5 Caffeine-Free, Alcohol-Free Hot Drinks to Keep You Cozy

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.

Hot Molasses Mug

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!

Hot pumpkin molasses mug

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.

Bonus!

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.

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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!

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Five caffeine-free, alcohol-free hot vegan drinks to keep you cozy // govegga.com

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Vegan Spiked Maple-Molasses Mug | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Seventeen

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Three: Ingredient Challenges
Let’s get boozy! Food involving booze, like beer brats, Welsh rarebit or a boozy dessert. Feel free to make a non-alcoholic version if you prefer.

It is perhaps not in the spirit of this prompt to offer up a recipe for a drink. But I made this delightful hot beverage the other night and knew I had to share, so I’m flouting the rules.

You might recall the hot molasses mug I shared during VeganMoFo 2014. It remains one of my favorite cold-weather beverages, a surprisingly nutritious and warming drink that’s superbly easy to prepare. Not satisfied leaving well enough alone, however, I took it a step further this weekend and added a healthy pour of my favorite maple liqueur. Holy smokes! It’s delicious, and just in time for the cooler weather. Forget hot toddies; this spiked hot maple-molasses mug is my new favorite boozy drink for the cold months.

Vegan spiked maple-molasses mug For added deliciousness, I topped my mug with aquafaba whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Additions like those are optional but delicious. ;)

(As a side note… did you know that you can make a single (well, single-ish) serving of aquafaba whipped cream with a  powerful immersion blender?! Game changer! I didn’t even bother with the cream of tartar and it worked fine.)

A caveat: If you’re not fortunate enough to have maple liqueur in your liquor cabinet, you can most likely substitute about 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup and a scant shot of bourbon or something similar. I haven’t played with alternatives like that, so let me know if you try it! Or go buy some maple liqueur. It’s worth it.

Spiked Maple-Molasses Mug

Serves one

  • 1 cup almond milk (or other nondairy milk of choice)
  • 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 1 shot (or more?!) maple liqueur
  • Dash pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, warm the almond milk until it begins steaming. (You can also microwave it if you’d like.) Transfer to a mug and add the molasses, maple liqueur, and vanilla extract. Whisk vigorously until combined. Enjoy.

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Vegan spiked maple-molasses mug // govegga.com

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Chai Hot Toddy

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Two: International Week

It’s Friday, and I’m still bummed (understatement of the month) about the election. Given that last Friday I featured an alcoholic drink, I decided that I’d do the same thing this Friday. New MoFo tradition! And a way to salve my aching soul! So today I bring you a vegan chai hot toddy: the perfect beverage to sip on a cold night as you wonder what the hell went wrong and/or make plans to enact your vagenda of manocide.

How does this relate to international week, you ask? According to my sources (read: things I found on the internet), the hot toddy is a drink of British extraction by way of India. (Apparently there is an actual “toddy” palm tree, and the sap featured in the earliest of these drinks.) Today’s hot toddy differs quite a bit from its earliest form, and not just because we omit the toddy palm sap these days: the original British toddy was not hot at all, and was in fact served cold.

Vegan chai hot toddy // govegga.com

I think we can all agree that chilly November nights call for something warm, however, and you’d better believe that my hot toddy is gonna be piping hot. I typically make them with black tea, but today I decided to make it with chai as a nod to the toddy’s Indian heritage, and the warming spices are a perfect addition. I used a pre-made chai blend — this Bhakti Fiery Masala Chai is my current favorite. If you prefer a DIY version, try this chai masala blend. Feel free to adjust the sweetener to taste; depending on how fiery your chai is, you might want a little more agave.

Chai Hot Toddy

Serves 1

  • 8 oz hot water
  • 1 serving chai (tea bag or loose-leaf blend)
  • 1 T agave nectar
  • Dash vanilla extract (about 1/8 tsp; optional)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 oz. blended whiskey (don’t use your fancy single-malt here!)

Method

Pour the hot water over the tea bag and stir in the agave nectar and vanilla extract, if using. Steep to your preferred strength, then add remaining ingredients, stir, and enjoy.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

The Best Vegan Hot Chocolate

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week One: Treat Yourself (and others)!

Welcome to Vegan MoFo, aka the Vegan Month of Food! This year, the organizers created both weekly overarching MoFo themes and daily prompts within each theme. I’m choosing to follow the weekly themes; last year’s daily prompts left me feeling a little stifled for creativity. But a broad theme that provides guidance without pinning me down? Sold!

In the interest of treating oneself, today I bring you a revelation in hot chocolate, just in time (?) for the cold weather. (Unless you’re in Maryland. 75˚F in November? Ugh!) If you’re still making your hot chocolate with water, this technique might just blow your mind. If you’ve already graduated to making hot chocolate with milk, it’ll still be a step up — I promise.

The secret? Making hot chocolate with chocolate milk. I’ve been using the new Ripple chocolate plant milk, which I picked up on a whim. I don’t love it on its own, but it does make a damn fine cup of vegan hot cocoa. And make sure you’re using a high-quality hot chocolate mix; I’m really digging Cocoa Felice currently. The result is a creamy, ultra-rich cup of cocoa just waiting to be topped with whipped cream and savored after time spent in the nippy outdoors.

The best vegan hot chocolate -- creamy, rich hot cocoa. // govegga.com

The Creamiest, Richest Vegan Hot Chocolate

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate plant-based milk
  • 3 T hot chocolate powder
  • Optional add-ins:
    • 2 T strong coffee or espresso
    • 2 T liqueur (I love adding maple liqueur)
    • Vegan whipped cream (coconut, aquafaba, Soyatoo)
    • Vegan mini marshmallows (vanilla or pumpkin!)
    • Chocolate shavings

Combine the two milks and heat until it just starts to steam — don’t let it boil. I use the stove, but you can also microwave it if you watch carefully.

Whisk in the hot chocolate powder until dissolved. Add optional extras and enjoy!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug

LVV MoFo 2014 main

Real talk part deux: I nearly considered moving my Lazy Sunday posting schtick to today because, um, it’s Friday night and I’ve got things to do. (“Things” being “sitting around in my flannel PJ pants reading Agatha Christie and maybe drinking some wine if things get crazy.”) And then I thought, No, because “Lazy Friday” just sounds stupid. And then I thought, Maybe I can repurpose my Hot Molasses Mug! Blackstrap molasses has tons of calcium, and so does almond milk! And then I thought, No, you lazy fool. Stop being so lazy.

And then I remembered the Kathy Patalsky’s Hot Pumpkin Mug that I made last year for MoFo, and I realized that those mugs needed to meet. Stat.

Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug

Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug
Serves one

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt

Blend all ingredients with a standard blender or an immersion blender until well combined. Transfer to a small saucepan and head over medium-low until the mixture begins to steam. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

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I am, admittedly, still pretty lazy, because this recipe is obscenely easy. But holy heck is it good! It’s the perfect blend of two of my favorite flavors, with just a touch of pumpkin pie spices. And—get this—you will get 65% of your recommended daily value of calcium in this mug. 65%! (Well, assuming you use Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Original Almond Milk…) The iron content is not too shabby either at 24%. Guess my laziness paid off this time!