The temperature is dropping and the lyrics for Dean Martin’s song are running through my head: “Baby, it’s cold outside…” and unfortunately (according to the calendar), it’s only likely to get colder. And while I look forward to winter moments like the hushed quiet of starry evenings and frosty mornings where each exhale creates a magical puff of breath, the fact is I’m not a big fan of cold. As in, I bring a sweater with me, everywhere. Even in the summer.
But when I’m getting cold for a good cause (aka Christmas shopping, snowshoeing, skiing, girlfriend outings), the best part is always the chance to warm up afterwards, from the inside out. And I’m not alone; when the air gets crispy outside, the hunt is on for somewhere to warm up and grab a cuppa something hot and spicy or rich and creamy (and totally delicious) to recharge before braving the cold again.
Looking back, it seems like all my favourite holiday memories include warm drinks: hot chocolate after standing outdoors to watch the annual Santa Claus parade; a cup of coffee after braving the local toboggan hill with the kids (and hot chocolate for them); or a cup of tea with my daughters after some girls-only holiday shopping, complete with cucumber sandwiches and teeny tiny frosted cookies.
I don’t like to brag, but when it comes to finding the best warm, frothy, and scrumptious drinks in Lanark County, I know what I’m talking about. Finding these gems has taken some time and has been like a long-running treasure hunt (the best kind of hunt that ends with either chocolate or caffeine).
Here’s my go-to list for the best warm drinks and Lanark County cozy cafés, where you can find everything from thick and creamy hot chocolate to fair trade, rich and flavourful coffees – and even hot toddies.
1. Maple Latte: Lanark County Style
There’s something about taking a simple cup of coffee and turning it into something that’s practically a food group on its own that makes it feel sinfully decadent. When I’m savouring a latte, I like to take my time –to curl up in a big comfy chair, inside a cool, trendy coffee shop (the kind like they show on TV, where everyone hangs out holding oversized mugs), and sip at my leisure.
For a really good latte, complete with that hip, coffee-shop vibe, my go-to is Almonte Roastery & Café, one of two retail outlets for Equator Coffee Roasters. At Equator, you’ll find the descriptions of their coffee choices sound more like a singles ad than what you’d normally expect to find in a cup (ie. dark and sweet, with hints of fruit and a velvety body – hello! Sign me up!).
Of course, the only thing better than a rich, creamy latte is Equator’s Maple Latte, made with Fulton’s Maple Syrup, and a fitting recipe considering Lanark County is the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario! Equator Coffee makes their maple latte with just the right combination of sweet creaminess, and rich coffee flavour. If you’re not a maple fan (is that even possible?), any of Equator’s lattes will hit the spot.
2. Java: Holiday Blend
You can buy a cup of coffee anywhere, but you can’t buy a truly excellent cup of coffee just anywhere, am I right? For connoisseurs, finding that perfect brew is almost a religion, and everyone has an opinion on where to find it.
Brewing an excellent cup of coffee is something that Coutts Coffee in Perth has nailed down, and then some. Located right in the heart of downtown Perth, Coutts is the perfect spot to warm up while indulging in some holiday shopping. Their Holiday Blend is only available seasonally, and is a rich and smooth combination that’s the perfect companion to decadent holiday treats.
Other go-to spots for truly excellent coffee include Equator Coffee Roasters (naturally), Palms Coffee Shop, a lovely café also in Almonte (what’s with Almonte and all the coffee, anyway?) that serves the eco-friendly and delicious Fluid Solar Roasted Coffee (also located in Mississippi Mills), and Café Bean in Perth. I haven’t been to the newly opened Under Pressure Coffee House in Carleton Place yet, but it’s on my list to check out as I’ve heard it’s also a good spot for hot drinks of all kinds.
Hot chocolate is the ultimate cold weather beverage, the drink that takes you back to your childhood; back to coming inside after playing outdoors to find a cup of hot chocolate waiting for you, and (if you were lucky), tiny marshmallows floating on top like miniature sugary-torpedoes. As an adult I’ve done away with the marshmallows, but my love of hot chocolate persists.
There’s a couple of options for truly exceptional hot chocolate in Lanark County: Perth Chocolate Works is naturally one of those spots you want to visit when you’re chilled through and need to warm up while also getting your chocolate fix. They make a fantastic Belgian Hot Chocolate that’s dark and thick and slightly bitter, and more reminiscent of the traditional “pot au chocolate” than your typical hot chocolate.
