Maintaining some semblance of a social life these days isn’t easy. Going to a friend’s house is out of the question, and even outdoor dining, which promises some level of comfort with its heaters and elaborate shelters, feels increasingly risky as coronavirus rates remain high and a new, more contagious variant shows up around the country. This basically leaves socially distanced walks as the most attractive way to catch up with people IRL, but even this conciliatory option presents problems. The biggest one: It’s cold.
In New York at least, temperatures this time of year are consistently below freezing. Strolling in a full-on snowsuit is one way to stave off chill, but recently, I found another winter accessory that makes hanging outside (mostly) tolerable. On a December evening, post sundown, I agreed to meet some friends for a walk around the block; they promised to bring along some homemade hot toddies and presented the drink a Zojirushi stainless steel vacuum insulated mug. Smart! I thought, as I took a sip and was immediately warmed from the inside. An hour or so later, I returned home, not yet miserably cold, and with half of the hot toddy left. As I poured it into a mug more appropriate for the indoors, it was still steaming. Then, I thought, I need to get one of these.
The Zojirushi mugs come in a range of colors and patterns, from basic black to “hedgehog mint” (I’m partial to the light blue and pearl pink). The lid opens at the push of a button, so there’s no cap to fumble with, and I experienced none of the spillage around the opening that’s happened with other travel mugs I’ve tried. They’re available in a 12-oz and 20-oz size, but the 16-oz seems ideal for holding in one mittened hand while making the neighborhood rounds. Most importantly, they keep drinks hot (or cold if that’s how they started out) for hours. The friend whose mug I borrowed has given them as unsolicited wedding gifts — that’s how much she believes in them.
But now, as we face many more weeks of convincing ourselves it’s perfectly pleasant to embark on leisurely walks in 30 degree weather, they seem less a nice gift and more a personal must-have. Sure, you could pick up a cup of coffee or mulled wine from a local business serving those things to-go, but the paper cup and lid will only promise the benefits of a warm drink for minutes. Plus, with a Zojirushi thermos you can still support those businesses — simply pour your restaurant-prepared beverage into your thermos and go on your merry way, with the knowledge that you’ll have a warm beverage for the entire length of your time outside.
The Japanese brand has been called out here before: The “utterly perfect” Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker has held up to more than a decade of weekly use. I’m confident that the vacuum insulated mugs will similarly stand the test of time, and even after the indoors are safe for socializing again, they’ll come in handy (I’m told camping is a voluntary recreational activity for some). And in that too-far-off future, the hot toddies sipped from a Zojirushi among friends will likely be even more enjoyable for having been a choice, and not the only option for seeing friends at all.