It's 20 degrees outside, but only in the sun. Your guests have trekked over for dinner, but before you can get down to making pasta together or get help setting the table, everyone needs to thaw out. There's always mulled wine or spiked hot cider, but not every guest will want to start with booze. Enter: the tea steamer.
Tea-Based Mocktails Bring the Flavor
Tea is often overlooked as a soothing, cozy party drink — but sweetened with an easy vanilla syrup and served in big mugs folks can wrap their hands around, these tea-based steamers will get people talking. With just a splash of milk, they won't fill people up, but the warming flavor of turmeric and ginger makes them more interesting (and significantly less sugary) than something like hot chocolate.
Look for turmeric tea in bags in the tea aisle — the fewer ingredients in the tea, the better, but turmeric-ginger tea makes a delicious (and slightly spicy) variation. Remove the seeds from the vanilla bean by cutting it lengthwise with a small, sharp knife and scraping the seeds out with a spoon. (If the bean feels dry or stiff, wrap it in a damp paper towel and microwave it for about 30 seconds, or until soft, before slicing into it.)
Spiced Vanilla-Bean Steamers
Makes 4 (12-ounce) servings
Scraped seeds and pod of 1/2 vanilla bean
turmeric or turmeric-ginger tea bags
Place the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to help the sugar dissolve. When the liquid is clear, add the seeds and vanilla pod and simmer for 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring 6 cups (48 ounces) of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, add the tea bags, cover, and let steep 5 minutes. Use a spoon to firmly squeeze the liquid out of the tea bags before removing them from the pot.
Divide the tea between 4 large mugs. Add 1/4 cup of the milk and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vanilla syrup (or to taste) to each mug. Serve hot.
Cold steamers: You can also make the drinks as directed, refrigerate until cool, and serve over ice.