Hot cocoa is the sweetest, warmest winter comfort food. Spice it up for adults or make it more fun for kids with these additions or cocoa change-ups.

Try a new hot chocolate recipe

Look online for a new recipe to try. This one, claimed the best ever by a Pinterest poster, adds vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate chips. Or add pumpkin, peppermint, caramel or mocha flavoring to your favorite hot cocoa recipe or mix.

Use the finest ingredients

To make real, gourmet hot chocolate for those special occasions, use real, solid chocolate – not powdered mixes or powdered cocoa. Make it dark, at least 60 percent concentration, and use about two ounces of chocolate per cup of milk. It sounds so decadent, and even more so when you use only whole milk. Heat the milk and just enough sweetener first, then add your chopped chocolate for a creamy hot cocoa. Another twist? Use high-quality powder, but steam your milk. Mix just enough milk and cocoa to really mix it up and dissolve all of the powder before adding more milk and stirring some more.

Add some spices

If you’ve seen the movie Chocolat, you’re aware that the Mayans knew a thing or two about sweet and spicy! Try a Mayan or Mexican cocoa mix, which will have kicks of cinnamon, and in the Mayan blend, some chili pepper as well. Other spices to consider are smoked paprika, nutmeg, cloves or cardamom. If you want to try spicing up your own recipe, remember not to go too far with the spices. It only takes a few pinches of cinnamon and chipotle or other chili flavoring per cup, even less nutmeg or cloves.

Add some spirits

Ever had a hot Peppermint Patty? It’s not a melted candy bar, but the perfect after-ski drink. And so simple! All you need is hot cocoa and an ounce of Peppermint Schnapps. Add a mint leaf or small candy cane as a stir stick if you like, especially near the holidays. Serve it in a tall glass mug, even if you don’t go skiing first! Of course, you can’t go wrong with Baileys or some butterscotch or caramel with your favorite scotch mixed in.

Make a hot cocoa bar

Marshmallows or a dollop of whipped cream take hot chocolate from simply warm to rich and perfect. Kids love piling mini-marshmallows into their cups. Make a hot cocoa bar for the kids or adults at your winter party by offering plenty of fun add-ins, such as homemade marshmallows, or colored or shaped choices. We mentioned peppermint sticks – how about cinnamon sticks or Pirouette cookies for stirring? Offer flavored whipped cream or syrups, chopped up pieces of candy such as bits of toffee, caramel or sprinkles for the kids. Flavored chips, from chocolate to peanut butter, give plenty of room for flavor lovers. And keep your cocoa nice and hot in a crock pot. 

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