Drinks

Boozy Hot Chocolate Recipes

5 ways to spike your hot chocolate this winter
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table
Hot Chocolate

Even top chefs aren't immune to Swiss Miss.

"When I was little, I would just pour the packet into my mouth," Brandon Kida confesses. He's now the executive chef at popular L.A. spot Hinoki & the Bird, but he was once a kid hopped up on powdered hot chocolate, which was a more recent discovery for New York's Cronut king, Dominique Ansel. "The first time I ever saw [a Swiss Miss packet] was last year, believe it or not. I didn't know they existed."

Valerie Gordon, the mastermind behind L.A. shop Valerie Confections has many pleasant winter memories of ice-skating as a kid—but for a different reason. "Going to the ice rink was never about ice-skating," she says. "It was about the cup of hot chocolate. It was always powdered Swiss Miss, and it was always great. All of my childhood activities were a way to navigate myself closer to a treat."

There are plenty of reasons to love hot chocolate even as an adult (for instance, the ability to add a shot of a little something extra), but it doesn't have to come from a packet anymore. Here are our tips for a top-notch mug of cocoa.

Don't fear the powder. Our mugs are a four-pronged thesis of chocolate, liquid, sweetener and add-ins. Rich ganache hot chocolate, though delicious, can cause a serious stomach ache. But one based on just cocoa powder can taste chalky. So we compromised by using both powder and solid chocolate. Whisk constantly to avoid lumps, and you'll be fine.

Milk your options. We used whole milk for optimal creamy results (which Gordon wholeheartedly supports), but you can sub in anything like almond, soy and coconut milks, both for flavor and to make it dairy free. Or tip the scales the other way and add a bit of cream or half-and-half for luxury.

Flash your ID. Warm cocktails are a solid choice for winter weather, heating you up from the inside out with both temperature and alcohol. That's why we chose to spike our recipes with our favorite spirits, but it's easy to make them all kid friendly by simply leaving out the alcohol. When cooking, add the spirits off the heat, so the alcohol doesn't cook off.

Love on top. Marshmallows and whipped cream were made for hot chocolate. But anything fluffy and white is fair game—drop in a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an affogato-like treat or take your marshmallows in Fluff form. For added garnish, try solid versions of the flavor in your mug, like toasted coconut flakes on our tropical version or chopped candied ginger for the Dark and Stormy.

Now that you have the basics down, cozy up under an alcohol blanket of boozy hot chocolate and start sipping.

—Make It Mexican—
We took note from Kida, who likes to use dried pulla chiles to spice up his hot chocolate. If you can find a block of Mexican chocolate, use that in place of semisweet for an extra-spicy kick.

½ oz semisweet chocolate + ¾ c whole milk + ¼ c water + 2 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp sugar + ¼ tsp vanilla + pinch salt + ¼ tsp cinnamon + pinch cayenne + 2 tbsp tequila

Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once it's melted, add all of the remaining ingredients except the tequila. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the tequila and pour into a mug to serve.

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—Make It Dark and Stormy—
Ansel likes to add dark rum or a flurry of sea salt to his hot chocolate. We followed suit with this chocolaty version of the classic drink, using ground ginger in place of ginger beer. A puff of whipped cream sprinkled with chopped crystallized ginger completes the picture.

½ oz semisweet chocolate + ¾ c whole milk + ¼ c water + 2 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp sugar + ¼ tsp vanilla + pinch salt + ½ tsp ground ginger + 2 tbsp dark rum

Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once it's melted, add all of the remaining ingredients except the rum. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and pour into a mug to serve.

—Make It Tropical—
Akasha Richmond of Sāmbār in L.A. uses coconut milk in her dark hot chocolate for "creamy flavor without the use of dairy, in addition to a subtle coconut flavor." She warms it further with chai spices and homemade marshmallows, but we took a mental trip to the Caribbean and reached for a bottle of Malibu. Make it a coconut hat trick by topping it with toasted flakes.

½ oz semisweet chocolate + 1 c coconut milk + ¼ c water + 2 tbsp cocoa powder + ¼ tsp vanilla + pinch salt + 2 tbsp coconut rum

Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once it's melted, add all of the remaining ingredients except the rum. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the rum and pour into a mug to serve.

—Make It Mocha—
No one needs to know if your morning cup of joe has some chocolate in it. No one also needs to know if it has sweet coffee liqueur as well—that's what a thermos is for.

½ oz semisweet chocolate + ¾ c whole milk + ½ c coffee + 2 tbsp cocoa powder + ¼ tsp vanilla + pinch salt + 2 tbsp Kahlúa

Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once it's melted, add all of the remaining ingredients except the Kahlúa. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the Kahlúa and pour into a mug to serve.

—Make It Minty—
If you're the type to hoard Andes after-dinner mints from dining out, this is your mug. Most mint versions use peppermint schnapps, and while we have nothing but love for the sweet liqueur, this sophisticated take is like a chocolaty mint julep.

3 tbsp mint chocolate + ¾ c milk + ¼ c water + 2 tbsp cocoa powder + ¼ tsp vanilla + pinch salt + 2 tbsp bourbon

Melt the chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat. Once it's melted, add all of the remaining ingredients except the bourbon. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth and beginning to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon and pour into a mug to serve.

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