Fall is officially here, which means I am actively looking for any and every opportunity to pour something warm and vaguely cinnamon flavored into my body. ‘Tis the season.
As someone who definitely looks like they enjoy Pumpkin Spice Lattes but actually despises Pumpkin Spice Lattes, finding new, festive fall beverages to drink is inordinately important to me. Much like oversize sweaters, scented candles, and taking pictures at pumpkin patches, cozy drinks are a tenet of fall that men will try to make you feel guilty for enjoying, which means we should only enjoy them more aggressively than ever before.
So this is how I came to find myself in the last week of October, nearly two years after the golden milk craze, deciding it was time to dive in to this bright yellow beverage that I did not understand.
There seem to be two schools of thought surrounding the origins of golden milk. I’m not entirely sure which, if either, is correct, but I can’t wait for someone to condescendingly explain it to me in the comments section mere moments after this article is published.
The first traces back to an ancient Indian beverage called Haldi Doodh, a traditional Ayurvedic medicinal recipe. At its most basic, Haldi Doodh is straight-up just milk and turmeric, and any other ingredient that makes it taste like a cup full of sweet, sweet fall were additions that came along when Western culture adopted golden milk.
The other origin, which seems more like a rumor one mommy blog started and then the rest regurgitated, is that it hails from a Japanese island called Okinawa. The people of Okinawa are reported to have some of the longest life spans in the world. And guess what?? They also drink a ton of turmeric tea, their own variant of golden milk. Therefore, it can only be ascertained that the golden milk is what’s keeping them alive this long. This is how attribution works, don’t @ me.
Either way, mixing turmeric into a glass of warm milk is a centuries-old practice hailing from Eastern culture, which meant it was only a matter of time before white people wellness enthusiasts adopted and low-key butchered it. It’s what we do best.
The health benefits to golden milk are supposedly endless, which makes me feel only slightly better about slurping down a fatty cup of spiced milk every night before bed. Turmeric gets all the credit here, boasting benefits ranging from anti-inflammation to staving off Alzheimer’s, but it’s actually curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, that’s doing all the heavy lifting.
Curcumin reduces inflammation, aids muscle and bone recovery, helps reverse liver damage, and even prevents depression. In short, it’s the cure-all for whatever drunk mess you could possibly get yourself into. Wow, you drank two bottles of red wine, fell down the stairs, and then woke up in a blind panic because you have a 45 minute 2am call to your ex in your phone log? It’s cool, curcumin has your back.
I’ve seen a lot of variants in Golden Milk recipes over the past couple days, but five ingredients seem to make the building blocks of this otherwise versatile drink: turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and the milk (dairy-based or not) of your choice. The purists will typically stop there, but nothing is stopping you from adding cardamom, star anise, vanilla, coconut oil, almond butter, or any other mildly fall-themed ingredient to your concoction. The world is your oyster, as long as you don’t mind everything in your kitchen becoming mildly yellow tinted during the process.
First I tried out this recipe, which combined both coconut and almond milk for an extra creamy base. That, I was into. What was less enjoyable, however, was the tablespoon of coconut oil which left a greasy residue on my milk, in my mouth, and inexplicably all over my kitchen. An impassioned debate in the comments section told me that the addition of healthy fats like coconut oil aids the turmeric absorption, but I would think that the coconut milk alone should be enough to handle that.
Otherwise, this recipe was enjoyable. I used maple syrup as my sweetener and ended up loading it with ground cinnamon on top of the recommended cinnamon stick, which gave the whole thing an almost French toast vibe.
The recipe makes two servings, so I refrigerated my second cup to save for the next night. If you plan on going this route, learn from my mistakes and re-warm the golden milk on a stovetop rather than the microwave. The ingredients didn’t re-incorporate quite as well in the microwave, which made my second batch even oilier and turned the previously warm yellow into a neon mess. My mug looked like it’d been full of Cup Noodles by the time I was done.
The next recipe I found seemed a lot less traditional, but also looked a lot tastier and promised a restful night of sleep. Sold. While only using one kind of milk, this iteration allowed for the addition of vanilla and almond butter. At this point, we’re not even trying to pretend this is medicinal in anyway. We’re just drinking almond butter and we’re okay with it.
This recipe blew the first one out of the water, no questions asked. If you could condense the month of October into a drink, this is it. Pumpkin Spice Lattes? I don’t know her.
The only issue I had was that I hadn’t mixed everything together as completely as I’d thought, and the last couple sips of my drink were just straight almond butter and cinnamon. This was less of an actual “issue” and more an entirely indulgent blessing in disguise, but I’d recommend whisking aggressively before drinking if you don’t love the idea of drinking two tablespoons of melted almond butter.
While my first two forays into golden milk were enjoyable, it wasn’t until I abandoned both recipe and convention that I truly reached nirvana. On Halloween of all nights, I subbed the almond milk in the second recipe with coconut milk, and transcended into a new plane of existence. This concoction had it all: a creamy coconut milk base, the added nuttiness of almond milk, an aggressive amount of cinnamon—both stick and ground. The color combo of the various butters and spices resulted in a golden amber hue, that I honestly may use as reference when I go in for my winter hair color.
It was my own kind of turmeric enlightenment. The ultimate fall beverage. If you could take the pure energy from every leaf photo on Instagram and liquidate it, you would get this drink. Starbucks is quaking.
After five days of drinking golden milk I’m not sure if my body is less inflamed or my liver less abused, but I can tell you this: drinking these creamy, yellow concoctions before bed every night made me inordinately happy. I can’t tell if that’s a result of the anti-depressive properties of curcumin, or the indulgent nature of the drink itself, but I also don’t really care. In these dark times, when doom is looming and fascism is rising, and people still insist on giving Harvey Weinstein a platform, we need to glean any small moment of happiness that we can.
Drink the golden milk. The rest will figure itself out.
Images: Guillaume Bolduc / Unsplash; Giphy (2)