Warm, cozy beverages that leave the pumpkin spice lattes in the dust

Are we done with pumpkin spice lattes yet?

Because some of us are. And there are still plenty of cold days ahead for which a happy little PSL may seem sorely lacking in empathy. Should you find yourself in need of a bit of warmth and consolation concerning the upcoming winter months, consider the following hot beverage alternatives:

African-style chai

Chai is PSL’s older, more mature cousin. Yes, you can enjoy this spiced tea latte out of a carton or powdered drink mix, but don’t rule out making your own. I learned an easy method from a friend that, yes, offends all of the British rules of tea-making -- which is all the more reason to do it, right?

To make African-style chai, put equal parts water and milk into a sauce pan. Add loose-leaf black tea -- or the contents of a tea bag -- using approximately one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of water.

Then rummage through your spice rack and start throwing stuff in. I like the traditional cinnamon-ginger-clove combination, but nutmeg, allspice and cardamom are also good additions. The spices can be whole or ground; sometimes I even use chopped fresh ginger root. Experiment until you get the combo and potency you like.

Allow your blend to warm on the stove at a medium-low temperature for 10-20 minutes, but don’t let it boil. A skin will typically form on top as it heats; this can be discarded. When the chai has steeped for at least 10 minutes and is warm, pour it into cups through a strainer. Sweeten with sugar or honey to taste.

London fog

If chai is PSL’s older cousin, a London fog would be its sophisticated peer with a British heritage. This tea latte is made with Earl Grey tea and vanilla; resulting in a simple, elegant cup compared to the feisty chai.

Start by brewing one cup (the 8 oz. kind -- you want a 1:1 tea-to-milk ratio) of Earl Grey tea. While the tea is steeping, warm and froth a cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Whole milk is most delicious, of course, but use what you've got. Use a whisk to froth the milk as it heats; pull it off the heat when it's hot but not boiling.

Combine the tea and frothed milk, add a splash of vanilla extract and sugar or honey to taste. You can vary the flavor by using different teas or extracts -- almond extract is also especially good. You can also use flavored syrups, which don’t require the extra sweetener, but avoid fruity or tart syrups as they often contain milk-curdling citric acid.

Dark hot cocoa

There are days when a cup of liquid chocolate is in order. Those who have outgrown the super-rich hot chocolate of childhood might consider customizing their drink.

For a smoother cup, begin with Dutch-process cocoa, which lacks the acidity of regular baking cocoa. For a single cup, combine a couple tablespoons of cocoa and a tablespoon or two of sugar or honey. Stir in enough water to form a thick syrup. Now add liquid according to your preference -- whole milk makes for a richer cup, lower-fat milks or added water results in a darker, more straightforward cup. Heat it in the microwave to the desired temperature.

You can further customize the flavor: Add more sugar or the smallest pinch of salt if you like, or use a splash of vanilla extract or a spoonful of espresso powder to punch up the chocolate flavor. You can also add other spices or flavorings like cinnamon or chili powder. I like to turn up the heat with a pinch of red pepper flakes or, even better, a few drops of Akabanga, a hot chili oil from Rwanda.

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