We have a running joke in our house…
Since March, my morning routine has mostly gone like this: Wake up at 7:30, take a walk or go for a run, come back home, then make a really good cup or two of coffee for my husband (or the other way around), sit at the kitchen table and savor it. And almost every morning, as we take our last few sips, one of us will joke: Well, best part of the day is over.
Caffeine, I mean coffee, has always held a very special place in our hearts, but that morning cup has taken on an almost mythical special-ness for us since we’ve been working from home. Of course, it’s more about the ritual than the coffee itself, a momentary calm before we head to our separate screens for the day.
I think that’s why recently, as the temperature has started to drop up here in New York, I’ve started a new-to-me ritual: the afternoon warm drink. At first it was just a cup of tea, then when fall hit, it became cider, and now, as we head into the holidays, and the kids are game for a little mid-day self-care, too, all kinds of possibilities present themselves. I thought I’d share a few in case you’d like to join us.
All of these are written to serve one, but can be doubled and tripled and quadrupled etc. etc, as needed.
Hot Mulled Cider
This feels very witches brew-y to me — I often just throw in what I have and hope for the best, but it’s crucial to have two things (in addition to the cider): a cinnamon stick and an orange slice. (Lemon works, too.) I have never been a licorice girl, so I don’t usually include anise, but I know some people love it, and it looks so pretty.
Serves 1 (can be doubled, tripled, etc.)
1 mug’s worth of apple cider (about 8 to 10 ounces)
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece star anise (optional)
1 orange cross-section (as shown)
8 to 10 fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cloves before pouring cider into your mug.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
There are three things I want you to know here: First, for extra smooth (no-clump) hot cocoa, it’s crucial to concoct the chocolatey paste before you pour in the milk — don’t skip that step. Second, clean the pot immediately — warmed milk gets sticky fast and it will ruin your cozy hot cocoa moment if you have to think about it sitting in the sink getting all stubborn on you. Lastly: If you want to make this extra decadent, add a one-inch square of dark chocolate.
Serves 1 (can be doubled, tripled, etc)
1 mug’s worth of milk (any fat content, preferably minimum 2%), about 8 to 10 ounces
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon sugar (skip the sugar if the cocoa is sweetened)
not even 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
whipped cream (spray is fine, even encouraged)
1 candy cane or 2 peppermint swirl candies, crushed (to crush: place candies in a baggie, then bang with a rolling pin until it’s reduced to shards)
Add milk to a small saucepan set over medium heat and remove it from the heat when it starts to simmer aggressively. (You don’t want it to boil over.) While it heats, stir together cocoa, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water in a mug until it forms a smooth paste. (If you are using a square of dark chocolate, add it now.) Add the milk and extract, stirring until smooth and chocolatey. Serve topped with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candy.
Full disclosure, I’d never made this for myself until yesterday when I was looking for something healthy-but-indulgent to add to the mix here. I have, however, spent way too much money buying Golden Milk (also called Turmeric Milk), the traditional Indian almond milk-based drink flavored with turmeric — that’s where it gets its beautiful color — and other spices. It’s so easy to make, so earthy and comforting. This recipe is only slightly adapted from Meera Sodha‘s, author of East, one of the best cookbooks of 2020.
Serves 1 (recipe can be doubled, tripled, etc.)
1 mug’s worth unsweetened almond milk (about 1 cup, 8 to 10 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cardamom (optional)
1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup for vegans), plus more to taste
In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk, turmeric, ginger, cardamom (if using) and honey. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat off. Leave to infuse for a couple of minutes, stir, then pour into your mug. Stir and check for sweetness, adding more honey to taste.