mug of coffee

Warmth without cocoa

Cooler September evenings are custom made for warm drinks around the fire pit. But what if you’re fed up with pumpkin spice everything, and not a big fan of hot chocolate?

Don’t worry. From boozy glogg to family-friendly mulled grape cider, there are plenty of great warm drinks available. Try one of these, and you won’t find yourself missing summer at all.

(Of course, if hot chocolate is really what you’re craving, be sure to check out our post on hot chocolate variations.)

Vanilla-citrus cider

An interesting and more complex version of the classic apple cider. The original version of this recipe called for brown sugar to be added, but we found that to be insanely sweet.

You can also heat this drink in the slow cooker and let it simmer until you’re ready to enjoy it.


8 cups apple cider

¼ cup thawed orange juice concentrate, or 1 cup orange juice

Dash of salt

3 cinnamon sticks

1 tsp whole cloves

Dash of vanilla


Combine everything except vanilla in a saucepan. Cover and heat to a low simmer. Simmer gently for 1 hour.

Add vanilla, strain into mugs, and serve.

Mulled grape cider

Why should apples get all the cider glory? This drink is an excellent use of Concord grapes, which are one of the most flavourful grapes you can find, but very seedy. You don’t often see Concords at other times of year, so pick some up while you can and enjoy this glorious drink.

Proportions are variable — if you’ve got more grapes, use them. You can also substitute cardamon pods for star anise if you prefer.


1 ½ pounds Concord grapes, removed from stems

3 cups apple cider

3 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

4 whole cloves

1 star anise


Combine all ingredients and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure all the grapes burst.

Strain and serve.


This Scandinavian dish (pronounced gloo-guh) is traditionally served around Christmas time, but why wait? The combination of warm wine and spices is too good to be limited to a single season.

This is an extremely variable recipe, so best to just treat this as a guideline. Try using bourbon or the traditional aquavit instead of rum, or omit the port and add extra wine and sugar, or mix up the spices. You can even make a large batch then bottle it once it’s cooled and save some for later.


1 bottle red wine — something big, bold and cheap

1 ½ cups rum or vodka

1 ½ cups port

½ cup brown sugar

Peel of half an orange (or 2 tbsp orange zest)

2 tbsp raisins

3 whole cardamon pods

1 cinnamon stick

8 whole cloves

1-inch chunk of ginger root


Combine all ingredients, cover, and bring to a low simmer. Simmer very gently for five minutes or so, then turn off the heat and let sit for an hour or more. (Simmering too long will boil off all the alcohol).

Strain, reheat just to being warm, not hot, and serve.

For authenticity, garnish each glass with a few raisins, almonds, and an orange slice.

Posted in Thoughts on Food.