Welcome to a little segment I like to call…
This is essentially me using a clever title as an excuse to talk about my two favorite topics, in hopes that someone out there enjoys them as much as I do. To me, there is no better combination than a good book and a bottle of wine.
As of now, I am currently living in South Carolina, where the only thing you can rely on is the weather being unreliable. I never thought I’d say this growing up, but I miss those winter days in Jersey, where I never needed to ask if I needed a jacket - I just knew. The ones where I’d brace myself before opening the front door, sprinting to my car, the poof ball on top of my beanie bobbing frantically, and slamming the door to close out the cold. But before I could even sigh with relief, I was cursing myself as I realized my windshield was covered in frost and I was definitely going to be late to work. I’d wait in the driver’s seat, sipping my morning coffee and watching the windshield thaw, while dreaming of the moment I got to come home and curl up with my book by the fire. Hence, the inspiration for this month’s Books & Booze: Winter Words & Cozy Cocktails. Pairing wine and cheeses is overrated - I’d much rather have a cup of something warm paired with the delectable, savory taste of words well written. So grab your favorite pair of fuzzy socks and cuddle up for my favorite winter reads and their ideal drink pairings.
1. Little Women: Peanut Butter S'mores Spiked Hot Cocoa
“I don't like to doze by the fire. I like adventures, and I'm going to find some.”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
If you’re like me, dozing by the fire and dreaming of adventures, you better have hot cocoa in hand. Maybe I’m a little biased to consider this a winter read, since I read it myself last winter as the snow flurries piled along my windowsill. This book reminds me of everything lovely about childhood: from Jo’s wild imagination and pestering next-door neighbors, to quarrels with siblings. The winter months have the same effect on me, especially around the holidays. I am reminded of days of my youth spent sledding, laughing as I watched my next-door neighbor, who might as well be my sister, slip and slide down her icy driveway, and of course, hot cocoa by the fire. I imagine myself sitting on the floor of the March’s small cottage while little Beth plays the piano, Meg is in a rocking chair doing her embroidery, Amy is doing her sketches, and Jo bickering with Laurie about something unimportant, and I suddenly feel at home. This book is like a warm hug to its readers, and the only equivalent to that in drink form has to be hot cocoa. And the only thing to make hot cocoa even more delicious? Peanut butter and marshmallows. Oh, yeah, and alcohol of course. Mixed into this single concoction is a representation of each character: all the love and care of dear Marmee, the fiery passion of Jo, the rich, savory goodness of Laurie, and of course, the sweetness of young Beth. Maybe after this cup, I’ll even go do some scribbling of my own.
1 cup of milk
3 tbsps of hot cocoa mix
1/2-1 shot of chocolate liquor
1-2 shots of peanut butter Skrewball whiskey
1 marshmallow (for garnish)
Heat milk in the microwave for 2 minutes. Add hot cocoa mix and stir. Add chocolate liquor and peanut butter whiskey. Stir thoroughly. Toast marshmallow, poke with skewer and place across rim for a garnish. To add an extra s’mores kick, there’s an option to rim the glass with chocolate sauce and crushed graham crackers.
2. The Woman in the Window – Mulled Wine
“ I feel as though madness has released me. I shiver.”
― A. J. Finn, The Woman in the Window
This thriller will actually have you hiding under the covers―and what better time to do so, than the frigid month of January? I am always drawn to thrillers in the winter, especially when things are feeling rather dull and I need something to get my heart pumping again. Our protagonist, Anna Fox, is agoraphobic; therefore, she’s severally afraid of leaving her home. This leads her to isolate herself from the world, staying inside her house (where she lives alone) drinking likely a bit too much wine in her robe. …Now that I think of it, it sounds like a typical day during quarantine. Hopefully, you aren’t doing as much spying on your neighbors as Anna, though. You never know what you’ll find…oh, not to mention it’s super creepy. In honor of the night that started it all (that glorious evening where Anna and her new neighbor Jane share tales over a bottle or two), this book’s pairing is, of course, wine with a winter kick. Pour yourself a glass of this deliciously warm mulled wine and close your blinds. Unfortunately, not even this hot beverage can warm your insides enough to prevent chills from running down your spine.
Recipe brought to you by: https://amindfullmom.com/mulled-wine/
- 750 ml dry red wine
- 1 cup of orange juice
- 1 cup of cranberry juice
- 3-4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 all spice berries (optional)
- 3 star anise (optional)
- 1 sliced orange (optional)
- ½ cup cranberries (optional)
On a piece of cheesecloth or an unfiltered coffee filter, place cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, and star anise. Tie up the bundle using butcher’s twine. Pour the wine, orange juice, and cranberry juice into the slow cooker. Add the spices, cranberries, and orange slices. Cover and cook on low heat until just warm for about 1 hour. Discard the spices. Serve or keep on warm.
3. Harry Potter – Spiked Butterbeer
“The mountains around the school became icy grey and the lake like chilled
steel. Every morning the ground was covered in frost. Hagrid could be seen
from the upstairs windows, defrosting broomsticks on the Quidditch pitch,
bundled up in a long moleskin overcoat, rabbit-fur gloves and enormous
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
So many people tell me they reread Harry Potter during the fall near Halloween, because, ya know, witches and magic, etc. But for me, there isn’t a cozier winter read than the Harry Potter novels. I mean, who doesn’t want to imagine themselves in the Great Hall underneath the floating candles, watching the snowfall from the bewitched ceiling above while your snowy owl delivers you sweets? Who doesn’t want to bundle up by the fire in the Hufflepuff common room and play a game of Wizard’s Chess? Who doesn’t want to walk through a snow-covered Hogsmeade to the Three Broomsticks and grab a nice, hot Butterbeer? To prove my point, you must try my version of Hot Butterbeer, with a little extra magic, and see for yourself how wonderfully wintery the tastes of Harry Potter are. Lucky for you, I never missed mixology, I mean, potions class.
Recipe inspired by: https://thetiptoefairy.com/harry-potters-hot-butter-beer/#_a5y_p=2979143
- 2 cups of milk
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Whipped cream
- 1 cup cream soda (alt: butterbeer soda/root beer)
- Caramel drizzle
Combine milk, butter, and brown sugar and whisk together. Heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. Stir and heat for an additional 3-4 minutes until milk is foaming. Remove from microwave and whisk together until the butter is well mixed in and sugar is completely dissolved. Next, add in 1 cup of cream soda and mix well. Top with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.
The next night you catch yourself staying in with a book (and I’m sure that’s likely to happen given our current state), try out one of these recipes and let me know what you think (and be sure to tag me @cheridan.arthur). If you have a recommendation for next month’s “Books and Booze,” be sure to comment below. Cheers!
What I'm Reading:
Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan - This year for Christmas, my bestie and I decided not to buy each other an outlandish gift and instead exchanged books. She knows me too well because historical fictions are my absolute favorites. I just started this week and it's already got my heart pounding and my palms sweaty. I'll be sure to give a full review once I've finished.
What I'm Listening To:
Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld - I'm going to play this song on repeat until I start believing the words I'm singing.
What I'm Watching:
WandaVision on Disney+ - As a die hard Marvel fan, I must say I had my doubts before starting this show, but so far it's peaked my interest, to say the least. It feels so foreign to Marvel for me, but at the same time, I'm loving the play on nostalgia they're taking. I'm curious to see where they take the show because so far, I'm very confused.