Is there anything more delightful than curling up with a warm cuppa when it’s cold outside? And although we love the old standbys of hot chocolate and spiced cider, sometimes it’s fun to shake it up a bit with a contemporary twist on a beloved beverage. We’ve rounded up a few of our simple favorites to take the chill off of your winter nights. Most of these serve two, but you can double or treble the amounts if you’re entertaining a group, and serve from a slow-cooker set on low to keep the good stuff from evaporating. Not into alcohol? Check out our mocktail versions. Cheers!
1. Luscious Hazelnut Cocoa
This one couldn’t be easier. Just mix a ⅓ of a cup of Nutella into 2 cups of warmed milk and a few dashes of vanilla extract, whisking until the Nutella is melted and incorporated. Pour it into a couple of mugs and add a combination of Kahlua and Frangelico or a shot of toasted marshmallow vodka to taste. Pretty it up with whipped cream and marshmallows, or with a drizzle of more of the melted Nutella.
The mocktail version: Omit the alcohol—it’ll be delicious either way!
2. Chai Hot Toddy
Hot toddies are a cherished way to ward off the sniffles, but the warming spices of chai gives this recipe an extra kick. Brew up a couple of cups of strong chai (we like to use two bags per cup of hot water) and add a bit of vanilla extract. Remove the tea from the heat and add 2 ounces of bourbon or rum per mug; then finish it off with a squeeze of lemon and honey. Stir and garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon wedge.
The mocktail version: Just substitute your favorite apple cider for the bourbon.
3. Mulled Riesling
Honestly, you can use any German white wine for this, though we prefer something semi-dry. Combine a bottle of Riesling with 3 cups of apple cider, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and your favorite mulling spices. Heat at medium-low for at least an hour. You can use a prepackaged spice mix to save time, or zest some citrus peels and get creative with your personal mix of cinnamon, cloves, star anise, allspice, ginger, cardamom—see what’s in your spice cabinet and have fun! Top with cinnamon sticks and apple slices.
The mocktail version: Try it with a cranberry punch or juice for a fun alternative to traditional mulled cider.
4. Hot Buttered Bourbon
A classic treat updated for all you whiskey lovers out there! Beat 2 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a ¼ teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk the butter and spice mixture into a cup or so of heated cider (or hot water, if you prefer). Pour into mugs and add a shot of your favorite bourbon or other whiskey.
The mocktail version: Use a dash of rum extract, sub spiced tea for the hot water, or just skip the booze entirely...the buttery spice mixture is comforting all on its own.
5. "Adult" Mexican Hot Chocolate
Using an herbal liqueur is a hip adaptation to this cherished standard. Just add a pinch or two of cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg to your favorite hot chocolate recipe, then whisk in equal parts bourbon and Fernet. Sprinkle a bit of cayenne on top of the foam or whipped cream and enjoy!
The mocktail version: Is pretty much just Mexican hot chocolate, but that’s no reason not to get fancy with the execution. Grated spiced chocolate or chopped nuts nestled on top of whipped cream is tasty and visually appealing.