The perfect cup of hot chocolate hits like a sweet memory, taking you back to moments of frolicking in the snow, cozying up under a big fuzzy blanket, or spending the holidays with family. And while we’ll never get tired of the classic version with cocoa, milk, and marshmallows or whipped cream, dressing it up with a little something extra will add that special touch, making it truly extraordinary.
When making a cup, using chocolate syrup or those supermarket packets definitely adds a bit of nostalgia. But we like to give it a luxuriant upgrade by using Jacques Torres’s Classic Hot Chocolate, which is made with Belgian dark bittersweet chocolate, not cocoa powder. The result is a drink that’s decadently rich and creamy. For the milk base, you can’t beat good, ultra-fresh local dairy, like that from Ronnybrook Farms. You can of course go for a plant-based option—most non-dairy milks will work just fine, though we love Califia Farms Barista Blend Almondmilk for its thick, frothy consistency.
To mix things up, you can add in a bit of extra flavoring as you’re warming the milk. Here are some of our favorite twists:
Hot Chocolate Variations For All Ages
Nut butters: Adding a spoonful or two of a smooth nut butter will make your drink extra creamy. Almond, cashew, or peanut are all great, though we especially recommend one of the flavored spreads from Justin’s.
Peppermint candy: Crush up some candies and stir them into the milk to add a brisk, minty touch. Make sure to sprinkle over a few pieces with whipped cream on top.
Chili powder: Give your cup a kick by adding a few dashes of hot pepper. Chipotle chili powder works especially well with its smoky, full-bodied aromatics.
Salted caramel: Adding a hint of salt to your sweets adds an extra depth of flavor. Stir in a few squeezes of caramel syrup and follow with a pinch or two of good sea salt.
Fruit jam: Jams in bold fruit flavors, like blackberry, raspberry, or cherry, will give your drink a delightful complexity. Our favorite is Trade Street Jam Co.’s sour cherry and ginger jam, which has a runny consistency that was made for mixing.
Hot chocolate is made for adding a little somethin’ somethin’. Here are some of our favorites for adult-ifying a cup.
Liqueurs: A splash of flavored liqueur will give hot chocolate a whole new dimension. Try Kahlúa (coffee), amaretto (almond), Bailey’s Irish cream, maraschino liqueur (cherry), or peppermint schnapps.
Red wine: It may sound far-fetched, but red wine’s tannins do an excellent job of boosting chocolate’s bittersweet undertones. We recommend a light-to-medium red for the job, like pinot noir.