At Coffee Culture in Smiths Falls, I’ve fallen in love with their Hot Chocolate. It’s made with steamed milk, and is the perfect combination of sweetness and rich chocolate flavour, served with whipped cream and sprinkles. For even more decadence, I’d recommend the Mudslide Hot Chocolate, topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle and Oreo cookie crunch.
4. Exotically Delicious Chai Latte
This is a warm drink that not only does not every café make, but even among those who do it’s rare to find one crafted exceptionally well. The Ginger Café in Carleton Place is one of those exceptions; they make their own chai tea concentrate from scratch, using a variety of herbs and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, combined with black tea and slow cooked to perfection. Made into a latte, this warm drink is one to curl up with on a comfy chair. Yummy!
I find every visit to the Ginger Café is a wonderfully relaxing experience – I love settling back into one of their colourful and eclectic cushions made from recycled clothing (so cool!) while enjoying a warm drink and a sweet treat. They specialize in vegetarian fare, with a buffet-style food section featuring vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. They sell a fantastic gluten-free carrot cake that I’ve found pairs incredibly well with the chai latte.
5. Crumpets and Tea
As much as I enjoy a cup of coffee, my real passion lies with tea. Specifically, Earl Grey, and preferably loose-leafed, brewed in a sterling silver pot and served at the table with crust-less sandwiches, frosted cookies and a waitress with a British accent. Of course, living in Canada the last may be a little hard to find, but the first two are par for the course at Crossroads Tea Room in Perth.
Crossroads Tea Room is a British-style teahouse, and nirvana for tea-lovers. Step inside to warm up on a frosty day and you’ll find yourself in a Victorian English parlour just in time for tea! Crossroads’ specialty is the ultimate British experience, “high tea,” a tea-time adventure that includes warm, savoury tea, fresh scones with raspberry preserves and clotted cream, and a selection of sandwiches and sweets. I love when my loose-leaf tea arrives in a pretty china teapot, along with a china tea-cup and saucer, and teeny tiny little sugar tongs to drop the one (or four) lumps of sugar into my tea.
Visit Crossroads Tea Room for afternoon tea to enjoy a live performance by a local pianist; and book your spot for High Tea and take part in a delightful British tea experience. As another option, Tea and Cake in Almonte is another excellent place to visit for a warm cup of tea and some good, old-fashioned luncheon-fare, with cake for dessert (of course)!
6. The Hot Toddy: For Adults Only
Ahhh, the hot toddy. I left this for last, but it is definitely not least. My favourite hot and deliciously alcoholic drink is hands-down the Blueberry Tea (I call it Christmas in a glass), and although I’ve sampled this hot drink in many restaurants, there are few who get it right.
A blueberry tea typically comes served in a brandy snifter with the stem wrapped in a linen napkin, and is made with black tea, Grand Marnier and Amaretto, along with an orange-rind garnish. Although it’s called Blueberry Tea, this hot drink has no blueberries in it, but surprisingly still carries with it a faint, blueberry-ish scent.
For a truly excellent Blueberry Tea, Heirloom Café & Bistro in Almonte and The Stone Cellar in Perth are my favourite places to enjoy this hot beverage. Both locations not only serve a beautifully made drink, but when I’m seated in their warmly lit historic-stone interiors, and surrounded by the tinkle of cutlery and crystal, I feel like I’m wrapped in a warm, Christmassy hug. I highly recommend the experience!
All this talk of hot drinks (almost) makes me want to go out and get a little chilled, just so I can enjoy the bliss of settling on a comfy chair and cradling a warm mug of something hot and spicy or rich and creamy, and of course totally delicious. Cheers!
Storyteller: Amy Hogue. Hometown: Lanark, ON
Amy is both a Memory Maker and Rustic Roamer (ambidextrous!), with a passion for discovering unspoiled locations and anything that will make her snort when laughing. She is always on the hunt for the perfect crème brulée, anything gluten-free, and a dedicated fryer. She is anyone’s ‘plus one’ for a canoe trip, loves to pedal, paddle or hike, but (fair warning) will need a snack (or two) during outdoor adventures. Her perfect day would involve a glass of wine, a patio with a sunbeam that’s just right, and a smutty romance novel (don’t judge).