'Tis the season for hot drinks, and Ashland bartenders and baristas have been hard at work devising creative concoctions.

'Tis the season for hot drinks, and Ashland bartenders and baristas have been hard at work devising creative concoctions.

"My favorite is called The Snowball," said Julia Rowland, a bartender at Alex's Plaza Restaurant & Bar who developed the drink.

Her inspiration came from a bottle of chai liqueur, which she mixes with milk or cream and vanilla vodka.

Want a drink version of a freshly baked cookie? Try Alex's chocolate oatmeal cookie drink, which starts with a base of hot chocolate and then has spicy Jagermeister, Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Cream and Goldschlager, a cinnamon liqueur known for its signature gold flecks.

Few drinks around town can match the spectacle of Alex's Spanish coffee, made with cinnamon, nutmeg, rum, Kahlua and orange-flavored triple sec. Bartenders light the drink, causing the alcohol, cinnamon and nutmeg to flare. "The cinnamon and nutmeg sparkle. It looks like fireworks when you light it," Rowland said.

Louie's Bar & Grill has its Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate, made with hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps. Hot Apple Pie — another dessert-inspired drink — is made with apple cider jazzed up with Tuaca vanilla citrus liqueur and whipped cream. Classics include Irish coffee, which is coffee with whiskey, and hot toddy, a combination of tea, honey, lemon and whiskey.

At Mix Sweet Shop, baristas can add fresh orange zest to your mocha, or give your hot chocolate a Latin American kick with cayenne pepper, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and dark baking chocolate. Eggnog lattés and peppermint mochas are seasonal favorites.

Like Alex's, Standing Stone Brewing Co. is taking chai in new directions.

The brewery and restaurant's Chai Toddy incorporates chai tea, spiced rum and Tuaca vanilla amber liqueur. A Chocolate Covered Orange has coffee from Ashland's Noble Coffee Roasting mixed with Grand Marnier liqueur, Godiva white chocolate liqueur and Van Gogh Espresso Vodka, all topped with whipped cream.

For a new take on beer, Standing Stone has Wassail, spiced cider and oatmeal stout steamed and mixed with rum.

Noble Coffee Roasting owner Jared Rennie recommends the coffee shop's Rishi Chai tea drink for this time of year. "It has the perfect blend of sweetness and spice," he said, noting that it was recently selected as the Best Chai by Imbibe magazine, and also won Best Chai honors at the 2009 World Tea Expo.

Liquid Assets Wine Bar is still devising its seasonal drinks, but plans to unveil some new offerings next week.

If you're stuck at home and don't have access to all the exotic ingredients available to bartenders and baristas, here are a few simple drinks that I like to make at home.

For chai tea, warm up a mix of half milk and half water. Add a Tazo chai tea bag and a spoonful of honey from a local farmer's market. My favorite honey comes from Eagle Point-based Wild Bee Honey Farm.

For spicy hot chocolate, make a normal cup of hot chocolate, then add a dash of cinnamon and half a spoon each of vanilla extract and almond extract.

For the easiest drink of all, warm up a cup of apple cider or apple juice, then mix in a sprinkle of cinnamon. Starting with freshly pressed local apple cider takes the drink to another level.

Salud!

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.