Tis the season for punch!

Last week seems to have been all about winter warmers! I left my chai-scented house to go to a Christmas party that was full of mulled wine. I know mulled wine is as old as time, but I’m happy every year when I rediscover it. There’s nothing quite as wintery and wonderful, I think.

If mulled wine isn’t your thing, the magic of the internet has gathered together a couple great roundups of winter punches to liven up your party. Many of them are alcoholic, but not all.

I think the “Wassail Punch” in this round up from the Kitchn looks like a really great mulled cider. I may also be making the Gingerbread Punch (that conveniently appears in multiple roundups.)

Mmm, Bon Apetit also has a great list. I am pretty much never going to say no to a sparkling-wine based concoction of any kind. My favorite might be this Milk Punch, which looks eerily like chai.

My only complaint about these punches is how much rum is involved. I suppose there are worse things, but I would rather a tasty bourbon base, if it’s all the same.

I hope you find something tasty to warm up your house this weekend!

Homemade chai made easy

I love chai tea. It’s spicy, it’s (usually) caffeinated, it’s full of honey. It’s both physically and emotionally warming (at least, to me). It’s a nice alternative to more coffee in the afternoon, when I need a warm pick-me-up but don’t want to spend the whole night awake.

It’s also ridiculously easy to make. Really.

The first time I made it at home, the recipe I used was really complicated, and involved too many steps of heating and reheating. The finished product was tasty, but the steps involved were burdensome. When I wanted to try again several months later, I couldn’t find the recipe again (oh, fickle internet), but instead stumbled upon a collection of allegedly authentic Indian recipes, which were remarkably easier!

The short version: Make a spice-infused syrup, add milk, steep tea bags, enjoy. That’s my kind of recipe.

I’ve included the spices that I used today, but they’re more of a suggestion than anything else. If you like a spicier chai, use more ginger and black pepper. If you prefer it mild, cut those things back, maybe increase the cardamom. Most of the chai that you’ll find in coffee shops has vanilla in it, but I’m not big on gratuitous vanilla, so I didn’t add any. You should feel free to, of course. I use whole milk; use the milk (or substitute) of your choice. Next time, I might use half and half. Live dangerously!

Gather your spices in a sauce pan:

Add water, simmer until the water is good and fragrant, and taking on color. If you like strongly flavored chai, simmer longer to make a spicier syrup.

Once you’ve got the level of spiciness you want, add your sweeteners and cook until they’re fully dissolved. Then add your milk and bring the mixture back up to not-quite-boiling.

This is a good time to taste it and make sure the sweetness is right for your taste. Then add your tea bags! I’m using generic ceylon from the grocery store. You could use good tea, if that’s what you have. Or rooibos, for a caffeine-free option. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Now it’s starting to look like chai!


Yes, that’s a Curious George jelly jar.