A Bit Of Orange Zest Brightens Up Your Mug Of Hot Chocolate

When temperatures plummet and snow falls outside, all we want to do is wrap our hands around a steaming mug of hot chocolate. But especially if you're just mixing packets with milk or water, drinking the same old flavors night after night can get as dreary as the weather outside. There's no shortage of fun ingredients you can use to elevate your mug, and flavored milk, ginger, and chai are some of our favorites. But if you want to brighten up your hot chocolate during those frigid winter days, turn to orange zest instead.

Although orange peels don't hold as much acid as the juice, they still contain tart flavors, which is why citrus is often thought to brighten up thicker, creamier dishes. But zest also contains hints of bitterness, which will meld into your hot chocolate and slightly balance out the rich, sweet drink. If you need more convincing to combine chocolate and orange, the two have a long and happy history together — just look at chocolate-covered slices, tarts, and soufflés to see proof.

How to add orange zest to hot chocolate

Depending on whether you're making hot chocolate homemade or from a box, you'll want to take your method into consideration when figuring out how to add the orange zest. If you're going with the former, toss it in the saucepan alongside all your other ingredients like milk, cocoa powder, and sugar. Taste as you go to determine if you need more zingy, sweet, or creamy flavors — and if you want, throw in some of the orange's juice for extra acidity. Then when it's time to drink, strain out your liquid so that zesty pieces don't float in your mugs. If you're using a boxed mix, skip the easy method of microwaving your milk and pouring in the packet. Instead, follow a similar stovetop technique of simmering your milk, adding in orange zest and the mix, and straining out the drink.

Now that you've got orange zest added to your hot chocolate, why stop there? It pairs beautifully with a variety of other additions, including spices like ginger powder, chili powder, and cayenne; sweet toppings like marshmallows or candied orange slices; or melt-in-your-mouth garnishes like chocolate shavings and whipped cream. Or instead of focusing on the mix-ins, switch up your base. Choose from dark, milk, or white chocolate, or alternative milks like coconut, oat, and soy. Once you have your combo figured out, you can count on orange zest for the boost of bright flavors.