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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time for a nice hot cup of...

As the days continue to get shorter and colder and darker, it's always nice to have a nice steaming mug of something to curl up with. My profession being what it is (namely, a person who makes fancy hot drinks with ridiculous names), I figured I'd take some time to share some of my personal favorites with the internet.

London Fog

A customer who hailed from sunny California, where they don't actually need hot drinks but apparently have them anyways, brought this one to my attention. Her recipe depended on the vanilla-flavored sugar syrup that most coffeeshops have on hand these days, and if you can find one nearby, by all means ask them to make this for you. This is my at-home version.
  • Brew 6-8 oz (depending on the size of your cup: I put in enough water to leave a good inch of space at the top) of strong Earl Grey tea. How strong it is can vary according to your taste, but remember that it will be sweetened, so you may be able to go stronger than you might otherwise. I use two tea bags, or two tablespoons if I'm using loose tea.
  • When the tea is brewed, discard the tea bags and add vanilla sugar (sugar in which vanilla beans are buried and kept until the sugar takes on a lovely vanilla scent) or plain sugar (preferably raw) and just a drop or two of vanilla extract to taste.
  • I like to finish off with a drizzle of warm milk or cream (warm so it doesn't cool the tea down too much. I just nuke it for a minute or so. Yes, I know, I'm a bad hippie) - this is not essential for the classic drink, but this is what makes it "foggy" for me :)
Cider-in-a-Pinch

I really love cider. No, I REALLY love it. So much so that, whenever I make an effort to keep it on hand, it seems to disappear at a rate of about five gallons per day. Ok, not really. But it goes pretty fast.
When I'm really craving hot spiced cider and don't have any available and don't feel like making an expedition out to get some, this is what I do.
  • Put some water on to boil - as much as necessary for however many people will be drinking the brew. I've been known to drink a quart in one sitting.
  • Get a non-metal container (I use a quart-size Pyrex glass measuring cup. A large glass or ceramic bowl, such as the innards of a crock pot, would also work just fine) that is big enough to hold all the water you're boiling with some room to spare.
  • Into this container, put at least 1 tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and honey for every cup of water, or more to taste - I usually add a little more when I'm pouring the water in, until it takes on a nice golden color.
  • Throw in some random spices you have lying around - a stick or two of cinnamon, a few pinches of cloves, a grating of nutmeg; basically, whatever you have on have that would go well in cider. Experiment!
  • When the water is boiling or is nearing that point (it doesn't have to be all the way there, just hot enough to melt the honey and mix everything together), pour it into the container and stir until well-combined. Pour into pre-heated mugs and sip carefully. Feel free to adjust the amounts and ratio of honey/ACV to your own taste.
Nelly's Super-Awesome Magic Cocoa

Yes, it's going to sound rather weird. Don't judge. Just make it. And believe.
  • Start slowly heating 1 c milk (organic, whole) for every cup that you anticipate will be drunk. I never have leftovers.
  • As the milk starts to steam just a little, add in between 2 teaspoons and 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder (the highest quality you can get) per cup of milk by spoonfuls, mixing each in by rolling the handle of a whisk between your palms.
  • Once all the cocoa is mixed in thoroughly and the milk is steaming a little more, add your favorite honey (I use raw wildflower honey from a local source) in the same amounts as the cocoa or perhaps a little more, also by spoonfuls, drizzling each in and then mixing using the same whisk technique. It helps if you have two people here.
  • When the honey is mixed in, add the following: 1/2 to 1 whole cinnamon stick, broken into pieces, for every 2 cups of milk; 3 or 4 cloves for every cup of milk; 2 to 4 teaspoons of dried dandelion root per cup of milk; a sprinkle or grating of nutmeg for every cup of milk; a few drops of vanilla extract per cup of milk. Once that much is fulfilled, I like to add a little more of each spice, "for the pot." With everything mixed in, cover the pot, turn down the heat and let it all simmer together for 5 to 10 minutes, checking every minute or so to whisk.
  • Pour into warmed cups through a strainer, adding all spices caught in the strainer back to the pot. I like to put a little scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of the mug first. Before serving, add just a tiny dash each of salt and chili powder.
  • Sip slowly. Revel.
Happy sipping!

-N