Jacques Torres Names The Biggest Mistakes You Are Making With Hot Chocolate - Exclusive

Even if it's not yet officially winter, it's officially hot chocolate season. Grabbing hot cocoa from Starbucks or cozying up by the tree with a homemade cup is a timeless cold-weather tradition. That's why Tasting Table turned to chocolatier extraordinaire Jaques Torres to give us his best tips on making the perfect cup of hot chocolate. In an exclusive interview, the "Nailed It" judge had a lot to say regarding his knowledge of sweets, including decadent chocolate croissants and our favorite winter drink.

When it comes to hot chocolate, Torres does not mess around — earlier this year, we rated his company's hot chocolate mix as the best on the shelves. The master pastry chef explained that one of the biggest mistakes people make with the drink is not knowing the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. "Hot cocoa is basically cacao that you mix with milk, and you add sugar. But people need to understand cacao is a byproduct of making chocolates," Torres described. "When you make chocolate, you need to add cocoa butter."

He elaborated that cocoa butter is derived from cocoa beans by compressing the nibs to extract an edible fat. "The cocoa butter runs and the leftover — the dry portion — is the cacao," Torres said. So how do you create a true hot chocolate?

Hot cocoa is not the 'finished product'

Jacques Torres told Tasting Table that many companies selling hot chocolate are actually using cacao for their mixes. "Some companies trash it. Some companies sell it as cacao or cocoa, and it's a byproduct of extracting cocoa butter ... it's an unfinished product." Don't worry, though — Torres recommended exactly how to get that rich, chocolatey flavor you desire. You just need to incorporate finished chocolate into milk for a hot chocolate rather than using a cacao-based hot cocoa mix. "Hot cocoa is not as good as hot chocolate or hot nib chocolate," the chocolatier claimed.

To upgrade your hot chocolate flavor, you can also top the drink with candy canes or your preferred spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, etc.). However, Torres warned that when you include more ingredients, you should "be careful of the balance of flavor." It's easy to overpower the chocolate with other flavors, so add "just a hint" of the toppings you like. Personally, Torres enjoys the winter drink with ancho and chipotle, both of which are aromatic chili peppers that are mildly spicy.

There you have it, hot chocolate enthusiasts — the perfect cup is as easy as educating yourself on the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate while ensuring well-balanced ingredients. Christmas movie night just got a whole lot sweeter!

Head to Jacques Torres' chocolate website to check out his latest offerings.