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Variations On Hot Chocolate

Feb 18, 2016

It's not winter unless you have a reason for a cup of hot chocolate. Epicurious gives us five variations on hot chocolate and plenty of reasons to say we love winter just so we can get our fill!

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" (or welcomes you in from the cold) like a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It makes the frigid temperature a little more worth it, knowing you can cozy up with a mug after a long cold day. But the days of instant hot chocolate from a packet of questionable origin are over. These days, we make our favorite holiday drink ourselves and, as a result, it's infinitely customizable, and as good as whatever chocolate you want to use.

Simple Hot Cocoa for One

When making hot chocolate, use whatever milky base you prefer (almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, etc). If you would rather not use sugar, you can substitute with maple syrup, honey, or agave.


2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk or any combination of milk, half-and-half, or cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, salt, and about 2 tablespoons milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until cocoa and sugar are dissolved. Whisk in the rest of the milk and heat it over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until it is hot. Stir in the vanilla and serve.
If you like it frothy, blend it in the blender.
This recipe multiplies easily. When you get up to a quart of milk, use 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate

The timeless holiday combination of peppermint and chocolate come together in this festive mug of hot cocoa. Plus, when it is NOT fun to use mini candy canes?


1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet (preferably 60% 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 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 boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; whisk until smooth. Whisk in extract. Divide chocolate among mugs. Top with cream and garnish with candy canes.

Spicy Spiked Hot Chocolate

Fans of chocolate covered licorice will swoon over this cup of hot cocoa, which gets spiked with anise-flavored liqueur.

Yield: Makes 4 servings


2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 ancho chile, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cacao), chopped
2 ounces Xtabentún, Pernod, or other anise-flavored liqueur

Combine milk, cream, sugar, chile, and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add pod. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.
Remove chile, cinnamon stick, and vanilla pod; discard. Add chocolate and heat over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove hot chocolate from heat and add liqueur. Serve hot.
Do Ahead: Hot chocolate (without liqueur) can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat and add liqueur just before serving.
Aztec Sluggers

This drink has three ingredients that are sure to warm you up:  hot chocolate, coffee, and bourbon.

Yield:  Makes 2 drinks    Total Time: 10 min


1 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) Kahlúa or other coffee-flavored liqueur
2 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
6 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar

Heat coffee, bourbon, Kahlúa, chocolate, and 2 tablespoons cream in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate is melted, about 1 to 2 minutes. (Do not let boil.)
Whisk remaining 1/4 cup cream with sugar until it holds soft peaks.
Divide coffee mixture between 2 large mugs, then top with whipped cream.
Mexican Hot Cocoa

This isn't like the tame version you've had at holiday markets. Ancho chili powder, red chiles and cinnamon will leave your lips tingling long after your mug is empty. It's not a real party without chocolate! Savor this sweet treat and you'll get 20 percent of your daily calcium.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 218 calories per teacup, 7.8 g fat (4.8 g saturated), 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 2.3 g protein


2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup chocolate liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
10 cinnamon sticks
1 dried red chile
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Whisk evaporated milk, whole milk, liqueur, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and chili powder in a heavy saucepan.
Add 2 of the cinnamon sticks and chile and cook gently over medium-low heat until warm.
Add chocolate and cook, whisking until melted. Gently bring to a high simmer; reduce heat and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces slightly, whisking often, 10 minutes.
Combine heavy cream with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat until peaks form.
Ladle 1/3 cup hot cocoa into each of 8 teacups; top with 1 tablespoon whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Image provided by: Winter Hot Chocolate -

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