Winter Warming: DIY Drinking Chocolate

Winter Warming: DIY Drinking Chocolate

Not to still be quoting Christmas tunes, but baby it’s cold outside. The June-uary that was has now turned into full-blown winter with snowstorms hammering the country. I can tell the shift in the weather has affected more than just lift lines at resorts, because instead of the usual coffee or cognac offer at a local restaurant the other night the server dipped in with a tempting offer of drinking chocolate.

Just the words put together — a title and an action all in one — elicited swoons from my childhood self. This isn’t made-from-powder chocolate-ish hot cocoa, but melted chocolate nibs mixed with milk or cream. What sounds more luxurious than that?

I know we all grew up with little packets of Swiss Miss; dry brown granules stirred ferociously into hot water, topped with marshmallows or whipped cream. My brothers and I would race up the snowy deck stairs, pounding on the sliding door until my mother answered our wails for hot cocoa, upon which receiving we would retreat back to towering snow forts with steaming mugs, savoring each sip.

Now my tastes for hot chocolate have matured a tiny bit. No longer am I sated by crunchy instant marshmallows and boxes with alpine vistas. Now we have gourmet, single origin chocolate decadence sold by the pound, and there are a million and one simple ingredients that can be stirred in and added for new depths of flavor. Where will we begin?

Your first decision is between starting with a box or creating your own mix. If going the box route, here is a list of nine amazing drinking chocolates. If you want to create from scratch — let’s start with a simple recipe.

John’s Classic Drinking Chocolate
Adapted from Ezra Poundcake, originally from John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg’s “Essence of Chocolate”

2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces 99 percent unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it is hot to the touch. Whisk in the chocolate and sugar, and continue whisking for 1 to 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla. Reduce the heat to low. Serve immediately, or remove from heat and mix with a hand blender for a lighter consistency.

If you aren’t ready for the intensity of drinking chocolate, try this cocoa recipe from Alton Brown:

Hot Cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Hot water

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. In a small pot, heat 4 to 6 cups of water. Fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine.

Once you’ve got your chocolate ready to drink, consider potential upgrades:

Ginger: Finely chop two tablespoons of fresh ginger and add to the chocolate, straining before drinking. Alternately, add two teaspoons of ground ginger to the mixture.

Mocha: add a shot of espresso or 1.5 ounces of your favorite coffee.

Mexican Hot Chocolate:  While cookbook author David Lebovitz has an authentic recipe, most of us think of Mexican hot chocolate having a little zing. Add in half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, or a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Fruity Chocolate: Think of a chocolate covered cherry — melted. Just add half a cup of maraschino cherry juice to your mix, or 1 tablespoon per cup. Alternately, you could add in one blended banana to the drinking chocolate recipe, or a dried orange peel.

Ultra-Rich: Because I like to take it over the top, try a salted caramel hot chocolate. Better yet, substitute half the chocolate for butterscotch chips, and throw in a dash of schnapps right at the end.

Drunken Chocolate: Chocolate’s best boozy friends are Kahlua, Tia Maria, Baileys, and Frangelico. Add a jigger of your favorite — and keep away from the kids.

Drink up!

The Chaser:

Here are 10 things you didn’t know taste delicious with chocolate. I don’t know if my Flavor Bible would agree, but here’s to trying chocolate and eggplant.

Uh-oh. Drunken babies are the focus of a new liqueur-filled chocolate campaign.

Who else is following The 2012 Piglet over at Food 52? I can’t get enough!