Winter in Texas means more than just a shot at sweater weather. It also means citrus, with the state's best bounty arriving as the mercury dips. At Wooster's Garden in Midtown, the team constantly tweaks the menu to take advantage of the changing seasons, and winter citrus is no exception.
You can expect to find oranges, lemons and limes shaken and stirred into cold and refreshing drinks, but the Wooster's team knows how to lend a bit of warmth to that brightness. Take the Vergiliana, one of Wooster's many seasonal hot toddies. Blending blood orange juice into a cacao-scented cordial, the bar brings in gin, bitter Campari and dry vermouth for a balanced drink that manages to be refreshing even as it lights a fire in your belly.
Orange and Campari are fast friends, and the pair also plays well with chocolate. Gin may be an unexpected toddy tipple (toddies at Wooster's go way beyond bourbon), but its bracing botanicals help keep the rich flavors here in check. It's a little unusual, perhaps, but that's just one of its many charms.
The Vergiliana: Citrus Gin Hot Toddy
Recipe adapted from Steven Salazar, Wooster's Garden, Houston, TX
Yield: 5 toddies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
For the Blood Orange Cordial:
8 blood oranges, juiced (10 to 12 ounces of juice)
12 ounces Tempus Fugit crème de cacao
For the Toddy:
Hot water, for serving
5 ounces blood orange cordial
5 ounces Fords Gin
2½ ounces dry vermouth
2½ ounces Campari
2½ tablespoons simple syrup
5 mint sprigs, for muddling
1. Make the cordial: Combine the blood orange juice with the crème de cacao. Stir gently and set aside. If you are not making toddies right away, keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
2. Fill a kettle with water and bring to a boil. In a pitcher, combine the cordial, gin, dry vermouth, Campari and simple syrup. Add the mint and gently muddle.
3. Divide the mixture among 5 rocks glasses and top with the piping hot water. Serve immediately.