It’s here: the end of daylight savings time. Goodbye, drives home from work in the slanting golden rays of a sublime autumnal sunset; hello, evenings where the transition from work to home happens under cover of darkness.
For those who rouse themselves early, the changeover at least provides a little more light in the mornings. But for dedicated sleepers like me who see few dawns and can find the snooze button without opening an eye, the benefit goes unnoticed.
And so, on these darker evenings, I find myself turning to all things comfy and cozy and hygge, to sweatpants and hot mugs of something steaming: a bracing cup of English breakfast tea, served black and unsweetened, bitter and tannic on the tongue. Carafes of coffee made strong and shared, poured out still steaming. Hot buttered rum so rich your belly aches, decadent hot chocolate thick as liquid fudge… the list goes on.
But what to sip late at night when the merest milliliter of caffeine would spell disaster for my sleep schedule? What to enjoy when a sensitive tum rejects anything a bit boozy?
The question came to me last weekend when I wanted something un-caffeinated to sip but wasn’t satisfied with the standard mug of green or chamomile tea. Oh, I thought. I should write a blog post about that. So, here we are: Five ways to satisfy your craving for something hot without resorting to caffeine or alcohol.
1. Hot Molasses Mug
Filling and iron-rich and shockingly satisfying, with an almost salty note that you can temper with a little extra sweetener, should the mood strike. (Maple syrup or agave would work fine.) Personalize yours with spices that speak to your soul; ginger is an obvious choice, but go wild and see what works!
Feeling boozy? Try this spiked maple-molasses mug for a little extra kick.
2. Golden Milk
While I’m sure many of you are familiar with this turmeric-infused hot beverage, the uninitiated may (rightfully!) wonder why anyone would want to drink something flavored primarily of a golden root more frequently used in curries and other savory delights. The most common answer peddled by many food bloggers will almost certain include the following phrases: superfood! anti-inflammatory! health benefits!
Well, dear reader, I am not that food blogger. As my go-to source for Real Science states, “…the scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient to incorporate it into medical practice. As with so many supplements, the hype has gone way beyond the actual evidence. There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too.”
So, instead, drink golden milk for the simple reason that it tastes good. This recipe from Minimalist Baker is a great one to start with, though you can just as easily make it up as you go, flavoring your golden elixir to meet your personal preferences.
3. Spiced Apple Cider
No recipe for this one because it doesn’t need it! Simply heat your favorite apple cider (I like a high-quality, fresh-pressed one from the farmers market) with a few spices and enjoy. If you’re short on time, nuke it in the microwave and then add a cinnamon stick for flavor and festivity. If you’ve got a few extra minutes, heat it on the stove in a small pot with mulling spices (I like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, and ginger, but you can go wild.) Strain and enjoy!
Feeling boozy? Add a shot of your favorite bourbon or whiskey!
4. Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug
Another take on my molasses mug, this one incorporates pumpkin for an even more seasonally appropriate hot drink! Swap the cinnamon and nutmeg for your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix to make it even easier (and even more delicious).
5. Hot Pumpkin Mug
Dubious about sipping on a molasses-infused beverage? Go simple with Kathy’s hot pumpkin mug. This bright orange hot bevvy is the perfect choice for you hardcore pumpkin lovers, and the cheerful, sunny color is sure to brighten up those dark winter nights.
Though I haven’t tried it myself, this caffeine-free hot carob milk could hit the spot when you want something along the lines of hot chocolate but don’t fancy the idea of a sleepless night.
I hope this list helps you find a caffeine-free, booze-free beverage to warm your hands (and heart?!) as winter descends. For added fun and deliciousness, top your drink of choice with any of the many (!) vegan whipped creams that now crowd supermarket shelves. (Well, you may want to avoid whipped cream if your drink of choice is hot cider.) And let me know which other hot caffeine-free, alcohol-free beverages I’ve missed!