Five festive cocktails that aren't just hot chocolate with schnapps

We'll drink just about anything hot this time (and temperature) of the year, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps (or some other sort of delicious liqueur) included. But there are a few cocktails on drink lists right now that make us clap our chilled hands with delight: Their warming qualities and festive flavors make them a good excuse to duck out of the family home for a nightcap... or drag the relatives along for a bonding experience over some of Denver's best drinks.

Below are five festive cocktails that aren't just hot chocolate with schnapps.

Figgy's Manhattan, Steuben's

Our classic winter go-to drink is basically anything that's brown, bitter and stirred, the most classic manifestation of which might be the Manhattan. Steuben's has lifted its version of a Manhattan to a festive level, combining Wild Turkey 81, Carpano Antica vermouth and Navan vanilla liqueur and infusing the whole thing with figs for five days. Looking for something somewhat lighter? The Layman brothers are also serving a barrel-aged Martinez made with Jackalope Gin. Oaxacan Winter, Oak at Fourteenth

If you're dreaming of someplace warm this holiday season, Oak at Fourteenth can take you there while still fortifying your body against the cold weather outside. Its brand-new cocktail list includes a cocktail that's something of a mix between a brown, bitter and stirred drink and a margarita. The Oaxacan Winter is made with smoky Sombra mezcal, bittersweet Antica Carpano, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, mole bitters, Navan vanilla liqueur and agave. Salud. The Lowlands Dagger, Williams & Graham Speaking of smoke, Williams & Graham has a cocktail on the menu that's best consumed by a fire -- or in one of those cozy, plush booths. The blend of Auchentoshan Three Wood single malt scotch, bittersweet Bonal Gentiane-Quina and Lustau Pedro Jimenez sherry in the Lowlands Dagger creates a drink that's smoky and heavy, and will warm you from the inside out. And while you're there, you might also try the Tom and Jerry's, a tasty blend of Cognac, Jamaican rum, cinnamon, allspice, clove, eggs, sugar and milk served warm. That one will be on the list just until the new year.

Egg Nog, Colt & Gray

There are two kinds of egg nog: the crappy stuff that comes in the carton and the real stuff that's about the most indulgent thing on earth. And it's the real stuff that head barman Kevin Burke whips up this time of year at Colt & Gray. Using his grandmother's recipe, he's spiking cream, eggs, milk, sugar and nutmeg with a little dark rum and serving this incredible egg nog until it runs out. When it's gone -- which could be in the next few days -- try the Thurmon Munson's Revenge, a take on an old-fashioned using Calvados. Business Thyme, Root Down

We like drinks that are mulled and made with apple during the holidays, and Root Down has a cocktail on its list that sates that craving in a completely unexpected way. The Business Thyme combines añejo tequila, Canton ginger liqueur, thyme, lemon and Angostura bitters with apple cider. Sweet, spicy and just a little bit smoky? Pour us another.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk