Sweetly Spiked


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Hot chocolate gets a delightfully delicious kick with bourbon or tequila (hot chocolate photo by Kristen Olson at bourbonandhoney. com)

Hot chocolate – the familiar childhood favorite – gets an adult-style make-over for the perfect winter-weather drink.

When it comes to spirits, luxury has somewhat of a shifting definition. For example: sometimes it means the idea of the rarest Scotch, and at others, the most carefully appointed cocktail. But when it comes to the chillier months of the year, could there be anything more luxurious than a cozy mug of spiked hot chocolate?

Like truffled mac ‘n cheese or homemade marshmallows, hot chocolate done up with a shot of good alcohol summons all the good parts of childhood memories, and makes them better—even party-worthy, if you’ve got guests who would be game for simple, but satisfying fare.

If you’re looking for an easy mid-winter drink that doubles as a cozy mental getaway, the good news: the template for spiked hot chocolate is easy and there are variations abound. The two versions below go in different directions. The one made with bourbon skews more subtle, with warming notes of vanilla and toasted bread from the alcohol. The Mezcal version is bolder, with smoky, spicy overtones from an added chili powder and cinnamon stick.

Borrow these ideas or use your imagination to make up your own, taking cues from the type of alcohol you want to use. Aged rum, for instance, might make a good pairing with toasted coconut (or even coconut milk, if you’re looking for a non-dairy base.) Go with nutmeg and whiskey, for something akin to eggnog (minus the egg.) Aged spirits tend to be a more natural match with milk and chocolate—the wood barrel used for aging adds notes of vanilla and caramel—but you could try experiment with something like vodka or aquavit in a pinch.

A few things to keep in mind. To make for a truly gourmet experience, you’ll want to step up your game beyond adding a shot to your hot chocolate packet. Use real cocoa powder, not a mix. For a step beyond, try melting chocolate into your drink—the cocoa butter will add a luxe texture. Semisweet chocolate can come off a bit sweet; better to use bittersweet chocolate and add sugar to taste.

For non-dairy alternatives, you can experiment with your favorite nut and grain milks. Coconut or almond tend to work best, but again, it’s better to start off with unsweetened or lightly sweetened versions and add your own sugar to taste after. Sometimes with more flavors—spices, vanilla extracts, and the like—you will need less sugar to make an impact.

Also, for the truest flavors, wait to add your base spirit until you’ve poured the hot chocolate into mugs—you don’t want to cook off any of the alcohol. Plus that way you can adjust the amount of alcohol to your guests’ (or your own) specifications. The recipes below are made for one, but easily scalable should you have company—and alterable, should you want things more chocolatey or sweet.

Serves One

Bourbon and vanilla make for a simple, yet crowd-pleasing variation. Any sort of whiskey can be used in a pinch, but bourbon will tend to have a sweeter, more caramel-type edge.

1 cup whole milk
1?4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder or 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1?2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 oz. bourbon

Glassware: mug
Garnish: grated nutmeg (optional) or marshmallow

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chocolate, sugar, vanilla and stir until the chocolate has dissolved. Pour into a mug, add the bourbon, and stir until combined.

Serves One

This take on spiked hot chocolate has a few more ingredients, but the slightly spicy, smoky end-result is worth it.

1 cup whole milk ?
cup unsweetened cocoa powder or 2 oz. Mexican or bittersweet chocolate
? tsp. cinnamon
? tsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 oz. Mezcal or Tequila

Glassware: mug
Garnish: cinnamon stick or grated cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, chili powder, and stir until all the spices have been incorporated. Take off the heat and pour into a mug. Add the Mezcal and stir until combined.

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