Colder weather means warmer drinks, and hot chocolate is a winter classic. So classic, in fact, that it might be time to change it up a bit. Wait, wait! We’re not suggesting you switch to a different drink entirely—we love chocolate too! But there are quite a few additions and variations you can try to give your holiday drinks new life.
Most people are probably familiar with instant cocoa mix—whether it comes in a big tin or a single-serving packet, all you have to do is add it to hot water for quick, convenient hot chocolate. The trade-off, however, is flavor. Making hot chocolate from scratch might take longer, but the result is rich, creamy, and decadent, a perfect winter treat. Try Fifteen Spatulas’ Best Homemade Hot Chocolate recipe, which uses real melted chocolate, and you’ll understand the appeal. This recipe can also be stored and reheated, which will make it easier the next time you feel a craving for traditional hot chocolate from scratch.
For a less intensive but still flavorful recipe, this Simple Hot Cocoa for One from Epicurious is a good place to start. It uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate—if you’re wondering about the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate, you might notice that hot cocoa isn’t as rich, since it doesn’t contain the cocoa butter that chocolate does. Because the hot cocoa ingredients don’t take as much preparation, it’s a little faster than homemade hot chocolate and easily scales up to larger batches. It also has another advantage over the pre-made packets: you can very easily adjust the sweetness or chocolatey flavor to your preference by trying different quantities of ingredients.
If you like a little adventure in your winter drinks, you can whip up a batch of Mexican hot chocolate—the added spices bring extra warmth and a complex flavor. The Chocolate Caliente Mexicano recipe from Mexican Food Journal shows you a traditional method for making this delicious drink, using pre-spiced Mexican chocolate and a molinillo or whisk to froth it by hand. Or, this Mexican Hot Chocolate recipe variation from Delish can be made with more common ingredients, and you can save time in the frothing stage by running small batches of your delicious Mexican hot chocolate through a blender. (Remember to be careful of steam and leave plenty of room in the blender to prevent hot liquid from splashing out.)
When you’re craving a cozy mug of hot chocolate, though, you may not always have the time or ingredients for homemade hot chocolate. Don’t worry—there are plenty of quick and easy ways to spice up your drink. Try one (or more) of these add-ins to bring a little extra flavor and intensity to any cup of hot chocolate, whether it came from a mix or was made on the stovetop: