TELLING STORIES, CHANGING THE CONVERSATION

20 hot drink recipes for holiday nights and early mornings

in The Light Series by

Christmas in the northern part of the hemisphere welcomes time-honored traditions and foods. Yet and still, gatherings would not be fulfilled without hot beverages that keep the bones warm and sit at the heart of cuddle season. From Kingston to the Netherlands, these warm drinks usher in a wonderful holiday.

1. Mexican Hot Cocoa 

The roots of Mexican hot chocolate is from the Mayan culture, known for a thick and frothy chocolate drink called, xocolatl, in their indigenous language. Made from cocoa plants that grew plentiful in the region, along with the food staple, cornmeal and chilis, xocolatl was a water based beverage. Speed up to today, the introduction of bovine farming and milk by the Spanish, xocolatl became a Mestizo creation.

The key to a good Mexican hot chocolate is the spice. Ingredients: Mexican chocolate (or sweetened cacao nibs or cocoa powder), nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, pinch of cayenne and chili. Wanna get a little caliente, spike it with a shot of tequila. Eat it with churros, pan dulce or buñuelos.

2. Scratch Hot Cocoa 

There’s nothing like a down home, rustic hot chocolate. Not too fancy and never an understatement.

For this drink, use bittersweet chopped chocolate chopped into into small pieces (or you can break down in a food processor), milk, a touch of sugar, and splash of vanilla extract. Top it off with marshmallows or whipped cream. In general, for milk in any of the drinks, you want it to just have bubbles on the sides, which is at about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Scratch hot chocolate goes well with Sunday morning buttermilk biscuits, eggs, fried smoked salmon or cured trout and Black strap molasses or maple syrup.

3. Etta Mae’s Mississippi Eggnog 

This drink here is for the good-and-grown folk. If the name of the drink is Etta Mae, you know this eggnog is not here to play with you. It is an ode to juke joints, bayou speakeasies and Delta River nights so it fuses southern Louisiana and Mississippi flavors: which are moonshine and herbal. Drink with caution and along with good blues music after a nice meal. Remember, this thang right here is for the sexy folk.

For the base use whole milk, heavy cream, and condensed milk, sugar. Yes, all of it. After y0u get the milk to a nice simmer, put it on low then add vanilla powder and freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Drop in some cloves, allspice, chicory and star anise. Let that think real hard and long, like one hand of spades or dominoes then sit it aside.

As it cools, put in a splash of cognac, and brandy (you can also use rum or bourbon). For the final knock out, a little Grand Marnier or Kahlua or Amaretto wouldn’t hurt. Garnish with mint leaf and sing a kinky blues song while you cook to up the naughty-and-not-nice juju in it. Recipe nod: Kaia Shivers

4. Belgium Hot White Chocolate 

In Europe, chocolate was linked to elite social class because cocoa beans cannot grow in the region. Thusly, when Europe divided and colonized Africa in the 1800s, cocoa became a major import. For Belgian, King Leopold III established the country’s chocolate making industry after a large surplus of cocoa beans were found by Dutch military in the newly conquered, Congo. If today’s gold is oil, yesteryear’s gold was chocolate. Because of the chocolate industry, Belgium’s wealth grew.

Today, the major producers of cocoa beans are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon. The smooth, sumptuous hot drink, white hot chocolate is not naturally white, just like sugar, bread and vanilla. The whitening is a process that extracts the color. White chocolate is made from cacao butter or cocoa butter, giving the taste and texture a more subtle flavor. The difference between a Belgium or French hot chocolate with the American version mentioned earlier is that the European drink is thicker and richer, and more of a nod to traditional hot chocolate, which melted down squares of chocolate.

Here you need white chocolate chopped and melted with condensed milk, whole milk and a sprinkle of vanilla extract. For a little, little something more, add a peppermint stick to the mug. 

5. Jamaican Cocoa Tea 

Traveling down from Mexico, the British implemented their version of a hot chocolate drink in their island colonies. Along with Grenada, which grows splendid cocoa plants, Jamaica inherited the European version of a Mayan culinary tradition.

