by Tara Pederson

Hot beverages are a societal and household staple.  We rely upon them to wake ourselves up, to be guideposts throughout the day, to revive us and brighten our spirits. They are reliable wingmen through social situations, new and old, and shake us from our immediate gratification habits by forcing us to slow down just a little.

There is a body of scientific data showing tendencies in people merely holding a warm beverage to have warm tendencies toward strangers, versus neutrality when holding a cold beverage. {Strange, but by multiple studies true}.

More than that, when a person is physically cold, imbibing warm drinks requires less or no effort on the part of endothermic-exothermic balance in the body, therefore a slightly warming experience is felt.  Whereas, if a person is feeling physically hot,  a hot beverage causes thermosensors in the stomach to react as though the body is as warm as the drink, triggering the body’s natural cooling system, perspiration.   As perspiration evaporates, it causes the body to cool slightly, potentially meaning a slight drop in overall temperature, short term.  SCIENCE, y’all!!

That said, I’m here to bring you more warm recipes to quell all your cold weather needs and desires, and further please your winter palate.

While the now virtually extinct Scottish beverage known as possets (a combination of warm milk, oatmeal, honey, spices and whiskey) served as food, beverage and alcoholic libation all rolled into one, we have certainly carried on several traditions that require less of us.  We’ll start with the first hot beverage outside of instant cocoa I ever experienced –

Wassailing was a medieval English Christmas practice meant to ensure a good cider apple crop for the next year.  I’m not at all sure how well it worked, but I appreciate the beverage named in the practice,  at the very least.  It is traditionally a spiced, mostly apple juice based drink,  while cider can be a spiced drink made from any juice.

Wassail:  mix together 2 quarts apple cider, 2 cups of orange juice, 3 cups of pineapple juice, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks and ½ cup honey.  Simmer on low heat 10-20 minutes, then hold warm for the duration of serving.

Mulled wine dates back to 1420 Germany, and was a favored beverage in Victorian England.  A version called “Negus” was often served to children at parties as well, no doubt to ensure restful evenings when they arrived home.  It is the best of all worlds, combining warm spices, juices, alcohol, sweetness and warm temperatures.  What’s not to love?

Mulled Wine:  in a pot or crock pot, mix 1 bottle inexpensive dry wine – red or white.  {No need for the fancy stuff here}, 1 fresh orange, sliced, 3 cups orange juice, 2 cinnamon sticks, 4-8 whole cloves, ½ cup honey or sugar.  Bring to a light simmer for 5-15 minutes.  Taste and season as you prefer. Serve warm.  *Note – feel free to experiment with flavored wines or a shot or rum!*

By most accounts, coffee originated in Ethiopia, its mass production being traced to a monastery in 17th century Europe.  Its descent on the continent was met with some resistance, with a prominent clergyman in Venice declaring it a “bitter invention of Satan.”  But Venice would soon succumb to the wiles of caffeine and the heady aroma of roasted beans. I can imagine how quickly the fall from grace was for Italy, now world famous for its treatment of the product.  My favorite cold weather treat –

Spiced Coffee:  Combine ½ cup coffee beans or 6 tbsp ground coffee, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground ginger, ¼ tsp ground cloves.  Place in the bottom of a French press or in a drip coffee filter.  Brew using your preferred method, with 4 cups water.  Add cream and sugar as desired.

I hope you give these a whirl and find something new to love!