There’s nothing quite like a mug of steaming hot chocolate to take off the wintry chill. Packaged powders are quick and convenient, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy hot chocolate.
Here are some of them:
Spicy Mayan style
Hot or cold drinks made with cocoa beans were part of Mayan culture at least 500 years BCE, and may even have predated that. But the Mayans didn’t have sugar, so the bitter drink was definitely an acquired taste.
The Mayans added spices to their chocolate drink, which is still a popular version in Mexico, where it is served hot or cold and is considered one of the country’s national drinks.
In Mexico, the drink is commonly made with chunks of chocolate, which allow the drink to be whipped into a frothy concoction. Sold in discs, they can be found in the Mexican section of many supermarkets, or you can just use chocolate chips or baking chocolate.
Put two cups milk in a saucepan. Add 1 tbsp sugar, one disc of chocolate, ½ tsp vanilla extract, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp chili powder, and a dash each of nutmeg and ground cloves. Heat while stirring until the chocolate is dissolved. Use a whisk to create a thick froth, then pour into mugs and serve
Europeans began enjoying chocolate drinks in the 17th century, but it wasn’t until the early 1800s that a Dutch chemist figured out how to separate much of the fat from the cocoa bean, producing a powder that would dissolve easily in milk or water. (The invention also led to the modern chocolate bar).
Hot cocoa is made with milk rather than water. (To add to the confusion, though, North American cocoa powder often has dried milk in it, so you can make cocoa with hot water; Dutch cocoa is usually unsweetened and has no milk).
Try serving hot cocoa with breakfast, as it’s enjoyed in Europe. In Spain and Italy, it’s often thickened by adding cornstarch to the mix.
The variations on spiked hot chocolate are virtually infinite – there’s something about the drink that just lends itself to alcoholic experimentation. Try some of these combinations, adding a couple of ounces of alcohol in total to your favourite hot chocolate or cocoa mix:
Spiced rum and butterscotch schnaps, with a dash of orange bitters
Peppermint schnapps and chocolate liqueur (for bonus points, rim the mugs with crushed candycane)
Dry red wine (yes, really – about 2/3 of a cup to a mug of hot chocolate) and a half tsp of vanilla extract
Gran Marnier and vanilla extract (particularly tasty if you use white chocolate rather than dark)
Tequilla and peppermint schnapps (garnish with whipped cream and a fresh mint leaf)
Brandy and Frangellico liqueur (the combination tastes a lot like Nutella)