Sometimes being a journalist is hard work. Other times not so much. Going around town, drinking wintry beverages and writing about them falls into the latter category. From classic hot chocolate to teas spiced with cardamom to cayenne-infused espresso drinks, these beverages are sure to warm you up and keep spirits high.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
Maple, caramel and smoked-salt drinking chocolate
The French Broad Chocolate Lounge has melted down its famous chocolate truffles and mixed them with half and half to create a drinkable treat that has become a shop signature. The shop offers drinkable chocolate three ways: as hot chocolate, which is house-made ganache steamed with organic milk; the liquid truffle, which is a thicker version made with half and half; and the chocolate sip, which is dark chocolate steamed with just enough water to make it liquid. Not surprisingly, co-owner Jael Rattigan says the hot chocolate is “wildly popular in the winter when it’s cold out,” but the treat is available year-round. “In the summer we still make all eight flavors because it’s something that we have become known for. … People come here for the liquid truffle even when it’s 90 degrees,” she adds.
Rattigan’s favorite variety is the maple, caramel and smoked-salt — and for good reason. The sweet maple flavor in this thick, creamy drink is tempered by the dark chocolate and not-too-subtle smokiness of the salt sprinkled on top. Add a few house-made marshmallows or a dollop of fresh whipped cream for the full effect.
Price: $4.50. French Broad Chocolate Lounge has locations at 10 S. Pack Square and 21 Buxton Ave.
Dobra Tea has such an extensive tea menu that it would be easy to be a regular customer and never try its specialty masala tea. Don’t let this happen to you. The masala is based on an Indian recipe and tastes like all the good parts of winter in a cup. Its mixture of fragrant spices — ground ginger, cardamom, white pepper, anise and cloves — transforms into a beverage that is creamy and sweet with the addition of milk and honey. The masala is available with a black tea or herbal rooibos base, depending on your caffeine needs.
Dobra employee Abbey Becker says the drink warms “from the inside out,” adding, “Some people find it invigorating, and some people find it calming. I think it just depends on where they are in their day.” Because of its full-bodied and creamy flavor, it’s also highly recommended for coffee lovers on a tea break.
Price: $5.25. Visit Dobra Tea at 78 N. Lexington Ave. downtown, 707 Haywood Road in West Asheville and 120 Broadway St. in Black Mountain.
OK, so this drink isn’t hot, but if you are looking for a wintry drink that is a bit more … adult, this cocktail will hit the spot. With its cinnamon-y flavor, it may even have some warming effects. MG Road bartender Erin Hawley describes the Lazy River as a wintry version of sangria, which provides a nice alternative to a more classic mulled wine. It combines North Carolina-based Fairgame Beverage Co.’s Ferris port-style wine, Italian liqueur Averna Amaro, house-made cinnamon dram and muddled grapefruit and cherry. For those making it at home (see recipe in sidebar) Hawley recommends that the Lazy River be “topped with crushed ice and enjoyed by a warm fire.”
Price: $10. MG Road is at 19 Wall St.
If you’re in search of a winter-friendly beverage that’s spicy, caffeinated and packs a punch, look no further than the Diablo at High Five. This 10-ounce drink lives up to its name, in the best way. The recipe starts with a classic Americano base (two espresso shots in water) and gets more interesting and tasty from there. The subtle addition of sea salt, not-too-sweet honey, warming cinnamon and the perfect hint of cayenne pepper has made this drink one of the most popular beverages at High Five. Cinnamon and pepper seem to be a theme here for our winter warmers, for good reason. These spices pair particularly well with espresso in this drink. The Diablo is an ideal choice for coffee lovers who want to try something a little different.
Price: $3.45. High Five has locations at 190 Broadway St. and 13 Rankin Ave.
European-style sipping chocolate
If you’re craving a classic hot chocolate that will put Swiss Miss to shame, the Chocolate Fetish offers a European-style sipping chocolate made from chunks of rich dark chocolate melted into half and half. Chocolate Fetish manager Elizabeth Foley explains the difference between European-style hot chocolate and the hot chocolate most of us grew up with: “In America, most hot chocolate is made by mixing cocoa powder, sugar and water. When you use chocolate instead of cocoa powder and sugar, you’re including the cocoa butter, which gives the end product a better mouth feel.” The sipping chocolate at the Chocolate Fetish is offered only in the fall and winter, however, you can buy its make-at-home package year round.
Price: $2.95. Chocolate Fetish is at 36 Haywood St.