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Hot fall beverages: drink up and keep warm

There's something soothing about holding a piping hot drink in your hand as the fall and winter temperatures move in. Whether you're dreading the chilly breezes yet to come, or are gleefully awaiting the outdoor activities that emerge as snow begins to fall, I think we can all agree that a mug full of your fave hot beverage easily brings a smile to the face of even the most cantankerous characters. With this in mind, I've gathered up a smattering of the best (read: most delicious!) fall and winter drinks that I know.

The hot toddy:

It's a classic - a drink that has warmed souls for generations and one that's credited with some interesting medicinal claims as well. While recipes for it can differ, of course, the heart of the beverage is the combination of a warmed spirit, a drizzle of honey, a spritz of lemon juice and some hot water. Many claim that the aromatic properties of this combination can do wonders for those suffering from the flu, a head cold or even chest congestion. SippitySup has a great recipe for this delicious drink that will have you feeling as if you've stepped right back into the 18th century. There are some virgin variations floating around the foodie blogosphere which I haven't tried yet, but am happy to see among the mix. Here's one that I found from blogger Susiej.

Hot chocolate (or cocoa!):

No matter which camp you fall into in the great debate between hot chocolate and hot cocoa, it can't be argued: these are the drinks that come most quickly to mind when we think winter. Looking for the rich, thick flavor and texture of true "hot chocolate?" Or, how about the lighter, more sophisticated mixtures of "hot cocoa?" Both have their benefits, but are very different drinks. For more on this oft overlooked distinction, FoodHappy has a delicious synopsis!

Mulled wine:

This is one that I was introduced to only a few years ago and it's a doozy. Not for the punch that it packs (however, yes, this is an alcoholic beverage), but rather for the depth of flavors, amazing aromatics and the perfect seasonal feel of the drink. While there's quite a list of items going into this beverage, the preparation is not to be feared. Everything from clementines, cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla and bay leaves are added to a moderate red table-wine. Jamie Oliver has a great recipe for building a tasty, concentrated syrup base to which you can add the majority of your wine. Enjoy this one and don't be surprised if you begin believing that this is the best rendition of the holidays in liquid form!

Hot apple cider:

The crisp sweet taste of hot apple cider can bring you right back to memories of coming in to warm up after sledding runs as a kid. You can simply heat up some apple juice or press apples you've picked yourself. There are a number of tweaks that you can make to this however: toss in some cinnamon sticks as you heat up the juice or perhaps throw in some caramel or even vanilla extract to balance the flavor. My preferred method is to heat up some unfiltered apple juice on the stove with cinnamon sticks and cloves, strain the boiling liquid and add it to a touch of caramel in the bottom of your mug. And don't forget to top it off with whipped cream (homemade if you have the time!). Warm apple goodness.

Hot buttered rum:

It's all in a name with this one - well, almost.This is another classic cold-weather beverage that involves a few other components such as brown sugar, allspice and vanilla extract. Fun fact: if you're a purist, you'll need a red hot poker or metal rod to heat this beverage up. This traditional method is perfect for enjoyment around the campfire, though it can be dangerous, so if you're considering it, be very careful and have some help nearby!

What's in your mug this winter?

Happy fall, ya'll

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