November 12, 2012

Minnesota Cold

It's winter--maybe not officially, but this denizen of the frozen wastes says that this week's cold snap makes it so! In any case, as you may have gathered, winter is cold, and winter gives people colds, so clearly there's nothing for it but a hot drink round up!

Step 1: Find a mug that makes you smile. You will use this for all drinks. Mine is an Aladdin mug I got for $0.50 at a yard sale a few summers ago.

Step 2: Round up your winter drink ingredients. The staples here are warming spices (cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg ... nuts ... , and ginger), lemon juice, honey, and whiskey.

Step 3: Read recipes below and make delicious drinks.

Drink the first: the Minnesota Chic Hot Toddy

This drink is incredibly simple. At its base, it's ginger tea made with fresh ginger--a tip from a Malay friend during one of my worst bouts of strep. You'll need fresh ginger, honey, lemon juice, spices, and a dash of whiskey (optional, but highly recommended).

Peel a small chunk of ginger (maybe as big as the top part of your thumb) and slice it into a few slices. Put it into the bottom of your mug, and maybe mash it a bit for good measure. Drizzle the honey on top, and throw in a chunk of cinnamon bark and a couple of cloves. Pour hot water over this and let it sit for a minute or two, then add a dash of lemon juice and the whiskey. Voila!

If you're sick, the Minnesota Chic Hot Toddy is best sipped while wearing elastic-waistband flannel pants and wrapped in a blanket. If you're not sick, just sip and enjoy!

Drink the second: the Best Mulled Cider

You're going to want to start with some really, really good cider. The kind you can only get in half gallons at Whole Foods (or, if you're brave, the farmer's market--good luck with the cold, wear some gloves). My first job was at an orchard, and I'm a sucker for tasty cider.

Pour two or three cups of cider (depending on your audience) into a small saucepan, and add a few cloves, a stick of cinnamon, and a halved nutmeg pod. To this, I highly suggest adding a dash of Southern Comfort. Yes, I am both a cider snob and a whiskey snob, but Southern Comfort makes a wonderful additive to drinks.

Let all of this steep on low heat, then strain into mugs and enjoy in front of a roaring fire. Alternately, set this to heat and go shovel or rake leaves. It will be just the thing when you get back inside!

Drink the third: Cold Season Essential

Now, if you know me, you'll know that I have had ... well, let's just call it "ALL the tonsil problems." My tonsils have turned, I kid you not, completely black. It was unpleasant. However, the silver lining for all of you is that I know the magic combination for throat troubles. It goes like this...
  1. Gargle with salt water. I hate doing that, too. But you really should. Now go rinse your mouth out.
  2. Now, mix your favorite green or white tea (or just plain hot water) with honey and lemon. You need BOTH. Drink this in large quantities.
  3. Every once in a while, have a tiiiiiiiny bit (maybe a shot) of blackberry brandy.
  4. Wash, rinse, repeat. Trust me, this is just about the best regimen ever.
Gentle readers, share your favorite cold weather drinks! What do you drink when the weather outside is frosty?


  1. I'm with you on the warm drink weather. We had our first snow last night. Only a dusting, but it's definitely time for tea and cocoa in the office. I like your use of warming spices. I don't consciously use them nearly enough. Curious though about your listing of nuts. Do you add the nuts to a drink? Brew them in a tea? How does this happen?

    1. Tea and cocoa galore! Speaking of which, for awesome cocoa you can mix cocoa powder (unsweetened) with sugar to taste, and then add milk and hot water. Makes wonderful cocoa, and you don't have to wonder what's in it ...

      As for nuts, I was simply failing at words. I don't use powdered spices in drinks, although it would probably be cheaper! I got a jar of nutmeg thingies a while back, for making krupnikas (a Lithuanian honey liquor...I should post pictures!), and so I cut them in half or score the outside and put them in with my cider to steep! Not sure how effective it is, but they smell SO GOOD.

    2. Nutmeg! I can handle that. And have the nuts (recipes call them whole nutmeg, but nuts make more sense of a word).

      And YES for not having to wonder what's in your drink! I need to make my mix for the office.