Five hot drinks that will astound your senses
Coffee, hot chocolate, tea and other infusions are the hot drinks we usually think about when it comes to beating the cold. But the local customs of some not-so-far-away countries offer much more. With or without alcohol, there are hot drinks that will undoubtedly astound your senses.
Hot drinks in Europe
1. Grog: the pirate drink
Not all attempts to ban alcohol had the same disastrous consequences as Prohibition. Back in 1740 one of the admirals in the British Navy was Edward Vernon. That year he ordered the crews of his ships to dilute the rum they drank with water. The admiral, responded to the nickname of Old Grog because he used to wear a dark black cloak made of a material called grogram. Hence the name of this hot drink. The sailors were not very happy to have to water down their only distraction, but they did. Moreover, they added limes and sugar to make it more palatable. The evolution of grog until it became one of the most surprising hot drinks occurred in countries such as the Czech Republic. Nowadays, if you visit Prague in winter, you can warm your hands and heart with a good glass of grog. It is prepared with black rum, sugar, lemon juice and boiling water. The first time you taste it, you will be surprised by the citrus notes and smoothness of its flavour. Don’t be fooled, though: grog goes straight to the head.
2. Mulled wine
In Germany and Austria they are very fond of hot drinks. And they have one in particular known as Glühwein. It is speculated that the Romans took it north on their expeditions of conquest. In Rome the wine was boiled and spices added and left to macerate in order to keep to conserve it for as long as possible.
In any case, hot red wine – preferably of good quality – is very similar to winter sangria where the fruit is replaced by spices. The most common ones in this restorative drink are cinnamon, cloves and star anise, although orange peel is usually added too. And children enjoy similar hot drinks without alcohol, made, for example, with apple juice. The result is sweeter but equally uplifting. This drink is very much in evidence at Christmas but of course it can be taken throughout the winter.
Latin America and hot drinks
3. Tamarind punch
Latin America is a region where fruit is particularly important, both in main dishes and in hot beverages. The tamarind, a tree from Africa, produces a pod-shaped fruit that plays the lead role in this punch. With its pulp and some other autumn fruits, a punch is made with boiled water as a base to which a few drops of rum can be added. The result is very fruity and sweet, with some acid notes. It is ideal for consumption in the afternoon with guests.
The ingredients vary depending on the country where the punch is made. Pears and apples cut in halves or quarters are very common. However, all its varieties are derived from a drink native to India, puc, which had five ingredients (puc means five). Some of them as innocuous as palm wine brandy. Punch has become popular all over the planet. In fact, in Korea they make one type of punch based on ginger, cinnamon and dried persimmons.
4. Oaxacan “champurrado”
For all those who want to try an exotic – though not completely unknown – hot drink, there’s champurrado from Mexico. Given that one of its main ingredients is cocoa, it is remotely related to chocolate. There are not many similarities between the two, however. Champurrado is one of the hot drinks in Mexico that was already drunk in pre-Columbian times. For the Aztecs it was a sacred food used in ceremonies and rituals.
It is prepared with corn flour, cocoa, milk and sugar and, like in the case of tamarind punch, the base is also water. Both were hot drinks appreciated for their flavour and warmth. Hernán Cortés himself mentioned champurrado in his reports and one of Philip II’s doctors, Francisco Hernández, included it in his Natural History of New Spain because of its properties. There is general agreement that the best champurrado is served in Oaxaca.
The Far East
In Japanese sake literally means an alcoholic beverage obtained by fermenting rice, i.e. rice liquor. Nowadays the fermentation process is industrial and very hygienic. This wasn’t the case when sake was first made. The priestesses responsible for its fermentation used to chew the rice grains in their mouths so that the enzymes in their saliva would make the grains ferment.
Traditionally, sake has been drunk in Japan as part of rituals held to bring good luck; it is recommended to accompany it with butter, spices and walnuts, or strong cheese and chocolate. In the Second World War, the kamikazes drank it before embarking on their suicide missions. It is also drunk at New Year, seasoned with herbs and spices: cinnamon, rhubarb and sanshou (a Japanese pepper) among others.
This drink can be consumed cold, warm or hot. The temperature of the sake depends on personal preferences, the season of the year and the quality of the liquor. It is said that alcohol is better absorbed when hot, so, like grog, sake is one of those hot drinks it is best to be careful with.
There are many other surprising hot drinks, such as hot orange-scented cider, coffee with milk and pumpkin, and coconut atole. We’ve chosen these five because they will keep you warm almost anywhere in the world. Try them.