Who doesn’t enjoy a warm beverage on a chilly day? To me, hot chocolate is the quintessential holiday drink. Pour some boiling water over a packet of Swiss Miss with the dehydrated mini marshmallows, and you are set!
Growing up, my family kept a box of La Popular or Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate next to the Swiss Miss. As a kid though, I preferred the more complex flavor of instant Mexican hot chocolate to its American counterpart.
Then on Christmas Eve, I sipped atole (a thickened hot drink) and ponche (a warm fruit punch) while visiting relatives’ homes. The recipes may have originated in Mexico, but the refreshments could be recreated anywhere – helping my family reconnect with their home country.
My kids haven’t been to Mexico, but they have been able to experience the tastes. We’ve also explored other cultures thanks to friends, amazing local restaurants, and simplified recipes found online.
I think there’s no better time to explore different cultures than in the winter. The season is full of unique traditions from people all over the world.
To find out what I may be missing out on, I asked my Carrollton Early Childhood PTA friends what drinks put them in the festive spirit. Joylynn and Sabeen helped me get started with two beverage recipes. I also included the from-scratch version of Mexican hot chocolate that my family enjoys.
Whether you want hot or cold, spicy, fresh, or sweet, I feel like these three drinks are special treats worth trying!
Joylynn, CECPTA President
Favorite winter drink: Chè Thái
Joylynn’s homemade tips:
This is one of our favorite holiday traditions. My family likes to make this because of the holiday colors.
Instead of red rubies, for convenience and tase, I use pomegranate. I substitute the coconut milk for equal parts half and half and hazelnut creamer for flavor and consistency. I also add coconut jelly. Stir and that’s it!
Joylynn’s preferred online recipe can be viewed here.
Sabeen, CECPTA Parliamentarian
Heritage: Pakistani, South Asian
Favorite winter drink: Chai
Sabeen’s homemade tips:
Chai is personal. Play around with spices and ratios of milk tea and water until you find your perfect cup!
Here is the recipe my family uses:
- 5–7 green cardamom pods
- 3–4 whole cloves (optional)
- 1–2 star anise (optional)
- 5–7 peppercorns (optional)
- 2–3 slices ginger
- ½ cinnamon stick– split lengthwise – I sometimes skip this because I prefer my tea to be more cardamom-y, and cinnamon tends to take over.
- 1–2 tablespoons loose leaf black tea or 2-3 tea bags – A robust black tea such as Darjeeling or Assam is preferred.
- 1 Cup water
- 1 cup milk of your choice – I use organic whole milk for a rich tea. You can add more or less based on your preference.
- Sweetener to taste – Sugar is traditional but honey or maple syrup could be equally delicious.
Lightly crush the whole spices using a mortar and pestle. Add the spices and tea to 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat as soon as it comes to a boil or the tea will turn too bitter. Cover and let steep for 10 mins. Add milk and once again bring it to boil. (If you don’t want a strong tea flavor, skip this step)
Strain out the tea and spices, add your sweetener and enjoy!
Editor’s note: you can also find a simplified recipe to start with here.
Madelyn, CECPTA Member
Favorite winter drink: Mexican Hot Chocolate
Madelyn’s homemade tips:
Mexican hot chocolate is so similar to American but also SO MUCH BETTER. Don’t be deterred by the spice in this recipe! Even my toddlers can handle a pinch, but you could omit it altogether. The pepper really contributes to the warming effect though, so I encourage you to give it a try.
Other adjustments I make are that I personally skip the bittersweet chocolate and sometimes swap white sugar for brown. Add more or less sugar if you’d like. And, of course, make it dairy free if needed! Be careful not to let your pot get too hot or the milk will burn to the bottom.
Serve and enjoy immediately. A film will develop over the liquid if it sits and cools. We like to make popcorn for a salty snack and watch The Grinch as a family.
My preferred recipe can be found here.
Do you have a favorite holiday drink? Comment below with your recipes! Let us know if you get to try one of the drinks we shared! ☕️
Are you looking for a fun parent group to celebrate holidays with? Click here to learn how you can be a part of CECPTA!
About the Author
Madelyn has happily lived in or around Carrollton for most of her life. She’s a tenth generation Texan and first generation Mexican American who loves to cook and eat. She firmly believes that Mexican hot chocolate season runs from October until bluebonnets bloom. You’ll find her at Blue, Red, and Yellow playgroups always with a travel mug of something warm.