardamom contribute the spice profile and everything’s a little sweeter, from the roundness of the base spirit to the pool of apple butter that sits atop a dehydrated apple slice floating in your glass.
Fern Bar bartender Kiki Fabian once developed a drink called Urban Bourbon that was a riff on the classic Manhattan. A friend then challenged Fabian to come up with a Suburban Bourbon, a whiskey drink that would take its inspiration from country neighborhoods rather than the Big Apple. With this in mind, Fabian got to work, and with a little apple butter borrowed from the kitchen, found a recipe worthy of the name.
Masala Balla: This drink features a dazzling array of tropical fruits and spices. Chai tea-infused pisco, guava, coconut watet, lemon, pineapple and St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram are shaken with frothy egg white and served in a large coupe with a spiced sugar rim.
Why it’s good for winter: Masala chai is a warming mix of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and peppercorns. Allspice is also warming.
Though it’s used in savory dishes like jerk chicken, it’s also common in sweet holiday pastries like gingerbread, so adding a touch of Allspice Dram to a drink immediately has me feeling festive.
This winter drink can warm you up physically while also sending your taste buds to the tropics.
Fern Bar, 6780 Depot St #120, Sebastopol, 707-861-9603, fernbar.com.
Chelsea Rose Kurnick is a wine and spirits professional and a cocktail enthusiast. She is a Level 2 certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.