In honor of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year and a tangible turning point as the light builds towards spring, an easy warming brew from my kitchen to yours.
My family celebrates this night of sacred darkness with hot toddies around a snowy bonfire. This herbal version of the traditional winter drink will chase away the winter’s chill and help us reflect on the passing of one year into the next. The red fruit embodies our optimism and hope for the new year and the coming growing season, the warming root grounds us and reminds us to live and love in the present, and the honey honors the life of the past year.
Medicinally, this brew is very warming and increases movement, especially in the lungs, stomach, joints, and immune system, and is appropriate for both chronic and acute concerns. If you’re coping with lung congestion, asthma that worsens with winter cold, arthritis that worsens with cold or moisture, stagnant digestion, heartburn, or a seasonal illness, this tasty brew may be particularly welcome on a cold winter’s night.
A few words on preparation: the longer this simmers, the stronger it will get, so plan accordingly. Around these parts we take Kava Kava tinctures straight from the dropper, so I am not necessarily the best judge of when a brew is “too strong” for folks without steel palates. Taste throughout and judge for your own family’s preferences. If it comes out too strong for you, add more milk. Also, rose hips are acidic so if you use a lot they may curdle your milk–don’t freak out, it’s fine. Drink it anyway.
Any leftovers can be refrigerated overnight and turned into a kid-friendly cough syrup tomorrow.
2 tablespoon dried prickly ash berries
3 tablespoons dried elecampane root
3 tablespoons dried rose hips
3 cups water
3 cups brandy
Honey to taste (preferably raw wildflower honey)
Whole milk or half & half to taste
1. Combine water and herbs in a large saucepan. Simmer gently until fragrant and dark red in color, at least 20 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to low and add brandy. You do not want to boil your brandy or you’ll cook off the alcohol! Just warm it up.
3. When brew is warm and fragrant, turn off the heat. Ladle through a strainer into tea cups until the cups are 2/3 full. Cover the pot so the remainder of the brew stays warm.
4. Add milk and honey to taste. I like about 2 tablespoons of milk and a tablespoon of honey, but everyone in my house takes it differently.
5. Bundle up and go sit under the stars with your loved ones. Take the time tonight to breathe deeply and appreciate the blessings of the past year.