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hot milk, honey + nutmeg (the best hot drink, hands down)

In autumn, drinks, gluten free, winter on 24 July, 2011 at 10:09 am

If you’re reading this in Wellington (or, well, most of New Zealand) you’ll know why I’m posting this today. This weekend has been disgustingly miserable, cold and blustery and wet, and I made the big mistake yesterday of leaving the house. On foot. I had a raincoat on, not that it made much difference: I was completely soggy from mid-thigh down, and damp everywhere else. My usually waterproof handbag had a little puddle of water inside. By the time I got back home I was exhausted, shivering, chilled to the bone in a way I haven’t been in a long time. So: to the rescue, only the best hot drink there is.

This drink comes by way of a dear friend and former flatmate who worked at Deliaro what feels like an age ago. It was our first year flatting, in what might have possibly been The Coldest Flat in Wellington (tied, of course, with most other cheap student flats in Aro Valley and Kelburn, I’m sure) where wind blew through cracks in the floorboards in the lounge and bottles of olive oil would start to solidify in the cupboards. I’m not making this up, though admittedly the drafty lounge floor was partly our own doing: it took us a long time, maybe until the second winter, to finally decide it might be a good idea to move the rug the landlord gave us to put in the lounge into the lounge. (But I mean, it clashed with the grass-green lounge walls, the colour we’d picked out when we moved in and the landlord said he’d have the lounge repainted. Sheesh. Nineteen.)

When winter rolled around and we all went and bought heaters for our rooms and then got our first $1000 power bill and then quickly banished all the heaters to underneath the unused dining table that sat next to Fridge No. 2, which always leaked unpleasant odours, we mostly abandoned the cold, drafty lounge. Or at least the way I remember it. In any case, I never spent much time in there that winter.

What I remember more from that first cold winter was, if I wasn’t huddled under duvets in my room, hanging out in the kitchen: glaringly bright from the combination of stainless steel benchtops, ancient cupboards the colour of rancid cream and the harsh fluorescent light that took up most of the ceiling. It was probably the smallest room in the house: puzzling for a place that housed eight, more or less. We’d stand shoulder to shoulder chopping vegetables, jostle over stovetop elements, argue over who hadn’t cleaned up their mess (touchy subject when bench space was at a premium) or who’d been eating whose cheese or Nutella.

It was a volatile space, not the most pleasant. But for whatever reason, people would mill about there: standing around, waiting for the jug to boil, leaning against the awkwardly placed microwave, talking to whomever was cooking or doing the dishes. I doubt it was because the kitchen was any nicer than the rest of the house (it was pretty much on par), or because it was brighter (the colour and lighting scheme was austere, institutional more than anything). Probably because it was a little warmer than the rest of the house, and probably for the same reason people mill about in kitchens the world over.

Anyway it was late on one of those cold nights where we’d stand around the cramped yellow kitchen in our slippers and dressing gowns that I first watched my flatmate making this drink. It’s something they had (probably still do?) at Deliaro when she worked there, and she used to make it back at the flat. It was also the first time I’d seen someone grate fresh nutmeg into anything. Fascinating.

I didn’t really get into making this drink for myself then, but the thought stayed with me until maybe a couple years ago, when in a fit of nostalgia and also probably the throes of a winter storm I remembered the drink my friend used to make, and realised I now had my own little box of whole nutmeg for grating into things. Since then it’s been my go-to hot drink: forget hot chocolate or lemon, honey & ginger drinks. This stuff is The Best. (And the least fuss.)

I wasn’t ever one of those kids who got given hot milk before bed, mostly because I didn’t like drinking milk. But I imagine this would be perfect for that sort of thing: smooth, sweet, warming, laced with deeply fragrant nutmeg.


Heat up a mugful of milk per person (preferably full-fat/whole milk, the best you can find*) until just starting to froth. Put a spoonful of honey**, to taste, in a mug.*** Pour the hot milk over the honey; give it a stir. Grate some nutmeg over the top. Carry the mug over to the couch. Snuggle up under a blanket; enjoy.

*I don’t have any on hand to test my theory but I bet this would be beautiful with a creamy, full-bodied raw milk. If you have access to raw milk, let me know if you try it!

**I usually use a honey with a pretty strong flavour, like manuka – I like how the taste of the honey stands out as distinct against the milk and nutmeg. But feel free to use whatever honey you prefer.

