By Kristine Hansen | Photos courtesy (left to right): Grand Geneva; Del-Bar, Lake Lawn Resort

While waiting to sip tropical-inspired fizzy cocktails may still be months out, Wisconsin’s bars and restaurants know how to craft a perfectly palatable winter-cocktail menu that will make waiting out the colder months much more enjoyable. 

Often these provide a little bit of “heat” and fold in warming spirits like brandy or spices  – they might even feature coffee or espresso. So bundle up and head out to these drinkeries to partake in delicious cocktails that are sure to warm you up! 

Milwaukee: Twisted Path Distillery 

Veering into warm and cozy thanks to a wall of glass and lots of plants, Twisted Path Distillery’s decade-old distillery and tasting room in the city’s Bay View neighborhood hits the spot, especially for chai lovers. 

Owner Brian Sammons’ wife’s chai-tea recipe is the basis for their Chai Liqueur (vodka), used to make Chai Nog: added to the liqueur is egg, heavy whipping cream, sugar and bitters for a new take on this classic winter café order.

Lake Geneva: 1878 on the Lake & Leinenkugel’s Mountain Top Lodge

Two of the town’s best-known resorts – Grand Geneva Resort & Spa and Lake Lawn Resort – don’t let innovation stop them after the summer crowds have thinned. 

Lake Lawn Resort’s twist on an old fashioned (Wisconsin’s official cocktail) is the Filthy Brandy Old Fashioned, served at 1878 on the Lake. It features brandy from Driftless Glen (Baraboo, Wis.), “filthy” cherries, an orange slice and splash of lemon-lime soda. 

Then, at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, you can cozy up with a Cider Toddy at Leinenkugel’s Mountain Top Lodge – on the Mountain Top Ski Chalet’s second level – near the fire after a day of skiing. This drink’s combination of brandy, hot apple cider, honey syrup and lemon juice borders on medicinal while still tasting like an indulgence.

Wisconsin Dells: The Del Bar

“Our Espresso Martini is a very popular coffee drink right now,” says Del Bar co-owner Anne Stoken, a member of the family’s third generation to own this supper club that first debuted 81 years ago. Blending Absolut Vanilla vodka, Kahlua and a shot of espresso, those ingredients are shaken and served with a lemon twist. Consider drinking this at the U-shaped bar, where you’re encouraged to linger, before sitting down to a traditional supper-club dinner where surf and turf entrees reign.

Fontana: Kimkasi Pub

Tucked into this tiny resort town of just under 3,000 residents on the West side of Geneva Lake sits a gem: Kimkasi Pub – the establishment’s Winter Wine-O is just one example of the many specialty cocktails hand-crafted at this cozy neighborhood pub during the winter months. Much like wassail, which is a cocktail served hot and folding in mulled spices and red wine, this one is anchored by sweet Australian red wine.


Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer who calls Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood home.

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