The base for a good, hearty cocoa tea is coconut milk, made from coconuts, an indigenous fruit in the tropical region. Instead of cocoa powder, which lacks milk, take balls of handmade chocolate then grate. Warm the coconut milk to a simmer and melt the chocolate. When finished, pour the chocolate into the tea and stir. Next, add dashes of cinnamon, vanilla, and freshly grated nutmeg. For more of some Jamrock funk, add a dash of ginger and rum.

6. Vietnamese Coffee: 

Vietnam is known for its stellar rice production, which is an indigenous food. As a result of its French colonial past, the South Asian nation became purveyors of dark roast coffee. Introduced by the French in the mid-nineteenth century, initially, it was grown in monasteries. Like many cultures that lived in close proximity, the coffee culture became a combination of France and Vietnamese culinary history.

The way to enjoy a Vietnamese coffee is to prepare the coffee is using the traditional drip method of a dark roast or espresso. Place condensed milk at the bottom of a glass mug. Over the milk, prepare the drip coffee with a little bit of chicory herb. For some Louisiana funk, add some cocoa, cinnamon and vanilla with rum. Best consumed  with Lost Bread or beignets

7. Hot Damn! Hot Toddy 

Originally, a toddy was a hard cider beverage with spices and sugar that was used to take the chill out of a damp winter in England or Scotland. Across the pond, it has evolved as a spitfire beverage for a cold. Now the word, toddy, is Indian in origin, hence the vibrant use of spices in the drink, which was not necessarily a British thing.

Simmer in water some lemons and ginger. While still warm place in cup and put in a dollop of wild-harvested honey. Using wild-harvested honey is good for avoiding allergies and better for the digestive system. Top off with cayenne, bourbon or whiskey. Feeling fancy? Add a cinnamon stick and some freshly ground ginger. This drink goes well with a hearty southern breakfast or brunch.

8. Vegan Hot Cocoa 

Any hot beverage in this story can be made vegan with one of the plant milks as a substitute. The top milks used today are coconut, oat, almond and cashew. We suggest coconut or oat because the production of almonds and cashews take a lot of the soil and the workers. But for the sake of this post, vegans need love too.

Take a cacao powder or nibs. If y0u use the nibs, you must melt the cacao then pour it into warm coconut milk or whatever dairy-free milk you prefer. If you prefer the faster way, the powder, you have to slowly pour it into the milk and use a whisk to emulsify. Cacao is just the cocoa bean, so it takes more work to emulsify than chocolate. Once it is has satisfactorily combined, add vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. To sweeten, use agave.

9. Tasha & Gigi’s Nightcap: 

This simple combination of freshly cut tumeric and ginger symbolizes the unknown brilliance of around-the-way girls like Tasha and Gigi. While the world sees them one way, they have been in the lab studying a better lifestyle and incorporating it into their families.

Though, there are only two main ingredients to this tea, adding coconut milk and some honey will up the game on this night time warm beverage geared to reduce inflammation, while boosting circulation. If you drink this regularly for 90 days, the results are amazing. Ask Tasha and Gigi.

10. Kai’s Massala Chai 

Indian culinary tradition are a number of complex foodways from diverse ethnic groups offering varied interpretations for the palate. Aligned with that are their tea making, which is arguably the most nuanced and sophisticated in the world. One of the teas that traveled with the Indian diaspora is the adored, chai tea. Check out this batch: black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, tumeric, cloves, black pepper, fennel, vanilla and star anise, and coconut milk. Best to drink at night to purify the body and reduce inflammation, and increase circulation.

11. Prolific Apple Cider

Simmer some unfiltered apple cider in one pan then in another put in he cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, orange and lemon peels. When the cider has warmed well, pour it in the pot with the other contents. Let it sit for about 8 minutes then strain and sip. Add some whipped cream to give it an apple pie feel. Yummy.

12. London Fog

If you’re feeling fancy or like your average bloke or popsy, try this rendition of the British favorite remix of black tea. Brew Earl Grey tea then add milk and a splash of vanilla extract with a sweetener of choice. With the milk, sugar is not usually needed, but if so, find a turbinado or raw sugar cube.

13. Russian Tea

Two things we know about Russia, it has hella bots and its hella cold. So, its befitting that their traditional Russian tea is robust and packs a punch. With this tea, simmer for a couple of hours, lemon slices, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon sticks. Afterwards, add black tea leaves and drink up.

