Winter warming drinks. Kick it up a notch from your mom’s hot chocolate

hot cocoa graphic

Cold days call for warm drinks. Think of a hot winter drink, and I’ll bet the first thing you think of is hot chocolate.

I wish I loved hot chocolate, but it always makes me sick. I think it is my fault. It is such a delicious sugary buzz, I gulp it down quickly and then a headache squeezes my brain and I am out of it for a few hours. I do learn from experience, however, and so on the rare occasions I will drink a cup, I force myself to drink it ver-r-y slowly. Or, I make it without much sugar, and use real cocoa.

Chocolate or cocoa, it is the classic winter warmer drink, and though I have a love/hate with it, I have learned to make it with good cocoa, and that makes a huge difference. The head-pounding drink my mom used to force on me when I was waiting for the bus is as far in the past as the Poptarts (brown sugar-cinnamon, no frosting, please) she allowed me to get away with as breakfast. My current favorite cocoa has a touch of pepper, and though the flour makes it unwise for those gluten-free, it does make it a silky, molten mouthful.

mayanCocoaheader4 cups milk
1/2 cup cocoa
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon unbleached flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/16 teaspoon powdered red pepper (a dash)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
whipped cream with a drop of vanilla
shaved bittersweet chocolate

Heat 4 cups of milk in a double boiler.
Blend cocoa and flour, then make a paste by beating in cream. Add sugar, nutmeg, cloves, pepper and cinnamon, and blend. Whisk this into the warm milk, and heat 5 minutes. Finish with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Hot chocolate is pretty fine, if made well, but there are some other often overlooked cups of deliciousness to bring cozy comfort to a chilly winter day.

If caffeine is not your thing, try hot chaga or mulled raspberry cider. Chaga has been growing in popularity since Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote Cancer Ward in the 1960’s, attributing his health to it. Chaga is reviving and satisfying year round, cold or hot.

Here is my favorite hot recipe.

Hot Chaga Chai Tea

1 heaping T  finely ground chaga
6 cups cold spring water                                                                                                A blend of 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground clove, 1/4 tsp anise,  1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/4 tsp allspice                                                          3 cups almond milk

Steep chaga in cold water for 2 or more hours. Bring to boiling point, simmer for two hours. It will reduce dramatically. Strain through cheesecloth, or a coffee filter, to remove chaga grounds. (Save them for your garden) Add milk and spice to chaga liquid, and bring back to heat. This is also fabulous in the summer as a cold drink.

graphic of girl, dog, hot tea, winter

raspberry cider headMulled Raspberry Cider

1/2 gallon apple cider
4 raspberry zinger tea bags
6 star anise
12 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 oranges
cloves for garnish

Gently heat cider with spices.
Remove from heat, add tea bags
and steep 4 minutes. Squeeze in the juice
of one orange. Slice second orange,
stud with cloves, and float on top
of cider before serving.

Warm milk alone is sweet and comforting, but milk and honey is like a mother’s love, and will have you sleeping like a baby.

MilkHoneyheaderMilk and Honey

6 tablespoons honey
1 quart milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 whole cloves
freshly grated nutmeg

Place 1 tablespoon honey in each of 6 mugs.
Warm milk over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges.
Remove from heat and add cinnamon and cloves. Cover and let steep 20 minutes. Return milk to high heat and bring to a boil.
Discard cloves. Using a hand-held blender, frother or whisk, beat until milk has
a bit of froth on top. Divide into mugs and stir to dissolve honey.
Serve with a dash of nutmeg on top.



Karen O. Zimmermann

About Karen O. Zimmermann

Karen O. Zimmermann savors chance encounters with people throughout the state of Maine, and is endlessly delighted with the tales they have to share.