Whether it’s curled up in front of the heater at home with a mug of cocoa or standing on the sidelines in the blistering cold, barracking for your footy team with a thermos of tea, having hot drinks during winter time is a practice as old as winter itself. But if you think it’s as easy as boiling a kettle, then think again. Just like mixing a cocktail, there’s an art to getting each drink just perfect. The temperature, the ingredients, the method; all of these things contribute to making the perfect hot drink. And when the wind is whipping up from Antartica, there’s driving icy rain, hail, sleet, and you want to donate your frozen extremities to the Museum of Modern Discomfort, who doesn’t want the perfect hot drink to warm their frigid bones?
The best thing to do when you’re consistently cold, is steal the ideas from those who are always hot. Enter the frame, Masala Chai (chai = tea in Hindi). This distinctively sweet, milk-based tea, as it name would suggest, comes from one of the hottest countries on earth: India. Always popular throughout the sub-continent and down to South-East Asia, this hot beverage is now a well-seasoned international traveler. Picked up by hippies and hipsters alike, this drink has now most likely been spilled on every Yoga mat from Belarus to Tasmania. Appearing in many fraudulent and flavourless guises across the globe including the abhorrent powdered form, overtly acrid tea bags, and engaging in nuptial unions with weird milk varieties like soy and almond that Indian Chai wallahs would sneer at. The authentic version combines black tea with milk, sugar and aromatics such as green cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves giving it distinctive spicy warmth.
And the award for hot drink you are probably least likely to try based on name alone goes to…eggnog. Yes we’re talking the Frankenstein-esque concoction popularised by American Christmas culture. Eggnog is sort of like a Masala Chai that’s been hijacked by chicken hating alcoholics. Essentially a spiced dairy drink where milk and cream is flavoured with aromatics such as vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon but you swap out the tea for liquor (rum or bourbon) and add eggs. Clearly invented by someone suffering from elongated winter isolation, this drink, if done properly, actually tastes really good and kicks an extra warming buzz on account of the booze. Do this bad boy justice and you’ll be drinking it all winter long.
Winter is in full swing and you’ve gone and caught yourself the dreaded lurgy. You’re holed up at home with puffy red eyes, aching bones and snot dribbling down your face; the cold and flu tablets have stopped working and there’s no salvation in sight. You need a hot toddy. Stupid name, good drink. It’s basically lemsip for pissheads. Simply combine honey, hot water, lemon, whiskey, and drink to cure what ails you. Purportedly created to cure common colds and flu; it’s much more likely they just get you drunk so you can no longer feel the symptoms. Either way, they’re a great tasting boozy drink for a cold night.
The British soul band Hot Chocolate of the 70s and 80s had a big hit in ‘Everyone’s A Winner.’ It’s unlikely the band was referencing the eponymously named hot drink, but it would be accurate, if not poignant, if they were. Everyone really is a winner with a hot chocolate, unless of course you’re lactose intolerant or a dog. There’s just something about the powers of chocolate that are almost unparalleled by any other food type. Consuming it, to many, is a euphoric other-worldy experience. There’s not much to add to the plethoric catalogue of literature on the hot chocolate, apart from the tip: branch out a bit. The standard hot choccy has had its time in the sun, the addition of ingredients such as mint, chili, malt etc can take your mug to the next level.
It wouldn’t be a hot drinks article without referencing coffee in some way. This killer coffee concoction adds a South American twist with dulce de leche (a sticky confection made from condensed milk) and some booze to what is typically a sober libation in the form of kahlua. If that’s not sounding warming enough, there’s also chocolate in there for good measure. This one is a serious indulgence.