Yes, it's that time of year already. The nights are drawing in, you're tempted to turn on the central heating and you're craving soups, casseroles and steamy puds. But before you crank up that fuel bill, or console yourself with rib-sticking food, remember there is another way. A simple hot drink, whether it be steamy tea, or a flavoured coffee, can do the trick. And it's not just about everyday drinks. When we're losing daylight hours by the week, we want to reward ourselves with a bit of luxury, or at least something a bit different. So, in the true Raggedy Ann Girl spirit of celebrating the changing seasons, we've pulled together some of our favourite drinks guaranteed to truly warm the cockles of your heart.

Proper Hot Chocolate

Take 200 ml of the milk of your choice and heat it gently to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat. Add 30g of mixed chocolate (we like a blend of plain & milk) and stir in gently until it melts. You can whisk it up if you like. And if you'd like something a little more stimulating, try using 100ml milk and 100ml of water, as do the Mexicans (who use hot chocolate as a mid-morning drink).

Mulled Cider or Apple Juice

You can make this warming spicy drink with or without alcohol simply by choosing between innocent apple juice, or more daring cider. When using apple juice we prefer the cloudy version, but with alcoholic cider we tend to use the clear stuff.  The quantities of spice you use will depend, of course, on the amount of liquid, and your own taste, but the amounts that follow make a pretty good flavoured mulled drink for four to five people.

Take a litre of apple juice or alcoholic cider and place in a large saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, the zest of an orange, 8 cloves, a pinch of allspice, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a single cinnamon stick, a large pinch of ground ginger or a small quantity of grated fresh ginger or crystallised ginger, and a grating of fresh nutmeg. Combine in a pan and heat gently until the sugar and other spices have dissolved. Bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Sieve before serving.

The Rosy Cheeks

A lovely non-alcoholic way to warm yourself up. So named because, not only does the liquid resemble a pretty blush, but because you're cheeks will soon be glowing.

This time, because you will want to adapt the recipe to suit the number of drinkers (it makes a lovely welcome drink after a long walk) the quantities are in units to allow easier up or down-sizing. Due to the sparky taste, it's a drink more suited to adults and older children.

Take one unit of red grapefruit juice, one unit of cranberry and one unit of guava juice and heat in a pan over a gentle heat at first, then bring to the boil and turn down and simmer for five minutes. Just before serving add half a unit of fresh lime juice.