Cozy up to these warm winter beverages

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If you’re hunkering down and staying doors during the year’s coldest weather, or need a warming up around the fire after a snowy trek outdoors to one of Waterloo Region’s winter attractions, here’s a sampling of warming winter drinks by the local chefs, cooks, bartenders, mixologists and other food and beverage purveyors, both with alcohol and without. Either way, that feeling of getting warmed up is a winter rite of passage for Canadians.

Ryan Horne, Scran and Dram

Horne manages New Hamburg’s Scran and Dram and that includes knowing a thing or two about beverages. The Scottish-inspired pub that is a community hub is serving customers several choices when it comes to warming beverages to buffet against the damp and cold weather as winter rolls in.

“We’re offering a mulled red Crangria,” Horne says, “It might be served cold, but it will certainly warm you up!” The pub is also featuring “Hot Hairy Coo,” hot chocolate with Irish cream and coffee liqueur topped with whipped cream and seasonal sprinkles. (Incidentally, a “hairy coo” is a longhaired Scottish Highland cow. In the summer, Scran and Dram makes a hairy coo which is chocolate milk and iced coffee with Irish cream and coffee liqueur. Just so you know.)

“Our Black Tartan coffee has also been a popular one – that’s Drambuie and Famous Grouse topped with Baden coffee,” says Horne.

Finally, things get a bit more extreme and give a nod to the sartorial splendour of the season: “It’s a bit more adventurous,” Horne says, “but our Sweater Weather is Frangelico, reposado tequila and butterscotch schnapps topped with coffee and whipped cream. It’s my favourite.”

Megh Forrester, White Rabbit

Taking a cue from a classic tune by a classic duo, White Rabbit general manager Megh Forrester is inspired by Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” for this complex but approachable bevvie. “We start with Grant’s eight-year-old sherry-cask finished blended Scotch whisky, and combine it with sesame-infused Flor De Cana five-year-old Anejo Clasico Rum, Amaro Lucano and Luxardo Cherry Heering,” says Forrester. The magic of the drink then comes from a smoke treatment with hickory and cardamom chai tea, expressed orange rind and hot water.

“This is certainly spirit-forward, but it reminds me – ever so slightly – of a PB&J sandwich,” says Forrester, who finds inspiration at this time of the year to play with ingredients and how we interact and commune with good food and drink. “It’s always fun to experiment with the sensory experience as a whole, using different smoking materials, and hitting as many senses as possible,” she says.

Tory Shantz, Cafe Pyrus

Long a popular venue for vegan and vegetarian fare – and excellent coffee – Cafe Pyrus builds layers of flavour into a luscious winter warmer, according to general manager Tory Shantz. “We are featuring our Fruit Bomb Tea Latte,” says Shantz. “That’s Madagascar almond spice tea with cinnamon flavour and steamed milk – or milk alternative – to bring it all together.”

Susie Parks, All Things Tea

All Things Tea, besides being dedicated to, well, all things tea, has been dedicated to helping tea lovers get through the cold and ice of a winter made worse by a pandemic. That could start, according to co-owner Susie Parks with “Brown Sugar Milk Tea” which is made with very strong, Assam CTC tea (“crush, tear, curl” tea-making technique), milk and a brown-sugar simple syrup. “You may have seen an iced boba (bubble tea) version of this in your travels, but the Brits do drink it hot, and it is tasty while simple,” Parks says.

Parks also adds that they are driven by trying to help people embrace winter and outdoor experiences during COVID, including “Spruce Tips Tea Kits” where people head to the forest. “With this kit to make their own tea, you can forage spruce tips all year round, winter yielding a stronger taste than spring’ young tips,” Parks says. “Add a cinnamon stick and some local honey and steep for a wintry cup of unique tea.”

Teneile Warren, Chef

This Waterloo Region-based chef, playwright and activist has a perfect cold-weather beverage that comes from a gloriously warm locale. “Jamaican chocolate tea or cocoa tea,” says Warren, “is a morning beverage made from cocoa or chocolate balls. Don’t be fooled; this drink can’t be replicated with cocoa powder or any chocolate.”

Warren calls it “a must to start” your Christmas morning. “It’s a breakfast drink that we drink daily similar to how Canadians would drink coffee,” she says adding that as she stirs her chocolate tea, memories are stirred.

“It immediately brings thoughts of my grandma to mind. There is something deeply connective sharing in the process of making and drinking chocolate tea. The ball of chocolate must be grated and carefully boiled with the addition of cinnamon leaf, the condensed milk and a tiny bit of salt. It feels like home, family and rootedness to drink a cup.”

As a side note, Warren offers a quick evaluation of the main ingredient, so you can look for it where you shop for specialty foods: “Jamaican chocolate is some of the finest in the world,” says Warren.

Liz Cunha, Thirsty’s Bar and Grill

Cunha reflects on a warming memory and encourages you to share. “I recently purchased a bottle of Portuguese Passion Fruit liqueur,” she says. “Growing up, I remember family gatherings where the men would be in the basement or garage playing cards and drinking scotch or beer, while the women would sit in the living room and sip this liqueur out of shot glasses shaped like boots! You might remember them because they were popular back in the day. This isn’t a traditional hot beverage style but an aperitif to sip and enjoy.”

The true warming part? For Cunha, it’s the memory – and the island heat. “My parents were from the Azores, and this sipper is made on my mom’s island.”

Pirooz Jafari, Elixir Bistro

If you are interested in something other than a snifter of brandy, although that sounds pretty nice too, chef-owner at Elixir Bistro, Pirooz Jafari, suggests a chai tea. “It’s nice and warm for the winter cold, and we make it from scratch using garam masala,” Jafari says. “I’ve made it at a couple of my restaurants, and it is always popular. We sold a lot of it.”

Donna-Marie Pye, Relish Cooking Studio

There are lots of tools and equipment for making a warming winter beverage at this Kitchener cooking studio and supply store just outside of the city’s central core. Co-owner Donna-Marie Pye shares a few beverage recipes that make use of a counter-top slow cooker.

Classic Mulled Apple Cider
Makes 8 servings.

8 cups apple cider
1 red apple, sliced
3 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1 strip orange rind

In a large saucepan or slow cooker, combine apple cider, apple slices, cinnamon, cloves and orange rind. Heat over medium-low heat (or on LOW in the slow cooker) until steaming and spices are infused. Strain into mugs.

Hot Buttered Rum
Serves 6 to 8

2 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
Pinch salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups hot water
3 or 4 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups amber or dark rum

In a slow cooker, combine sugar, butter, salt and nutmeg. Pour in hot water, stirring until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Wrap cloves and cinnamon in a cheesecloth bag, secure with a string and place in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours. Add rum just before serving.

Hot and Spicy Winter Punch
Serves 8

8 cups cranberry apple cider
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 oz cinnamon heart candy or cinnamon red hots candy
2 cinnamon sticks
16 whole cloves
1 cup white rum

In a slow cooker, combine cranberry-apple cocktail, lemon juice and cinnamon candy.  Wrap cinnamon sticks and cloves in cheesecloth or spice bag and secure with string. Place in slow cooker. Cover and heat on LOW for 4 to 6 hours. Stir in rum just before serving.


Andrew Coppolino is a writer-broadcaster, and is a food columnist with CBC Radio in Waterloo Region. Following a stint as a cook at a restaurant in Kitchener, Andrew chose to work with food from the other side of the kitchen pass. As a food writer, he is dedicated to promoting and nurturing culinary businesses and advocating for local chefs and restaurants. Andrew’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across Canada, the United States and England. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.


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