This autumn has been a confusing one in my area. It has not been particularly autumn-like from a temperature standpoint—at least not until last week—and the foliage has been lackluster overall, with some minor bright spots around the state. There’s an old saying in Maryland—“if you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” Generally, this is commentary on the inevitability of late-afternoon thunderstorms “downee ocean, hon”, but over time, it was has expanded to encompass “the weather” as a singular thing, all over Maryland
The same maxim applies to the seasons; this autumn having been very late-summer like for some long, it was inevitable the other shoe would drop soon. In true Mid-Atlantic fashion, the weather pattern changed, violently, late in the week last week, and after one semi-solid week of autumn temps (not counting Halloween, which was way too fucking warm), we were propelled waaaaaaay over towards the other end of the spectrum. If you live near here, chances are you felt the first real twinge of fear this weekend. Fear of the coming winter months, when there’s a good chance it’s going to be both cold and wet (and not even snow wet!), and that combination is enough to make even strident winter-lovers like myself miserable.
But fear not! Along with those cold winter months, is the excuse to drink holiday- and season-specific beverages! You know, the stuff you probably do not drink year round, but you sure as shit will drink as soon as there is even the slightest chill in the air. Some of you have probably already started doing so, albeit way too early (you are the fucking worst).
As I know all of you have bad taste, I have taken it upon myself to craft a comprehensive ranking of holiday- and seasonal-specific beverages (non-beer category; I’m not Kate Bernot, and I could never be, but maybe I’ll try a beer one some other time). By doing this, I have taken away the burden of choice from you, the beverage drinker, and thus maximized your autumn and winter happiness.
1. Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate, as a rule, is the best seasonal beverage, at least of the non-alcoholic variety. I’ll go one step further and say Peppermint Hot Chocolate—particularly of the Starbucks variety—is the perfect holiday beverage. The chocolate is not *too* sweet, and the peppermint is added in just the right amount. The result is a hot beverage that would warm even the cold, dead cockles of Jim Spanfeller’s herbacious heart. While it may not show up on the menu year-round, I can assure you that not only is it available off-menu, the staff of any local Starbucks with both jump at the chance to make it for you, AND view you with no small amount of envy for having such good, refined taste.
2. Mulled Wine
I am consistently shocked by the number of people who have either never heard of, or never had, mulled whine. Mulled wine is a spiced wine, traditionally made from red wine and a variety of mulling spices, most of which are easily found at even the most low-rent grocery store (I’m looking at you, Food Lion). It’s fucking delicious, particularly on a cold day, and I will fight anyone who says it is unacceptable to walk around the neighborhood with a large mug of mulled wine, steam rising into the air, while you chat with your neighbors like some 50s black-and-white TV show. Some people will even tell you to put raisins or cranberries in your mulled wine; those people should immediately be reported to your local hospital’s mental health ward. Some will also tell you “non-alcoholic mulled wine is just as good!”—these people should be completely ignored, or possibly ridiculed. You can find a great recipe for mulled wine here or here; be sure to stir yours with a cinnamon stick to be extra-holiday bougie.
3. Hot Buttered Rum
Hot buttered rum is also a delicious, cold-weather alcoholic beverage. Made from rum, hot cider (always cider, and if you’d rather have hot water than hot cider in your hot buttered rum, you seriously need to reconsider your life choices), a sweetener, and a variety of spices ALSO found in most grocery stores. Even if you’re a complete herb like Jim Spanfeller, you should at least *try* hot buttered rum, once in your life. Click here for a basic white girl version of the recipe.
4. Hot Chocolate
Did you know hot chocolate was originally called “hot” because the Mayans added ground chili peppers to it, and it was actually served cold? Of course you did, because you can read fucking Wikipedia just like I can. We’re geniuses, you and I. I don’t really know about those other guys.
5. Apple Cider (cold)
I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory, but for all you herbs out there, apple cider is made from *gasp* apples. I would encourage you to visit a farmer’s market (which rock) and purchase some, even if it’s not their brand. If you must, go to a large chain grocery store (which decidedly do not rock) and buy some, but get the unfiltered. You’ll enjoy the taste, and the little bits of apple, much more. You’re welcome.
6. Apple Cider (hot)
This deserves a distinct entry, mostly because it is inferior to cold apple cider, and I did not want to sully the name of the good apple cider with language concerning the bad apple cider.
7. Egg Nog
I’ll confess to not knowing exactly what people see in egg nog. It is objectively bad. The word “nog” doesn’t even sound appealing, let along something I want to waste my precious cold-weather holiday drinking hours on consuming. The fact that they have to make soy and lactose-free versions of this supposedly amazing drinks lends credence to my theory that it is utter shit. Who wants a dairy drink with rum in it? No one, Karen. Not a fucking soul. If you really want to be an asshole about this, and try it, though, here’s a recipe.
So there you have it, folks. A truly comprehensive list of holiday beverages. Some of you might be saying to yourselves, “what about x?” I don’t know anything about x, which means it’s probably not worth knowing. Alternately, you can show me just how smartypants you are by pointing out to me which drinks I missed. You’ll be wrong, of course, but I won’t hold it against you.