Photographer and outdoor enthusiast Andy Austin knows better than anyone how to handle a strong chill. Growing up in Montana, he says if you give up and go inside when the snow starts flying, you’ll be locked away for most of the year – no one wants that!
Austin, who lives a hybrid of van and home life, highlights his experiences on TikTok. A particular series of posts he’s curated is called Campfire Cocktails, where he teaches his viewers how to whip up tasty drinks to make while camping.
Campfire Cocktails began by collaborating with Bozeman Spirits Distilling to make a cinnamon hot toddy. The recipe calls for two ounces of cinnamon whiskey, two quarters of lemon, two dashes of aromatic bitters, half an ounce of honey syrup (three parts honey, one part water) and hot water.
“I made this in the spring and can’t wait to make it again in the winter,” Austin says. “Putting bitters in gives it a whole new flavor profile that really opens up the drink.”
Austin says whiskey is generally his drink of choice because it pairs well with so many hot drinks like coffee, cider or hot chocolate which he can make right on the campfire.
A clear expert on the subject, we asked Austin for all the tips and tricks so campers everywhere can easily whip up hot drinks to sip on while camping in cold weather.
Choose a Proper Heating Source
Austin’s heating source for whipping up hot drinks varies, but generally he prefers a Jetboil for boiling water fast. If he’s not using that, he will put a kettle over a campfire, either sitting on the side or on a camp grills.
“I do love putting my kettle on a campfire because it’s great to always have easily accessible hot water,” Austin says. “It’s so nice when you’re camping and going, ‘Oh I want to make a drink’ or ‘I want to refill my drink’ and you immediately have your campfire kettle ready.”
Prep a Good Cooking Campfire
Because he often uses grate when boiling water for drinks, Austin keeps the fire small enough so that his kettle doesn’t burn directly.
“I keep it a little lower to heat water,” Austin says. “Once it gets nice and hot, I’ll pull the kettle out of the fire a little bit just to make sure it stays a nice warm temperature and doesn’t boil off all your water.”
Keep Kitchenware Simple and Durable
Early on in Campfire Cocktails, Austin made the mistake of using typical glassware and mixing equipment. He was frustrated with how breakable everything was and didn’t want to open up his van and find broken glass everywhere. So, over time, he curated a collection of outdoor friendly equipment.
First thing’s first: Austin got his trusty kettle from a thrift store. He recommends finding one that’s built for open flame, generally made of titanium or stainless steel.
“I’ve definitely charred some bottoms of kettles before,” Austin says, laughing.
He, of course, requires a few other tools for whipping up campfire drinks. Austin uses High Camp Flasks for shakers and mixing glasses. After years of using a ‘crappy’ shaker that would leak and make a mess, he stumbled upon the brand and hasn’t used anything else since.
“Almost everything they have is double-insulated,” he says. “So whether I’m making cold or hot drinks, it’s great to make things and drink out of. They basically built a lot of their stuff around doing exactly this – making drinks around the campfire.”
The copper highball shaker is designed with a built-in strainer, which he says is a big help. It also has a vacuum-sealed lid so he can make a drink and take it on the go, if he so pleases.
One of the biggest mistakes Austin has made in the past is not using tongs or hot pads when pulling the kettle off the fire.
“I definitely have burned myself a few times,” he says. “I used to use makeshift stuff to handle the hot kettle.”
He strongly recommends a good pair of fire gloves.
Another mistake he made was getting too complicated with his drinks.
“The simpler the better,” Austin says. “A lot of the stuff I do on Campfire Cocktails is made in front of the camera, but if it was just for fun, I would probably make a lot of the ingredients ahead of time and bring it with me.”
For example, instead of packing fresh blueberries and maple syrup, prepare ahead of time so you have a blueberry syrup ready for any toasty beverage you’d like.
Never Forget the Coffee
“I’m a coffee snob for sure,” Austin says. “I prioritize my life around coffee and where I’m going to get my next cup – it’s an addiction.”
Unlike the typical coffee snob, however, Austin isn’t afraid of instant coffee when camping.
“It sounds like a cardinal sin, but I’ve found a brand called Black Coffee Roasting Company in Missoula Montana and they make an amazing instant that tastes just as good as the normal stuff,” he says. “If I’m running out to see a sunrise, it’s four o’clock in the morning and I don’t want to sit and make pour over, so I throw instant coffee into some hot water from my Jetboil.”
When he does have the time to make pour over, Austin uses the Pakt coffee kit. He compares it to a Russian nesting doll pour over kit that fits into a compact setup, something he doesn’t take for granted when camping.
“It doesn’t take up a ton of room and mimics the kind of pouring control of a gooseneck kettle,” he says. “I even bring it into hotels when I’m on the road because most of them use K-cup machines which are terrible for the environment and, in my opinion, have awful coffee.”