I have a problem with our mug collection.
At issue isn’t the quantity of mugs, or their inherent quality. We have two full rows of mug hooks in a big glass-fronted cabinet, home to a combination of ceramic supermodels and ugly orphans. They all hold water. But as I sip through the collection – filling two, or even three different mugs multiple times each day, with coffee and tea, mostly, and the occasional hot cocoa – I’ve noticed they’re starting to give me some lip.
See, none of them is quite perfect. There’s a chubby little white one, painted with a reminder of favorite coffee shops past. It’s good-looking enough, like a diner mug with a steroid problem, but its drinking edge is a fat, failed pout that dribbles liquid down the outside, no matter how careful I am with my drinking habits.
I’m parentally proud of the mugs I’ve made myself. I made this one for a dear friend when I learned she was pregnant, and shipped it to her overseas. (But I made it, so it’s still in The Collection.) It’s cute enough, but it may present the steifel problem, which is no good where hot liquids (and/or unborn children) are involved. No way could this be a successful drinking vessel. What does one do with two handles?
I’ve kept some of my mugs, too. They’re all heavier than a mug should be, because I didn’t throw pots long enough to figure out how to get the bottoms good and thin. I also never learned how to control the size of a particular vessel, so some are quite large, which is best for green tea (or Pat’s outrageous ginger tea, which is sweetened with pandan syrup), while others are un peu trop petit. They make excellent paperweights, though.
There are the star mugs, too, which are really quite close to perfect. Their flared lips virtually pour their contents right into a mouth themselves, so there’s no wiping or dribbling involved. Plus, they have a smattering of adorable stars imprinted on the side, a genius idea on the potter’s part. But we’ve used them so much that they’re chipped right where I put my mouth, and chips and coffee do not pair well together.
It appears I have a very sharp right eye tooth; so many of “my” mugs are chipped where that tooth would go if I bit my mug while drinking. But I don’t bite my mugs. At least, I don’t think I do.
“His” mugs may hold memories, but their shapes are quite plain, which is why they’re “his.” I avoid this genre altogether.
For winter, which officially starts today, one needs hot chocolate. And for hot chocolate, one needs a mug that comforts. For me, that means the little yellow cylinders I picked up in Kyoto. If I hold one close, the bases of my two palms kissing on one side and my fingertips brushing each other on the opposite side, I can warm both hands entirely. And that, I do believe, is what hot chocolate is all about.
If you see the perfect coffee mug, with heft and shape and sass, and a sharpish edge that doesn’t collect drips, give me a shout. I have a hook saved for it.
Spiced Hot Cocoa Mix (PDF)
Recipe 356 of 365
For a wonderful winter welcome, whisk about 1/4 cup of the hot cocoa mix below with an equal amount of hot milk in the bottom of a mug. Mix to blend completely, then top off the mug with more hot milk, and finish with your favorite puffy cocoa complement.
TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: About 10 mugs spiced hot cocoa
1 (10-ounce) container unsweetened coca powder, such as Ghirardelli
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until well blended. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.