Before sharing some backcountry bar tending suggestions with you, know that mixing alcohol with any outdoor activity must be done very responsibly. That said, enjoying a spirited libation while sitting around a crackling campfire any time, but especially in the chill of the evening campout, is one of pleasures of camping during any season.
Having a liquor cabinet or wet bar in the snug comforts of a cabin is one thing, but enjoying a variety of libations when living out of a tent is a bit more challenging, whether you’re backpacking or lounging around your base camp on a fishing/hunting weekend. Even car campers need to limit what are absolutes and what are luxuries. Fortunately, with campfire cocktails, simple but satisfying compromises provide most backwoods bartenders with plenty of options.
Mulls — drinks that combine wine/beer/cider with spices and sweetenings – among those hot drinks well suited for cold nights around camp. Creating basic, straight-forward cocktail concoctions around the campfire requires that appropriate liquid ingredients are in containers that will both keep the spirits at their prime and minimize breakage while being clattered and banged around. Thermos bottles for hot rums and toddies, growlers for bringing fresh on-tap beers, flasks for nips of those special spirits all make setting up your backcountry bar tending quick and easy.
Hot Buttered Rumis a tasty example of a brew that requires few ingredients, much of which can be made up in the kitchen before heading out. Most all traditional recipes typically combine: 4 oz. milk, 1 Tbsp. 1 tsp. butter, brown sugar, ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or etc., some even add a drop or two of vanilla.
To make it handy and showing off yourself to be a creative mixologist, cream these ingredients together thoroughly; then form a ‘log’ of the thick mixture and chill until firm. You can now slice the log into roughly 1 oz. pieces, put in a zip-loc bag and freeze. For fresh-tasting HBRs around the campfire, bring the baggie of “dough” along in a cooler. When it’s time to toast the evening, drop one of the thawed, softened clumps into a cup, add 2 ounces of rum and boiling water to whatever taste concentration you prefer, and enjoy!
A Hot Toddy is equally quick and easy, especially when you have most of the basics already in your camp galley. Whiskey, honey, lemon and hot water can be quickly turned into this popular warming drink.
The options of enjoying wine are many as well. Besides protective wine caddies or sleeves in which to carry it by the bottle, there are boxes that will easily stand the abuses of campfire commotion. There are even smaller, bottle-sized wine cartons available.
Another, even more simple way to enjoy hot spirits is to combine your favor liquor with pre-made packets of flavorings available at most all super markets. Peppermint schnapps and a packet of instant hot chocolate mix in boiling water combine to create a Peppermint Patty. Likewise a Mountain Margaritais the tasty outcome of mixing tequila with a packet of lemon-lime drink mix and a half ounce of triple sec (might require a special effort to include a small container). I even read that you can create your own Backcountry BourbonSmoothieby mixing up a cup of powered milk, adding the bourbon and shaking the mixture — and then pouring it all into a full cup of snow – tasty, maybe, but definitely not a hotsoothing drink!
Lastly, you can certainly enjoy it straight up from the bottle, too. In fact, one vodka company, Droptine, has the outdoorsman/woman in their sights with tasty persimmons and apple “moonshine” that begs an outdoor venue. The fruits are remindful of autumn, fall flavored and colorful – in the field, persimmons take on a strong autumn orange; and the red-ripeness of apples). Several liquors come in flavored/spiced versions that enhance the ‘spirit’ and flavor of the outdoor setting.
A casual cocktail around the campfire is a classic way to celebrate the great moments of the day. I cannot stress enough, however, that alcohol does NOT generate or provide lasting warmth to your body. In fact, it constricts blood vessels — making you feel warm initially but actually pulling heat out of your core and to the surface where it is conducted or convected away from you thereby reducing the heat throughout your body. Always drink wisely, timely and sparingly…be safe, have fun out there! Salud!