Stop, Drop and Quaff: Dennis and Emily defrost with these blazing-hot beverages

Crackling fires, cozy blankets and, especially, the joy of a hot drink in between cold hands. These are the joys of winter. The rest pretty much stinks.

Dennis’ hot-drink profile: Not picky, just a warm drink in a nice setting.

Emily’s hot-drink profile: The hotter the better.

E: Icy roads. Bulky coats. Short days. I hate winter so much that from the first freeze, I begin counting the days until spring. I don’t know what I’d do without a few warm spots to tide me over: But after years of settling for mediocre Irish coffees, I decided to take charge of my liquid intake. In 2006, I was determined to pinpoint hot-drink destinations – places where hot beverages are a priority and winter doesn’t seem so dreary.

D: OK, this winter hasn’t exactly been Jack London-in-the-Yukon cold, but for a week or two there you had to wear a heavy sweater AND a winter coat at the same time. That’s just not my scene. So off we ventured into the unfeeling cold.

John D. McGurk’s Irish Pub
1200 Russell Blvd., St. Louis | 314.776.8309
Mon. to Fri. – 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sat. – 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Sun. – 3 p.m. to midnight

D: What can I say about McGurk’s that you haven’t already experienced for yourself? But there is one drink there worth rediscovering, and I spent a lazy afternoon next to the fire, sipping this winter treat.

E: I’ve always said McGurk’s Irish coffee should be the benchmark by which other whiskey-and-joe combos are measured. It starts with coffee poured on top of a healthy layer of brown sugar before being spiked with a shot of either Powers Irish Whiskey or
Jameson whiskey.

D: The brown sugar helps cut much of the whiskey’s bite while bringing out its caramel notes. I swear my 6-month-old son looked on with jealousy as a gorgeous head of house-made whipped cream flowed down the side of the mug like an avalanche.

E: Unfortunately, ordering an Irish coffee in the middle of the afternoon may result in a somewhat lukewarm version.

D: Had they used fresh, hot coffee, this could have
been perfection.

608 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves | 314.963.3232
Sun. to Thu. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11 a.m. to midnight

D: The Millionaire’s Coffee is the Long Island Iced Tea of coffee cocktails. It has, like, 40 different kinds of booze (OK, maybe only four: Kahlúa, Baileys, Grand Marnier and Frangelico) mixed in with what tasted like no more than a splash of coffee. In true coffee-house fashion, it comes in a large mug and is topped with whipped cream that makes your tummy feel pretty.

E: Cyrano’s has a romantic feel in the evenings, when the lights are lowered and the bright walls subdued. And for hot-drink-lovers like me, it’s always a good sign when the warm cocktails are prominently listed on a large chalkboard next to the martinis. I went with the delicious steamed apple cider spiked with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum, but it was so strong that I could only drink half. I think next time I’ll stick with one of the menu’s alcohol-free options, such as the flavored mint cocoa or the hot cinnamon Robert (steamed milk flavored with cinnamon and vanilla and topped with whipped cream).

Fox and Hounds Tavern
6300 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights | 314.647.7300
Mon. to Fri. – 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Sat. – noon to 1:30 a.m.

D: Sometimes vindication comes in the form of an extensive drink list.

E: Fine. I admit it. I originally didn’t want to visit Fox and Hounds for this article because when I’d called ahead, the woman I spoke with said the bar didn’t serve specialty hot cocktails!

D: But all I wanted was a standard buttered rum or hot toddy on the soft couch amidst all the old wood and charm of the tiny bar in the Cheshire Inn. So after “discussing” it for several days, and as other potential spots fell through, Emily finally succumbed. As it turned out, its hot cocktail list was by far the most extensive of any place we’d visited, and she knew immediately that I had been right about us coming here. And I knew she knew, and I did the happy dance.

E: While ignoring Dennis, I examined the menu’s six “piping-hot draughts” and nine “coffees with continental flavor” – all less than $7. I finally settled on the Hot Hearth, which consisted of cherry brandy, Vandermint and hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. (Don’t tell Dennis, but I have to admit that even if it didn’t have a specialty hot cocktail list, the bar’s cozy feel would have been reason enough to stop by for one of the standards.)

D: I ordered the Demon Rum – hot buttered rum with a stick of cinnamon and cloves for increased flavor – because I was feeling all devilish; I just sat back and enjoyed the soft piano and my victory. But then my wife gave me a look that effectively shot my ego, stuffed it and mounted it on the wall with all the other varmints.

Lemp Mansion Restaurant and Inn
3322 DeMenil Place, St. Louis | 314.664.8024
Lunch: Mon. to Fri. – 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Thu. to Sat. – 5:30 to 10 p.m., Sun. (family-style chicken dinner) – 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

D: You’ve probably heard about the Lemp Mansion’s murder-mystery dinners. But you might not know about the other interactive show playing in the main restaurant. The official name is the Coffee Napoleon; I refer to it as theater for your inner pyro.

E: The flames alone are worth the $9 price tag!
D: After we ordered, our bartender immediately brewed a fresh, hot pot of coffee (big points for that) and placed a burner on the bar so that we could watch the production. He then rimmed the glasses with lots of sugar and began caramelizing the sugar and heating the glasses. Galliano was subsequently poured in the glasses and ignited, and the flames were poured back and forth for effect.

E: When the show was over, coffee and whipped cream were added, and Disaronno and Grand Marnier drizzled on top.

D: But nothing overpowers the coffee. The licorice of the Galliano, orange of Grand Marnier and nut of the Disaronno only add dimension to the coffee while the sugar and whipped cream act to sweeten the pot … of coffee, that is.

E: After downing that spectacle, you can bet I had forgotten all about the freezing temperatures outside.