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Warm beverages to fight off the cold

By Tom Texieria
On November 29, 2012

Snow covers the ground and finals are looming; winter has nearly arrived. Our clothing, footwear, exercise patterns and most other aspects of daily life all change with the temperature. The foods we eat and beverages we drink are no exception.
 While the chill of iced tea or soda may seem a turn-off when the mercury drops, there are plenty of cold weather beverages to quench your thirst, warm your bones, put a zip in your step or merely satisfy your palette.
If you're looking for something rich, warm and satisfying, reach for a mug of hot cider, hot chocolate or a flavored coffee drink. All of these serve as winter's version of an ice cold Coke. They're filling, sweet and serve as a refreshing contrast to the at times uncomfortable conditions outdoors.
Caffeinated beverages thrive in winter conditions, and most of the beverages that provide natural energy happen to be hot. All coffee beverages, all flavors and forms of green and black tea and even drinks made from chocolate naturally contain caffeine. A cup of coffee contains between 100 and 150 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup oftea can range from 30 to 60 milligrams depending on the strength and variety of the leaves. A cup of hot chocolate can provide up to 15 mg of caffeine per cup.
Decaffeinated versions of coffee and tea, as well as hot ciders and herbal teas, are perfect options for those needing a warm beverage before sleep or during the late hours of the night. Chamomile, mint and lemongrass are all popular varieties of herbal tea that are devoid of caffeine. For a more traditional tasting tea, naturally caffeine-free and loaded with anti-oxidants, try rooibos, a nettle variety from South Africa.
A wide variety of hot, winter beverages exist to fill every need and desire. Without the sugar of many traditional summer drinks, many of these winter choices provide low or no calories, health benefits and energy boosts that taste great.
For those of legal age looking to unwind after a long week of studying, a number of alcoholic beverages are best served during cold weather.
Breweries often release seasonal varieties in winter that are darker in color, richer in flavor, and higher in alcohol content. Many of these beers are often best served warm, or rather around 50 degrees. Guinness and other stout varieties, while not seasonal, already adhere to common characteristics of 'winter' brews. Many local breweries also offer beers stronger in terms of both taste and potency. This winter, push up the temperature and paint your pint black.
With colder temperatures comes an increased demand for a warmer wine. Red wines are almost always served at room temperature and will satisfy desires for warmer drinks. Riojas, wines hailing from the La Rioja region of Spain, combine sweet tasting grapes, cinnamon-spice flavors, and an oaky rinse resulting from them being stored in whiskey barrels before being bottled. Produced and imported year round, Riojas are a great winter wine for any budget.
Choosing a winter liquor a bit tougher. While anything high in proof is guaranteed to warm your gut, whiskey seems to be the winter liquor due to its strong earthy taste and color. Peppermint schnapps will satisfy a craving for something festive, and cream liqueurs mix well with coffee for a sweet, warm and rich drink.
Whether in need of a pick-me-up or something more relaxing, the beverage world has plenty of offerings perfectly suited for winter temperatures, festivities and moods.

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