Food | Some like it hot

The Irish winter can be formidable at the best of times, so why not try a hot drink or two, writes Alison Lee.Each and every time winter rolls around, this poor shivering reporter can’t help but wish there was some way to avoid the slap-in-the-face of cold air that she experiences. Nothing works quite as well as clutching a cup of hot chocolate between your (preferably gloved) hands. It’s like carrying a little force-field of warmth that shields you from the bitingly cold air, as you dash across campus to the bus stop.Unfortunately, nowhere in UCD quite satisfies the winter hot chocolate craving, but a quick trip on the 46A can take you to the mecca of hot drinks that is Butler’s Chocolate Café – and thanks to our good friend; globalisation, you won’t have to walk far in town to find one. There, amidst rows of glossy chocolates and shining mirrors, you have a chance to warm yourself and come away with a styrofoam cup full of foaming, delicious hot chocolate – not to mention a little cellophane bag with a complimentary truffle. Pure bliss.Hot drinks really do make winter more bearable, especially at those dreaded family gatherings. Relatives are a lot more generous with booze at this time of the year. For some reason, mulled wine, a Christmas party staple, doesn’t seem to count as an alcoholic drink. Throw in a few cloves and a cinammon stick, whack it on the stove for a few minutes, and wine is reduced to the potency of Ribena (or so some people seem to think). Take advantage – it may be the only thing that sees you through Great Aunt Eileen telling you how tall you’ve grown since she saw you last week.In fact, this time of year sees alcohol included into just about anything. Even the innocent cup of coffee can’t escape the demon drink. Pour it into a tall glass, add a generous lashing of whiskey, some cream and an even more generous spoonful of sugar. And bingo, Nescafé has transcended the status of nasty-tasting caffeine-boost to become the fancy dessert known as Irish coffee.Weight gain is unfortunately a common feature of these seasonal tipples. Anyone who wants to avoid acquiring an end of year spare-tyre may find themselves feeling a bit out of the loop.But you don’t have to miss out on the great feeling that comes from warming yourself up from the inside with a hot drink. And you can even Honestdo so in a caffeine, alcohol and calorie-free way by developing a taste for herbal teas. Every self-respecting pretentious café these days provides a generous selection of unexpectedly delicious herbal and fruit infusions. Rooibus, a spicy South African tea, is especially festive, as is cinnamon and spiced apple.It is the little pleasures that make this time of the year so great. So pull on your mittens, pay for that overpriced Butler’s hot chocolate with a smile on your face and enjoy that warm fuzzy feeling deep down inside as you drink it strolling down Grafton Street.