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Photo: Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Catherine Crowell Steele; Prop Syling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas

Hot cocoa + booze is perhaps the greatest holiday gift of all. 

Briana Riddock
December 19, 2017

We are all familiar with the old-school approach to hot chocolate: You fan the cocoa mix-filled aluminum packet to settle powder, tear it open, and pour into a cup followed by piping-hot water. Can you say #basic and #boring? This season, let’s amp up the hot chocolate game in a major way. For starters, ditch the packets—you’re ready to make your mug of cocoa from-scratch. (Seriously, homemade hot chocolate is worlds apart from a package of Swiss Miss, and it’s just about as easy to mix up.) Next, spike it with booze. 

Again, it’s super simple to make a batch of hot chocolate using basic pantry and refrigerator staples. This classic chocolatey beverage consists of a combination of unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, warmed gently with milk. Sweeten your chocolate with a spoonful of sugar or honey, and add an extra depth of flavor with a splash of vanilla extract. If you want to go the dairy-free route, use almond milk, rice milk, or soy milk as dairy milk substitutions. Now, when it comes to the booze, you kind of have to go hard or go home. Here are a my top suggestions for the best hot chocolate and liquor pairings.  

WATCH: Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate


Baileys Irish Cream

Baileys Irish Cream is an aged whiskey mixed with cream (both the whiskey and cream are sourced in Ireland) and cocoa flavorings. A generous splash of this liqueur will give your hot chocolate an even greater milky richness as well as a silky smooth finish. Despite containing cream, the bottle has a shelf life of 2 years, so you can store it in the refrigerator or a cool dry place until you’re ready to make your next batch of hot chocolate.  


Containing small amounts of caffeine, Kahlúa will give you a slow release of energy when it’s mixed into your warm wintery drink. Consider this version of spiked hot chocolate the perfect swap for an after-dinner cup of full-caff coffee—this mix is like dessert + coffee, all in one cup. The liqueur is flavored with vanilla and arabica coffee, with its major alcohol content coming from rum. 

Spiced Rum 

You won’t need more than an ounce or two to feel the boozy punch with spiced rum. The signature golden color is a result of the rum aging in wooden barrels, and contributes to the spirit’s rich flavor. The rum’s spiced profile comes from a blend of allspice seeds, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. All of these tasty elements make a great complement to chocolate and will be an excellent addition to your drink. 

Hennessy VS

This top-shelf cognac, A.K.A Henny, is a crowd favorite that is sure to earn you a few cool points when you bust it out for your holiday hot chocolate bar. The VS edition is the most popular full-bodied blend on the Hennessy line. It offers notes of oak and honey that give your hot chocolate a deliciously sophisticated flavor profile.    

Red Wine 

What better way to wind down after long a day than with two of the best stress relievers mixed together in one mug? Warm your hot chocolate with an inexpensive bottle of red wine (no need to open one of your nicer bottles when you’re using it as a mixer) and just enjoy the divine existence of this soothing combination. Once you wrap yourself in a toasty blanket with your steamy concoction in hand, consider it a night well spent.

Vanilla Vodka 

Vanilla-flavored vodka has a floral aroma and butterscotch flavor undertones that are a perfect enhancer for your hot chocolate. Since vodka is a relatively affordable liquor you can go ahead and make a big batch and invite a few friends over for a grown-up pajama party. 

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