This fall, football returned to Wrigley Field for the first time in 11 years, and plenty more college games are scheduled there in coming years. Though a winter football game is among the coldest outdoor activities in the Midwest, there is one drink that will keep you comfortable throughout. And I have an usher at Wrigley to thank for it.
Before the Northwestern-Illinois game at Wrigley in 2010, I was walking around the empty stadium in search of a hot drink. Pausing to chat, the usher told me he had worked many games on frigid days over at Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play. “How do you stay warm?” I asked.
I expected him to pull out a flask, but instead he told me his secret: chicken broth in a hot chocolate cup. “Do you add alcohol?” I said. He smiled and winked.
Ever since then, I’ve made it a practice to bring hot chicken broth drinks in a thermos or insulated cup when I know I’ll be outside or in frosty places like hockey games (assuming containers are allowed, that is). It’s heartier than a hot tea and doesn’t sign you up for dessert the way hot cocoa does. Broth cocktails are more complex, like doctored soup. It isn’t as strange as it sounds. After all, the bull shot has been around for decades.
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What is a bull shot?
Since I was a kid, I’ve known hunters and fishers whose cocktail of choice was a bull shot: beef broth combined with vodka, lime juice, and a splash of Worcestershire. Knowing this, a chicken broth drink isn’t that much of a stretch.
A bull shot can be drunk hot or cold, but many people favor it warm, after hours spent in duck blinds or waiting for deer to emerge. Whether homemade or from a package, chicken broth can be used in much the same way, and you end up with a lighter-tasting drink than the beef broth provides.
Rather than lime, you can pair chicken broth with lemon, which gives you a nice echo of Greek avgolemono soup, minus eggs. But I see chicken broth drinks as an opportunity to experiment with different alcohol flavors as well as spices.
While vodka is a basic ingredient, chicken broth also lends itself to heartier liquors like bourbon, rye, or brandy. You also can use non-alcoholic spirits like Seedlip’s spice or herb varieties.
I’ve never combined chicken broth with liqueurs, because I’d rather stay on the savory side rather than sweet. But if you’re a fan of orange chicken, you can experiment with Grand Marnier or Cointreau. And some people might enjoy chicken broth with a licorice overtone by using Sambuca. With these intensely flavored liquors, less is more, so you might cut back on the booze from the recipe below.
Stir in some herbs
I love steeping herbs in chicken broth, using different types that I dry when the summer is over. It’s a great combination with rosemary, thyme, mixes like herbs de Provence, and even mint.
I’d stay with the herbs you would use to flavor soup broths, rather than stronger ones such as sage or oregano, which can overwhelm the broth. Place the herbs in a Pyrex mixing cup with the broth, and taste to find out the intensity. If using larger pieces of dried herbs, strain them before serving.
Experiment with spices and sauces
Chicken broth also gives you a great opportunity to stir in different levels of ground pepper, like cayenne, chipotle, or aleppo, which can be a wake-up call on a cold day.
Indian spices, such as cardamom, turmeric, and finely ground fennel, are eminently drinkable. Nutmeg adds a holiday taste to chicken broth drinks, especially when combined with citrus like orange or lemon. Baharat, the spice blend that includes cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and cumin, is wonderful and complex.
Just as a bull shot includes a dash of Worcestershire, you can try adding drops of sauces to your chicken broth drinks. Think about your favorite hot sauce (I like Crystal, Tabasco, and Cholula) or something with Asian flavor, like ponzu, soy, or fish sauce. Here’s another place for sriracha fans to bump up flavor. Just remember that a few drops go a long way in a drink.
Basic Chicken Broth Cocktail Recipe
- 3/4 cup chicken broth, heated
- 1/4 cup vodka or other liquor
- 1/2 tsp. ground spice or herbs
- Dash of sauce, if desired
- Squeeze of lemon or lime
- Rosemary for garnish
If using spices or herbs, combine them with the hot chicken broth and steep for at least 5 minutes, longer if a stronger flavor is desired. (If steeped overnight, stir and heat the broth when ready to serve.)
Place the vodka, sauce, and citrus juice in the bottom of a mug and stir. Slowly add the hot broth, stirring to combine the flavors. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Serve and enjoy.
If you are filling a thermos or a pitcher, stir before serving to make sure the flavors mix together.