Here’s the thing, the arrival of spring doesn’t necessarily mean the snow (or rain, or sleet, or 30 degree temperatures) are over. On the upside, more cold weather means more excuses to make and sip warm drinks that will get you through that next cold spell. And while nobody’s talking smack about mulled wine or hot cocoa (especially with fresh whipped cream on top), after three months of snowstorms and cold days, you might be looking to mix up your mug. Whether you’re searching for a new boozy cocktail for aprés-ski, something hot to fill your thermos with, or just a tasty drink to fend off the cold, we’ve got options that’ll knock your thick, fuzzy socks off.
Cacao is like the cooler, older sibling of chocolate and coffee. If you find yourself getting jittery from one too many espressos but don’t want all of the sugar and cream from hot chocolate, give brewed cacao a try. It’s basically the same idea as coffee but made from ground cacao beans, resulting in a fruity brew with a slightly chocolate-y taste. Instead of caffeine, brewed cacao also has something called theobromine, a milder, longer-lasting stimulant. The nicest thing is that it can be brewed with a French press (or even added to coffee grounds).
No, that’s not a typo. Many of us are either firmly rooted in the coffee camp or team tea, but in places like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Ethiopia many people prefer to combine the two instead. Often mixed with condensed milk or just milk and sugar, the resulting combo is warm, creamy, and deliciously fragrant. The best versions are arguably served in Chinese bakeries, but it’s also really easy to make at home. Simply pop your tea of choice in a cup and add hot coffee instead of water, so that the tea brews right in the coffee. Get the Hong Kong Yuanyang Tea recipe.
Nowadays, you can find matcha-flavored anything, but you’re missing out if you haven’t tried the real deal. Simply brewed with water and whisked, the tea has an earthy, almost creamy taste. Some research has also suggested that it’s good for you, since it contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are associated with better heart health and a boosted metabolism. Matcha comes in different grades, so when picking out a powder to drink straight up, try to go for ceremonial or premium grades. See our Guide to Matcha Green Tea for more.
If you’re looking for a heartier beverage to face yet another cold morning, atole might be the perfect answer. The Mexican drink is usually made from masa harina (or corn flour), brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Other spices like star anise or nutmeg are used too, for an added kick. It’s super easy to adjust thickness by changing the amount of water or milk added, so you can have a more-filling atole as breakfast (as is typical in Mexico) or a thinner one for a light, afternoon beverage. As a bonus, it also comes in seemingly endless varieties. Champurrado, for example, is chocolate-based atole. Other popular mix-ins are pineapple, peanuts, and savory flavors like chile arbol.
A few years ago, it seemed like mushroom coffee was poised to become the next turmeric latte. Most varieties mix coffee with finely ground mushrooms like chaga, reishi, and cordyceps, which some research suggests have health benefits like anti-inflammation and antioxidants. Other enthusiasts think that they enhance focus and lower anxiety (which could also be a by-product of lower caffeine levels). Either way, mushroom coffee is a delicious option if you’re not ready to nix caffeine for good.
It sounds simple, but nothing beats a fragrant, creamy mug of spiced milk on a cold day. The Dutch have anijsmelk, or star anise-infused milk. Parts of India like Chennai have masala paal, with almonds and pistachios, and insomniacs everywhere have turned to a warm cup of milk and cinnamon late at night. The brilliance of this beverage is how versatile the ingredients are. You can pretty much make it with any spices that you have on hand, and sub in with your alt milk of choice.
White coffee is a bit of a misnomer, since there are no coffee beans involved in this Lebanese version. Instead, the drink (often had in lieu of coffee) is a combination of water, orange blossom water, and sugar. It’s amazingly fragrant and caffeine-free, and it’s said to help with digestion. If you have trouble finding orange blossom water, you can substitute with other flower waters, like rosewater, instead. Get the Lebanese White Coffee recipe.
You’ve probably had hot sakes before, but amazake is a whole different category. Traditionally served at Japanese shrines and teahouses, it’s thick, sweet, and soothing. Technically, most amazake has some alcohol content, but it’s much lower than other sakes. If you can’t find it at a specialty store, it’s actually quite simple to make at home with just a few ingredients. All you need is rice, water, and something called rice koji, akin to a starter for sourdough or kombucha, that you can find on Amazon. Check out this Amazake recipe.
There are a lot of delicious ways to spike hot chocolate: Bailey’s, amaretto, any number of cream-based liqueurs. But the best option of all might be red wine. It makes sense when you think about it—grapes and chocolate go together, so why shouldn’t red wine and hot cocoa? The mix is less sweet and more complex than other spiked chocolates, with the wine bringing out the fruitiness of the chocolate. Be careful not to go overboard with wine though—too much acidity will curdle the milk. Get this Red Wine Hot Chocolate recipe.
Milk punch is a classic New Orleans cocktail. It’s usually made with a base of bourbon or dark rum mixed with milk, sugar, vanilla, and spices like nutmeg. Poured over ice, the punch is an incredible start to Mardi Gras. But mixed with hot milk instead of cold, it’s the ideal mug to cradle while watching a movie in bed (or any other hygge activity). Because it’s so simple, it’s also a great plan B for all of those times that you forget to pick up a bar of chocolate for hot cocoa. Garnish with some freshly grated cinnamon and snuggle in. Get this Hot Bourbon Milk Punch recipe.
If you want to try some of these options at home, you can buy most of your supplies online.
Choffy Ivory Coast Brewed Chocolate 100% Pure Cacao Beans, $14.99 on Amazon
Brew these medium roast cocoa beans as a coffee alternative.
Jade Leaf Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder, $23.70 on Amazon
This matcha is ceremonial grade, which means it's ideal for making into tea.
Maseca Instant Corn Masa Flour, $2.88 at Walmart
For making atole, as well as tamales, tortillas, and other Mexican classics.
Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee, $11.41 on Amazon
This particular blend contains lion's mane and chaga mushrooms.
Cortas Orange Blossom Water, $8.49 on Amazon
For brewing Lebanese white coffee and adding a fragrant note to lots of other drinks and dishes.
Miyako Koji Malted Rice, $15.24 on Amazon
If sold out on Amazon, check for this sweet sake ingredient in local Asian grocery stores and even on eBay too.
Related Video: 5 Weird Coffee Drinks to Try
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Header image courtesy of The Woks of Life.