14. Matcha Latte

Known for its high contents of chlorophyll and antioxidants, matcha is one of the more superior green teas available. Harvested from young, Japanese shrubs kept in the shade to increase its chlorophyll content, hands down, its like drinking the water of spinach, kale and collards. Good to the belly and body, but have you tasted spinach water? That is exactly the flavor and aroma of matcha in its purest form. Luckily, the remix of the matcha takes the form of an array of drinks and ingredients in everything from chocolate to cake.

For a great latte, warm some milk. In another pot, simmer water. Grab a cup and put the matcha powder in it. When the water is warm, slowly pour it in the cup with matcha and use a whisk to ensure that the powder fuses it. Afterwards, pour the match into the milk and whisk some more, but slowly. We recommend that you use a milk substitute such as coconut milk or macadamia milk.

15. A Lavender & Rose is still a Rose Tea

Tea time can be such a treat. This simple, slightly caffeinated goodness is a delicate warm beverage that chills you out for great conversation. The base of the tea is jasmine green tea leaves, a medium-caffeine tea fused with jasmine flowers. After a nice simmer, turn of the pot and add a sprinkle of lavender petals and rose petals. Strain and sip well.

16. Bissap Bae

The wonderful melange of African culinary history and French cuisine finds its home in Senegal. With the food must come great drink. In Senegal, its bissap, a hibiscus beverage that traditionally uses a special type of hibiscus called, the roselle.

For the hot version of bissap, simmer some hibiscus until the water is nice and a deep red color, almost the color of a beet. Slowly add a touch of rose petals, orange slices, fresh ginger, and vanilla extract. Because Senegal is largely, a Muslim-practicing country, the drinks are served without alcohol. Enjoy and savor.

17. Trini Bam Bam Tea

The drinks in Trinidad are as colorful and vibrant as the people who conjured them together. With African, Native American, South and East Asian cultures and DN coursing through the veins and traditions of the island people, the Bam Bam tea is a massive shot to the taste buds.

The base of the drink is the coveted sorrel plant and hibiscus flower. Get both, dried of fresh and slow boil. After it simmers nicely add fresh ginger along with the following: orange zest, slices of lemon, star anise, a cinnamon Stick; and for sweetener try out these options: brown sugar, agave, maple syrup. To give it a good spike, add a splash (or two) of dark Caribbean rum.

18. Red Love Latte

Rooibos tea is the queen drip of South Africa. Indigenous to the Western Cape Province, rooibos was a wild-harvested plant that grew in the harshest, driest conditions of South Africa for thousands of years. Solely known and used by the Khoisan people, the indigenous nations of the region, now it is a domesticated cash crop that has been deemed “exotic.”

Unfortunately, the Khoisan, largely do not benefit from the market created around rooibos. As a result, there has been a contentious battle for profits from the tea. In 2019, the Khoisan won the rights to received a 1.5 percent of profits from the region growing rooibos, as they also show white and coloured farmers how to properly grow and harvest the plant. 

As coffee bean production starts to wane, the option of tea keeps a stronghold on drinkers. As for rooibos, it offers an alternative to black or green tea, and it is a non-caffeinated plant. Along with its popularity a local hospitality tea, internationally, it is the next tea craze with a host of medicinal benefits such as regulating diabetes, improving blood circulation, reduces inflammation and boosts bone health.

With growing knowledge of rooibos comes the creative uses. Here is a great rooibos latte that fuses South African plant with English tea drinking sensibilities: 1/2 cup of steamed milk; rooibos leaves; rose petals; orange zest, ground cinnamon and honey to taste.

19. Rooibos Hot Toddy

In the line of a traditional hot toddy recipe, known as an old home ready to warm the bones and beat away a nasty cold, the rooibos hot toddy delivers as well, but with the added properties of the rooibos leaf.

The base of this toddy is unfiltered, warmed apple juice and densely steeped rooibos tea. Add fresh ground ginger, lemon slices orange zest to add spice with a dash of cinnamon to give it extra warmth. Top it off with a shot of bourbon or whiskey.

20. Sock it to me Sake

This famous Japanese rice wine can be served warm, but do to its bitterness, if you add some flavors to heightened the taste: Add a pomegranate liquor, orange zest, lemon, ginger and agave for taste.

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