Northerners know that the best hand warmers on wintry days are mugs filled with steamed, steeped and mulled elixirs. For those who choose to imbibe, spiking the concoctions makes them that much toastier after a skate on the ice or an afternoon of sledding.
"Being a Minnesotan, there's nothing like getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors," said Lee Wallace, CEO of Peace Coffee. "Just like in the summer after you finish an activity and you love to have a nice, cool drink, the flip side of that is in the winter, when there's something incredibly comforting about a nice warm drink wrapping up your outdoor time."
Wallace has been brewing up coffee, of course, as an ingredient for piping hot drinks and cocktails that take the chill off socially distant garage-based gatherings.
Try coffee with powdered fresh mint and cocoa, and maybe a nip of brandy to turn it up a notch. For brunch, how about a hot, mulled Bloody Mary? Homemade chai hits the spot when it comes to warming spices — with or without rum. And any way you mull it, hot cider (bourbon optional) is always a winter hit. Here are four recipes to try:
Note: Delicious on its own, rum adds even more depth to this classic spiced tea. While Assam is the traditional choice for Indian chai, use either black or green tea, depending on preference. Adapted from the recipe for chai in "Chaat" by Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy (Clarkson Potter).
• 5 whole cloves
• 4 cardamom pods
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
• 1/2-in. piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 3 to 4 black or green tea bags (depending on strength and tea preference)
• 1/4 c. sugar
• 1 c. whole milk
• Pinch of salt
• 2 tbsp. rum per serving, optional
Combine the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and peppercorns and lightly crush them on a clean work surface using a wooden spoon, or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer the crushed spices to a saucepan, add the ginger and 3 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the tea bags and remove the pan from the heat. Steep at room temperature for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea (strong is recommended).
Remove the tea bags and then add the sugar, milk and salt. Return to a simmer over high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat just after it comes to a simmer, strain into 10-ounce mugs, and serve hot.
If using rum, add it to the empty mug before pouring in the chai, then stir.
Johnny Weir Mint Mocha
Note: This recipe from Peace Coffee is like a strong hot chocolate for grown-ups, whether spiked or not. The mint chocolate powder makes enough for several batches and lasts in the refrigerator for two weeks. Double-strength coffee is coffee brewed with half the amount of water. From Peace Coffee.
For the mint chocolate powder:
• 1 3/4-oz. pkg. fresh mint, stems removed, rinsed and dried
• 1 c. sugar
• 1 c. cocoa powder
For the beverage:
• 3/4 c. double-strength coffee (see Note)
• 2 tbsp. crème de cacao or brandy, optional
• 1/2 c. milk or milk alternative, hot
• Whipped cream or crushed chocolate cookies for garnish, optional
To prepare chocolate mint powder: Add mint leaves and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Run until mint is pulverized and sugar has taken on a green hue. Add cocoa powder to food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Place in a resealable container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
To prepare the beverage: In a 10-ounce mug, add 1 heaping tablespoon of mint chocolate powder or more to taste. Add enough coffee to cover, and stir until dissolved.
Fill mug halfway with remaining coffee. If using crème de cacao or brandy, add it now. Add hot milk to mug and stir to combine. Garnish with whipped cream or crushed chocolate cookies as desired.
Mulled Bloody Mary
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: The brunch mainstay is a surprise when warmed up. Adapted from "Winter Drinks" (Ryland, Peters & Small).
• 4 c. tomato juice
• 1 lemon, halved, with one half kept whole and the other sliced
• 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 3 tbsp. vodka per serving, optional
• Celery salt
• Optional garnishes: olives, cornichons or other pickles, skewered on a toothpick
Combine tomato juice and juice from half a lemon in a saucepan. Add to the saucepan lemon slices, Worcestershire sauce, black peppercorns, salt and pepper to taste, and stir.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool 20 minutes.
If using vodka, add it to a 10-ounce mug. Fill mug with Bloody Mary mix, being careful not to transfer peppercorns to the mug. Stir and then top with celery salt and garnish as desired.
Note: Hot cider can be mulled with almost any spices for different takes on the winter drink. Add small amounts of your favorites, such as cloves, star anise and black peppercorns, as desired. Adapted from recipes in "Very Merry Cocktails" by Jessica Strand (Chronicle) and "Modern Comfort Food" by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter).
• 4 c. apple cider
• 1 tbsp. maple syrup
• 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, peel reserved
• 1/2 orange, thinly sliced into rounds, peel reserved
• 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 cinnamon stick, plus more for serving
• 2 tbsp. bourbon per serving, optional
• 1/2 apple, sliced thin, for garnish, optional
Pour the cider and maple syrup into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the lemon slices and peel, orange slices and peel, nutmeg, cinnamon and cinnamon stick to the pan and stir to combine. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Ladle the hot cider and some orange slices into mugs or heatproof punch cups. Add 2 tablespoons bourbon, if using, to each mug and stir. Garnish with cinnamon sticks for stirring and apple slices if desired.