Hot chocolate just might be the best part of winter. It’s decadent and delicious, and it warms you up faster than a Snuggie straight out of the dryer. Who would turn down chocolate, arguably one of the best creations known to man, when it’s melted down to a thick, rich liquid and topped with mini marshmallows and a dollop of whipped cream? What’s more (yes, there’s more!), hot chocolate accoutrements hardly end there—think cayenne pepper, pumpkin purée, and even Fluffernutter. If you’re craving a steaming cup of cocoa this season, go beyond the usual mix of instant powder or chocolate syrup and water. There’s a wide world of hot chocolate recipes like these just waiting to be tried, tasted, and treasured.
Spiced Hot Chocolate
Today we think of hot chocolate as being sweet, but the ancient Mayan people’s original version included hearty spices. They may sound odd in theory, but they blend beautifully with chocolate in execution. (Recipe source: WholeLiving.com)
1 quart milk (dairy or non-dairy)
6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and whisk over medium-low heat until the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is steaming hot, about five minutes. Serves four.
Pumpkin Spice White Hot Chocolate
Whereas the previous recipe subdues hot chocolate’s usual sweetness, this one takes it to a whole new level, thanks to its use of white chocolate. Pumpkin and a touch of nutmeg and vanilla give it an extra spicy—and fragrant—kick. (Recipe source: Goodlifeeats.com)
4 to 5 cups whole milk
12 ounces white chocolate, chopped
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
In a heavy saucepan, combine two cups of milk, white chocolate, and cocoa powder. Cook over medium heat, whisking periodically, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined. Whisk in the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, and ginger. Add the remaining milk, one cup at a time, until your ideal consistency is reached. If desired, serve topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of nutmeg. Serves four to six.
Fluffernutter Hot Cocoa
Adults who grew up eating peanut butter–and–marshmallow fluff sandwiches will especially appreciate this unique chocolate concoction. (Recipe source: Seattle Times)
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Fluff (marshmallow sandwich spread), plus extra for topping
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup peanut butter chips
In a small saucepan over medium, heat the milk until it’s hot but not boiling. Whisk in the Fluff, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. Whisk until completely melted and smooth. To serve, top with additional Fluff. Serves one.
Italian Hot Chocolate
Also known as cioccolato caldo, this version of hot chocolate is much thicker than what we’re used to in the United States. You can actually eat it with a spoon! Be sure to use high-quality chocolate; it’ll be worth the extra price. (Recipe source: What’s Cooking America)
5 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao solids), finely chopped
2 cups milk
In a small saucepan, add the cocoa powder, sugar, and two tablespoons of the milk. Heat over low heat until the sugar melts and no lumps remain, stirring well. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly; add the remaining milk. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Serves two.
Seventh Heaven Hot Chocolate
This one’s for adults only; it also lends itself to dairy-free substitutions for twenty-one-and-over vegans. According to the author, the drink will take you “to seventh heaven.” It’ll also give you a nice, toasty buzz. (Recipe source: DivineCaroline)
3 cups unsweetened chocolate almond milk
3 cups sweetened chocolate almond milk
1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream or Frangelico
1/4 cup Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
Heat almond milk and spices in a pot until they’re hot, but not boiling. Add Bailey’s and Grand Marnier. Note that you can use all sweetened or all unsweetened almond milk. Serves four to six.
Frrrozen Hot Chocolate
On days when the sun peaks out behind winter’s gray clouds and the chill subsides for a moment, you might want something a little less hot, but by no means less chocolatey. This icy treat made New York’s Serendipity one of the most famous restaurants in the United States. (Recipe source: Epicurious.com)
6 half-ounce pieces of a variety of your favorite chocolates
2 teaspoons store-bought hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups ice
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top of a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally until melted. Add the cocoa and sugar, stirring constantly until thoroughly blended. Remove from heat and slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
In a blender, place the remaining cup of milk, the room-temperature chocolate mixture, and the ice. Blend on high speed until smooth and the consistency of a frozen daiquiri. Pour into a giant goblet and top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Enjoy with a spoon or straw … or both! Serves two.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
A true classic never goes out of style, especially in the realm of cold-weather drinks. The combination of mint and dark chocolate is always good, but around the holidays, it’s somehow even more delicious. Maybe it’s the red-and-white stripes on the candy cane? (Recipe source: Bon Appetit)
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet (preferably 60 percent cocoa) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 small candy canes (for garnish)
Beat 1/2 cup cream and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl until soft peaks form. Cover; chill. Whisk 1/2 cup cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and milk in medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Divide chocolate among mugs. Top with cream and garnish with candy canes. Serves four.
For the times when winters seem endless, we can find comfort in the knowledge that for every dreary day and freezing night we have to endure, there’s a hot chocolate recipe waiting to warm our hands and hearts. When you think about the season on those terms, the road to spring and sunshine sounds like a much happier, tastier journey.