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Will Alcohol Evaporate From a Hot Cocktail?

A large pot filled with red wine, star anise, cloves and fruit to make mulled wine.
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Getting cozy with a hot cocktail and a good movie is one of the best ways to enjoy the chilly months of fall and winter. Unfortunately, that hot drink might be missing some of its oomph.

If the alcohol portion of your cocktail tends to be your favorite component of the beverage, you should know some of it actually evaporates from the heat.

Will Alcohol Evaporate from a Hot Cocktail?

A hot mug of mulled wine.
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So if you have big plans for making crockpots of mulled wine in the upcoming months, we want you to know how the heat affects those delicious alcoholic beverages.

A study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) tested how heat affects food and beverages.

They tested alcohol content after being stirred into hot liquids, baked for various amounts of time, or simmered to compare results depending on the heating method. The outcomes proved that heat does cause your cocktails to lose alcohol.

The study also proved that the longer the alcohol cooks, the more it evaporates, which means your cocktail could turn into an almost mocktail depending on the heating method.

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According to Vinepair, just stirring liquor into a hot drink causes 15% of the alcohol to evaporate. A flaming shot causes 25% of the alcohol to vanish, while baking and simmering with alcohol give varying results depending on how long it’s in contact with heat.

How Does Alcohol Evaporate in Hot Cocktails?

Two glasses of a hot cocktail.
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The study demonstrated that heat causes evaporation in cocktails, but we wanted to dig a little deeper and find out why. Here’s what we learned.

According to Greatist, alcohol boils at 173 degrees Fahrenheit, much lower than water, which boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So in hot cocktails or rich wine sauces, the alcohol will begin to evaporate before the water does. There’s a little more to consider in the equation, though.

While heat tends to be one of the main factors, the concentration of alcohol and the amount of time the alcohol is heated play major roles, too. The same concept can be applied to cooking with alcohol.

If you’re slow-roasting a beer-basted turkey for several hours, chances are, most of the alcohol, if not all, will cook off due to long heat exposure and low alcohol content in beer. Likewise, in a cozy beef bourguignon dinner, which often features cognac and red wine, most of the alcohol is likely to cook off as it braises for hours.

However, if you plan on flambéing (which means covering your food with liquor and then setting it on fire for a brief flash), the alcohol is heated too briefly, so it will retain more alcohol.

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If you were to apply the tested theory to hot cocktails like mulled wine, which simmers for hours, you can pretty much guarantee alcohol will evaporate over time.

If you were to make a cold cocktail with one ounce of alcohol and compare it to a hot cocktail with one ounce of liquor stirred in, the hot beverage, in theory, should have less alcohol than the cold beverage, thanks to evaporation.

Hot Cocktail Recipes to Try

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With all this talk about hot cocktails, it’s about time we cover a few classics. Some of the drinks listed offer a refreshing kick while others double as both cocktail and decadent dessert. Whether you’re in the mood for something sweet or rich, you should find it on this list.

You can follow a cocktail recipe the same way you would follow food recipes. The original, if precisely followed, might be exactly what you’re looking for, but creativity is the fun part. Try a new spice, syrup, or fruit garnish until you have concocted something you can call yours.

Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is a sweet and subtly spicy wine beverage that is heated and served through the cold months of winter. Typically, red wine is used, but it can also be really delicious with white wine.

Mulling spices, sliced oranges, wine, brandy, and sugar make their way into a saucepan with a quick stir and a long simmer. Within a few hours, you’ll have a delicious hot drink to enjoy with the ones you love most.

Spiked Hot Chocolate

If chocolate is your thing, then spiked hot cocoa might be the cocktail for you. The best part about the recipe is it can be geared to your taste buds. Whether your poison is rum, baileys, or bourbon, the cocktail tastes delicious.

A combination of ingredients heated in a saucepan finished with a whipped cream garnish is all it takes before sipping on this lovely hot dessert drink.

Hot Toddy:

This classic hot cocktail is adored by many for its refreshing bite and simplicity. The drink comes together in seconds using water, whiskey, honey, and lemon.

The hot toddy is light and fresh and great for slow sipping. Unlike a spiked hot cocoa or mulled wine, a hot toddy doesn’t ignite the sweet taste buds but instead gives a hydrating punch to each sip.

Hot Buttered Rum

This American classic consists of dark rum, butter, brown sugar, and many warming spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. When shopping for liquor, Simply Recipes recommends getting good-quality dark rum, especially if you’re looking to impress guests.

Fresh-made compound butter, rum, and hot water come together quickly in this warm and unique beverage. Many adore it, so don’t let the butter part of the drink scare you off.

Irish Coffee

Many think of this drink as a sweet coffee mixed with Irish cream liqueur and topped with whipped cream. However, genuine Irish coffee is simpler than that. It’s coffee combined with Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and a dash of heavy cream.

For a perfectly constructed authentic cocktail, follow the steps laid out by the Spruce Eats. These are great after a big meal when you’re feeling tired and need a quick caffeine kick.


It’s official— heat will cause your cocktail to lose a little edge. As the home mixologist, just make sure the flavor is spot on, and nobody will even notice.

 

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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