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Warm Beverages for Cool Days and Nights

Warm Beverages for Cool Days and Nights

Blankets, jackets, and an adequate campfire can keep the body warm when the temperatures begin to dip. That’s great for the body’s exteriors, but what about the insides of the body? A warm cup of coffee and hot tea are beverages go-tos no matter the season or the outside temperatures. Hot chocolate is another popular choice. But for something different that celebrates the fall and early winter, there are other options.

First, let’s start out with some family friendly ideas.

The classic cup of cocoa enjoyed by a fire is always a hit, but there are some ways to upscale that plain, old, everyday hot chocolate. Cocoa is the powdery mix that becomes the most common way to indulge in this sweet drink. Even with this convenience, there are ways to change up the taste and excite your tastebuds.

Most of the powdered hot cocoa mixes brands offer variations – marshmallows and other add-ins. Whether you make your hot chocolate from scratch with milk and melted chocolate pieces, kick up the spices by making a Mexican cuisine inspired cup. Simply adding cinnamon and cayenne pepper (be careful of the quantities – it needs to be enjoyed and appreciated, not burn up the palate) can elevate the everyday to a spicy special occasion.

Another international take on hot chocolate is based on a recipe from Argentina. Warm milk, sugar and vanilla, which is served in a mug with an accompanying piece of dark chocolate. The piece of chocolate is then dunked into the warm beverage and melted as part of the individual experience of enjoying this variation. The reward is at the bottom of the cup when the rich chocolatey remnants wait for the final indulgence.

Experiment with the taste elements of non-dairy milk. Coconut, almond, cashew, oat and rice milk have distinctive flavors on their own. Here’s a suggestion to take coconut milk to another level and create a vegan-friendly hot beverage. Add cinnamon, bittersweet chocolate and toasted coconut to coconut milk hot chocolate. If you think of a candy bar, use this as a guide. Chocolate, coconut and almonds, for example, are one idea.

An even simpler way to change up the hot chocolate you serve is to forego the marshmallows and add something tasty but unexpected instead. Melting a hazelnut spread into the hot chocolate is one suggestion. You can also add pumpkin spice, orange zest, a favorite spice blend such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg, a dash almond or vanilla extract, or even toppings like caramel, butterscotch or dulce de leche. Crush up some candy canes or other peppermint flavored candies and stir into the hot chocolate as it steeps. Mint chocolate chips work well too, as does mint or peppermint extract or a few fresh mint leaves.

Make that basic hot chocolate into a mocha-inspired drink by adding coffee. Pour in a little maple syrup into hot chocolate for combination that will perk up your taste buds, or for even greater indulgence, simply add more chocolate flavoring.

If you want to enjoy something other than the conventional hot chocolate route, honey milk is a sweet alternative. Just add some honey to milk that has been heated. It doesn’t take a lot of honey to make this taste good – just a drop or two is all you need.

Cider is another one of the classic beverages that can be enjoyed cold or hot. It is the quintessential fall taste, made from this year’s crop of apples.

Spiced cider is one hot version of this seasonal drink that includes a combination of spices – allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and orange peel – and brown sugar to offset the spiciness. These can be slowly steeped in the cider on a stove or campfire or made in a coffeemaker by substituting the ingredients in place of the coffee grounds. Pour the cider into the coffeemaker where the water usually goes and brew.

In a second recipe using for a spiced cider, add cranberry juice and lemon to the blend of spices. Adding another fall season component keeps it festive and zesty.

A different version can be made by adding maple syrup to the heated cider. This taste is sweeter and less intense, but just as warming on those chilly fall evenings. You can also top your maple hot cider with butter, nutmeg and allspice for a treat that is appropriately named a Hot Buttered Apple Cider.

Now for the recipes for the over-21 crowd.

Adding alcohol to hot chocolate takes it to another level. The best choices for an alcohol-infused hot chocolate are dark colored and something that is reminiscent of caramel, such as a whiskey or dark rum. Kahlua or Cointreau is also recommended for a more upscale taste. If you like peppermint and chocolate, use peppermint schnaps as your “adult” ingredient.

Rum is the spirit of choice for a spiked hot cider, although others suggest the addition of Cointreau to add a citrus-based flavor, too.

Mulled Wine is a nostalgic drink that is tasty to make and warming for those cold days and nights of the season. It is a combination of fruit flavors, red wine and spices. The recipe using one bottle of dry red wine includes 4 cups of cider, ¼ cup of honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, a jested and juiced orange, four cloves and three star anise. Put ingredients in a pan to warm up. Do not heat it enough to boil off the alcohol; simply keep it warm.

The Hot Toddy is one of those alcoholic drinks that has been enjoyed for decades. It is simple to make, and it is delicious as well. It is a combination of a shot of whiskey, a squeeze of lemon, honey, and hot water. Four ingredients that you can tweak to your own tastes.

Without a doubt pumpkin spice is the flavor of the season and there is a cocktail that uses this in a very adult way. Start with a shot of dark rum and a shot of vanilla. Follow this with a pinch of pumpkin spice mix and a pinch of cinnamon. Top with coconut milk and add pumpkin puree if you like. The final step is to heat the ingredients slightly (just to warm it up).

Oct 6th 2021 Lois Tomaszewski

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