You go, plain cocoa
hot chocolate with snowman marshmallows
Credit: Photo by Azurita via Getty Images

There is both technically and spiritually a huge difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. The former is a blend of powders meant to be reconstituted by boiling water: sugar, non-fat dry milk, cocoa (of course) and, for the all-important element of mouthfeel, cornstarch. There is nothing wrong with cocoa and made with exceptional ingredients it can be deeply satisfying, while being light enough to casually sip without fear of needing a nap. A superlative hot chocolate puts naps on the table. It puts crackling fires and bearskin rugs on the table. It walks up to time itself and says, “You’re need to sit down and stop for a while, because I’m running things now.”

When approaching hot chocolate, you must first understand that it is not completely a beverage in the conventional sense. Hot chocolate is a more or less a truffle that has been watered down, and by watering down, I mean adding a whole bunch of high-fat dairy. (Skim milk is for wusses and should never, ever be used in anything because it a useless abomination). Proper hot chocolate could be actually be classified as the dessert version of Cup o’Soup. It should be so rich and transcendent that it creates a moment where all that exists in the world is the two of you, snuggled up comfortably in your time vortex, oblivious to the cold of the outside world. If you’re looking for something for the everyday, go with cocoa. Hot chocolate is meant for magic.

You need:

Really, really, really good chocolate
Don’t skimp here, because you deserve it.

Heavy cream
Oh hell yeah, we’re going there.

Half and half
Feel free to substitute whole milk here if you’re fussed. Don’t make me start yelling skim milk again, because I am more than willing to go there.

Itty bitty pinch of sea or kosher salt
You can also add a bit of spice like cinnamon or cayenne if you’re feeling all saucy.


Think about how much hot chocolate you really need. It will be more than a mug. You can tell yourself you’re making extra for someone else if that’s what you need to do.

Once that’s decided, it’s time for math: 1 part chopped chocolate, 1 part cream, 1 part half and half.

Pour the half and half and ⅔ of the cream into a small saucepan, then put it over medium heat. Let it get good and steamy, but don’t let it boil—you’re looking for the surface to start quivering like it’s about to simmer.

Turn the heat off and pour the chocolate in, then let it sit for about a minute to melt. Gently whisk until smooth, then add the rest of the cream to help it cool down a bit. Add a pinch of salt and taste for seasoning, then adjust to taste.