Dark or Milky? Hot Chocolate Tips to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
While many of us don’t think twice about ordering a Venti hot chocolate from Starbucks, for the Aztecs, chocolate was revered as the drink of the gods. Prepared daily and served to tribal kings in golden chalices, the ancient people felt chocolate had the ability to energize, comfort and restore.
As the years have passed, chocolate has become no less prized in our society, though we have evolved quite a bit from those early cups of simply ground cacao beans and water. Today, hot chocolate has been elevated to an art form with varieties that span the spectrum from sweet and simple to chic flavor-infused concoctions.
EDGE taste-tested the newest hot chocolate products out there and now shares the best to help you create a quality cup in your own home.
Rich & Sophisticated or Guilt-Free?
Rich & Sophisticated
Holidays - even seemingly arbitrary food-related ones - are the perfect excuse for all-out decadence. Enter Chocolat Moderne. The famed NYC-based confectionary has taken hot chocolate to a naughty level with its Cocoa Casbah line of drinking chocolates. With varieties such as Madame ’X’tasy (flavored with espresso, burnt caramel and fleur de sel) and Kama Sutra (an Indian-inspired blend of coconut, cardamom and clove,) you’ll understand why the ancients made such a fuss. ($38/set of two)
If you were raised on mild-flavored hot cocoa from the packets, give your grown-up palate a taste of Mug O’ Love Organic Hot Cocoa. Made from a blend of Peruvian cocoa powder and real ground chocolate, it produces a creamy, balanced mug of hot chocolate with just the perfect amount of added richness. ($10)
Sticking to those New Year’s resolutions? Indulge freely in NibMor’s line of organic drinking chocolates. These vegan, non-GMO chocolate mixes are sweetened with organic coconut palm sugar - an unrefined and nutrient-rich sweetener that’s low on the glycemic index. Try their 6 Spice variety and mix it with your favorite non-dairy milk; the peppery chai notes add such rich flavor you won’t even miss the fat. ($9)
For an even more virtuous twist, pour yourself a cup of Crio Brü’s brewing chocolate. Made from crushed 100 percent cacao beans and brewed in a French press just like coffee, this innovative chocolate beverage is inspired by the original hot chocolate recipe enjoyed by the Aztecs. The result is an intoxicating warm drink rich in antioxidants and metabolism-boosting theobromine. Add a dash of milk and sweetener to bring out the distinct chocolate aroma or take a page from the ancient royals and enjoy yours plain. ($12)
Keep it Simple and Make it Your Own
Keep it Simple
If you’re craving something a bit more classic, reach for Lake Champlain Old World Drinking Chocolate. Produced by Vermont-based Lake Champlain Chocolates, this is rich, smooth-tasting hot chocolate without any frills. Made from pure dark chocolate shavings, real sugar and just a touch of vanilla, it’s a slightly more elegant version of the hot chocolate grandma used to make. ($9)
Make it Your Own
Take any of the drinks above to the next level by adding a generous shot of Van Gogh’s Dutch Chocolate Vodka. The intense, dark cocoa-infused spirit (not a liqueur) is redolent with notes of coffee and spicy nutmeg and will pair beautifully with your favorite hot chocolate blend. Hand-crafted in small batches using only natural ingredients, the vodka distinguishes itself among the many cloying and synthetic flavored spirits on the market.
If you spent your childhood Sunday mornings digging all the marshmallows out of the cereal box, a package of Magician’s Cereal Marshmallows will turn your next mug of chocolate into a dream come true. These small, multicolored dehydrated marshmallows will dissolve gently in the hot liquid and add the perfect amount of nostalgic sweetness, provided you can resist eating them all straight from the bag. (Available at Walgreens $3)
Think bigger is better? Plush Puff Mugtoppers are for you. These cookie-sized marshmallow discs are made to float right on top of your favorite hot chocolate. They come in a variety of flavors, but we’re partial to Sydney’s Cinnamon, which adds a slightly Mexican chocolate touch as it melts into your mug. ($7)
Just Like a Pro
If you’re looking to capture that restaurant-quality frothiness at home, check out the Chocolatiere by Bodum. This cleverly designed insulated pitcher features a manual-pump propeller handle that mixes and aerates hot chocolate in seconds, producing a thick and frothy beverage every time. A favorite of Chef Jacques Torres (aka "Mr. Chocolate,") the insulated glass jug keeps your beverage hot so you can relax and enjoy along with your guests. ($49)
Like to have a go at it from scratch? Here’s a simple basic hot chocolate recipe you can whip up on your stovetop.
Dark Hot Chocolate
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Heat the milk and salt in a saucepan over low heat just until it starts to simmer. Add the chocolate chips and whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture has thickened. Serve immediately.
Variations: Flavor your hot chocolate by adding cinnamon sticks or strips of fresh orange rinds to the milk while it simmers. For a spicy kick, stir in a dash of cayenne or cardamom before serving.