Cups of Kindness

Nothing says ‘welcome’ like a mug to warm your hands around

There’s something elementally satisfying about imbibing a piping-hot boozy beverage after day spent in the blustery outdoors.

While the combination has probably existed since humans figured out how to both navigate snowy terrain and ferment potent potables, Alpine communities of western Europe brought après-ski culture to a fine art. Thus, there’s an international flair to the warming trend of this month’s Spirit Guide, with a combination of sweet, sassy and overall sublime beverages, all sure to warm you from nose to toes.

When Tupelo Park City pastry chef Shirley Butler described her favorite après ski beverage, Schümli-Pflümli, I was immediately hooked. With friends in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, she assembles mugs of the warming beverage slope-side during ski breaks. Butler introduced me via email to her Swiss friend, Christoph Baumann, who gave me the inside scoop on this drink: “Schümli is a Swiss word for foam, and Kaffee-Schümli is coffee with whipped cream. Kaffee-Schümli-Pflümli is a specialty in Switzerland,” made with plum schnapps called pflümli and served in stemmed heat-resistant cordial glasses. And it’s as fun to drink as it is to pronounce: SHOOM-ly FLOOM-ly. If you can’t find plum schnapps, Butler recommends substituting in plum brandy (slivovitz) or Mirabelle plum liqueur with equally delicious results. Ski buddies Butler and Baumann shared their recipe with Devour. Makes one drink.

1 teaspoon instant coffee
1.5 ounces plum schnapps
1 teaspoon sugar
5-6 ounces hot water
Garnish: whipped cream and chocolate shavings
Method: Add all ingredients to a stemmed coffee glass or mug, stir to combine. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Whiskey-laced Irish coffee might be the first hot beverage that comes to mind when thinking of Irish cream, but there are endless possibilities for making similarly dreamy drinks, especially if you can find very good fresh dairy-based Irish cream liqueur.

In this interpretation of a warm milk punch, I dubbed it bheinn (or beinn) after the Gaelic word for hills, in particular big ones. And it seems fitting to take a nip of a mildly spicy and fortifying beverage after a vigorous snowshoe or brisk morning ramble in the foothills. Although it’s a perfect brunch-time tipple when shared from a large thermos trailside, it’s sure to please as a comforting caffeine-free nightcap, as well; the pretty cinnamon-sugar rim is a multi-sensory bonus. Makes about four drinks.

4 cups whole milk (may use 2 percent)
¼ cup honey
1 (4-6-inch) cinnamon stick
2-3 whole star anise
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
2/3 cup Five Farms Irish Cream liqueur
1/3 cup Irish whiskey

Garnish: cinnamon-sugar rim, grated nutmeg

Method: To a heavy medium saucepan add the milk, honey, cinnamon stick, star anise and ginger. Split the vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; add the seeds and pod to the saucepan. Stirring occasionally, cook over medium-low heat until the honey is completely dissolved, and the mixture is steaming and very hot (do not boil!) and continue to steam for 5-8 minutes to extract spice flavors. Whisking briskly, add the Irish cream and whiskey.

Heat until hot and steamy, then pour milk punch through a fine mesh strainer to remove solids (discard solids). Grate in a little nutmeg and stir to combine. Decant into a large thermos.

To serve at home: To a small saucer pour in approximately 1 tablespoon honey. In another saucer mix together 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon. Dip the rims of heatproof glasses into the honey to coat, then dip into the sugar-cinnamon. Divide the milk punch equally among four glasses, and add a star anise, if desired, and a grating of fresh nutmeg.

One of the most charming traditions in Germany and Austria are holiday markets that spring up in town squares through December called Christkindlesmarkt (Christ child markets) or Weihnachtsmarkts (Holy Night markets). My most recent German holiday included a trip to the sprawling Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, where—in addition to buying tree ornaments and scarfing down apple strudel, savory brats and kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes)—we stopped by Glühwein stands to refill our heavy ceramic mugs with fragrant spiced wine, perfect on a chilly night (glüh means “glow”).

One of the most delightful parts of making Glühwein at home is its flexibility for a crowd—just assemble all the ingredients in a crockpot and set it to low/warm (not hot!) and let your guests serve themselves. If you can’t find good German wine or brandy, dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Malbec and French brandy makes a fine substitute. Makes 10-12 servings.

2 bottles red wine (750 ml each)
1 cup sugar (or more to taste)
1 cup brandy
4-5 whole allspice berries
1 whole nutmeg
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 lemon
1 orange
2-3 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods

Garnish: additional cinnamon sticks and clove-studded citrus wheels

Method: Slice lemon and orange into rounds. Poke cloves into the orange and lemon slices, distributing evenly. Smash the nutmeg with a hammer or mallet; tie up in a bit of doubled-up cheesecloth with the allspice berries (or use a tea ball). Add all ingredients to a heavy pot over low heat on the stove top or pour into a crockpot on low setting to heat the wine until steaming. Do not boil! Serve in mugs with a cinnamon stick and a clove-studded orange or lemon wheel.

One of the marks of a tried and true Utah powder hound are tales about how many times they’ve been stuck “interlodge.” When upper Little Cottonwood Canyon road shuts down due to severe avalanche danger around Alta or Snowbird, no one is allowed outside homes or resort lodges until crews blast the snowpack for pre-emptive safety.

As one of the most dangerous and avalanche-prone routes in the lower 48, we’ll take their word for it when we should hunker down. In a perfect overnight interlodge scenario, we book a room at Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge, and splurge on a meal at The Aerie to take the edge off our anticipation for getting first tracks the next day while the rest of the valley’s powder-hungry are still itching to get up the canyon. Finish up with a sweet nightcap instead of (or in addition to) dessert in the form of this liquid version of a traditional banana split, topped with a whipped cream mountain.

1.25 ounces banana liquor
0.5 ounces Godiva Chocolate Liquor
0.25 ounces vanilla vodka
0.5 ounces banana syrup
5 ounces hot chocolate

Garnish: whipped cream, cocoa powder and strawberry slice

Method: Combine all ingredients in a glass mug. Add whipped cream, dust with cocoa powder and top with a strawberry slice.

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