***To help the honey dissolve effortlessly, before adding the milk I usually pop the mug (with a spoonful of honey in the bottom) in the microwave for about 10 seconds or so until it goes all liquidy.

  1. cute cups, I am going to try that tonight, I think my kids would like it (we go thru 9 litres of milk a week!!!) whats wellington like in the summer ?

  2. I was shivering just reading about your winter flatting experience. It makes me remember the days when I rented in the NE of England. I used to work shifts and got home from work late one night and had to be up for an early shift. It was so cold I just took my shoes off and got into bed and hugged a mug of hot chocolate. I did change my clothes the next morning but only after I’d warmed a new set up in front of the calor gas fire,

  3. We definitely had the solidified olive oil going on in Kelburn, plus the jostlng-at-the-tiny-kitchen. Solidarity! I never had this drink though, would’ve most definitely made those horrible winters easier. I love nutmeg – a very underrated thing!

  4. Talk about a trip down memory lane – reminded me of so many cold and grungy flats I lived in during my wild and misspent youth. Probably should have drunk more of this and less red wine to ward off the chills. Beautiful photos xo

  5. You summed up my memories of freezing in flats perfectly. I was in Dunedin and used to wear a beanie to bed. This drink looks so comforting! Can I ask where you get nutmeg from?

  6. Paula: Wellington’s great in summer. Not uncomfortably hot, lots of nice sunny days. Perfect for picnics and walking around outdoors. I admit it can get a bit chilly if you try to go swimming, but I love Wellington in the summer (well, always, I just tend to moan about the winter a bit!) :)

    Domestic Executive: Oh, the cold clothes in the morning was the worst. Lucky you had a way to heat them up easily. I think I resorted to giving them a quick once-over with the hair dryer when it was super cold/damp!

    hungryandfrozen: spoken like a true ex-Kelburnian (Kelburnite?). Character-building, that.

    Couscous & Consciousness: oh don’t worry, I had plenty of cheap red wine to keep me warm too ;)

    timeforalittlesomething: I got the nutmeg from Moore Wilson’s. They sell it in bulk but it also comes in those little Spice Trader boxes. Not too expensive ($3.90 for a box of 5ish?) and it lasts forever. I’m sure you can get it elsewhere, too, just haven’t looked because I haven’t needed to buy any for ages! Might soon though after all this cold weather + hot drinks ;)

  7. You win the prize for the best table cloths and place mats! The drinks look amazing too.

  8. I tried this last night and it was goooooood.

  9. This warm milk always make my night wonderful.It puts me right to bed that’s why I always drink it. You should drink this especially when you have trouble in sleeping.this is effective, I swear!Drink this often!

  10. […] The coldest week in Wellington (like, ever) combined with a sore throat = hibernation time. I’ve been hiding out in my little cave, in my slippers and hoody outfit, dragging my quilt around with me like a toddler with a security blanket. Not much cooking going on, but on the upside I had a lovely time discovering new blogs to read. I spent ages messing around on Pam and Ivan’s mividacontiga, which I’d known for ages they’d been doing but never properly looked at. That led me to be inspired to healthyness by green kitchen stories and my new roots. I had a delicious warm milk at bed time, with manuka honey and nutmeg, with thanks to milliemirepoix: […]

  11. […] another Wellington food blog I rate. I tried her hot milk, honey and nutmeg drink recently and can definitely recommend […]

  12. This is a totally new idea to me.. and I like it! Fresh nutmeg makes the ground stuff taste like dust. These cold, wet days are really putting a spanner in the works! I believe spring is teasing us..

  13. I’ve been drinking this for ages after discovering it by accident … I heat the milk first, then use a milk frother (tiny battery powered whisk) to froth the milk, and dollop the honey in whilst I’m whisking. Quick sprinkle of nutmeg (and or cinnamon) on top and jobs a good un. I have tried chucking an egg in as well in an attempt to make egg nog but it makes the milk so frothy you’ll need a spoon (tastes good though!). Thanks for proving I’m not as mad as my family thought! :)

  14. I bet your experience in the lounge would make for a great story!

  15. Thank you!! I have just given up chocolate in winter (stupid idea considering I don’t drink tea or coffee) and was wondering how to make a hot milk drink. You saved me from cold winter days!

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