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

Fireplace optional, but strongly suggested.

Sara Tane
January 16, 2018

Hot chocolate is one of those beverages that you probably don’t consume in routine excess (but, if you do, then right on). Rather, it’s warm treat that you might crave from time to time, but when you want a mug, you want it NOW. Rather than keeping packets upon packets of hot chocolate mix in the back corner of your pantry, I’m here to tell you that you’re way better off making your next chocolatey drink from scratch. This way, you have the option to customize the drink however you like, and you don’t feel obligated to burn through the other 11 packets of the box that you had to run out and buy.

Stovetop hot chocolate is a cold weather revelation that everybody needs to experience at some point in their life, and my friends, today is that day. Put down the packet (sorry, Swiss Miss) and crank up the stove, because it’s time to get whisking.

The Process

If you’re making a single cup of cocoa, use a small saucepan over low heat to get the job done. Once all the components are uniformly mixed throughout and the entire concoction has been warmed, you’re good to go. Don’t worry about bringing this situation to a boil—if your heat is turned up too high, you’ll likely burn some of the components (or if anything, your tongue). If you have a milk frother, you can also use this at the end to add a foamy consistency to your beverage, or just use some elbow grease while you’re whisking and manually froth up the milk.

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Pick Your Milk

Your kitchen, your milk choices. Use whatever you have on hand. From almond to whole to skim to coconut to soy, they all work just fine, as long as it tickles your fancy. For starters, an 8 oz. serving of hot chocolate is usually enough to kick the cocoa craving, but if you’re an experienced hot cocoa sipper, then go ahead and pour as much as you like. Additionally, if you want to thin it out with some water to create the illusion of a bigger drink (#healthy!), that’s definitely a-ok. Just keep in mind that as you thin out your concoction, the drink will lose some richness and creaminess. Do what feels right.

Cocoa Powder

And now, for the chocolate. A good rule of thumb is that for every 8 ounces of liquid, 1-2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder will provide just the level of chocolatey goodness that you’re wanting. As far as which variety of cocoa powder, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re using a darker variety, just recognize that the chocolatey flavor of your final product will be richer and deeper. Make sure that you whisk vigorously until all the clumps of powder are evenly mixed throughout the liquid.

Sweeten It Up

In my opinion, the best part about making a cup of hot chocolate from scratch is the ability to customize the level of sweetness. I’m just going to go ahead and say it—most hot chocolates are made way too sweet. Since it’s your call to make, you can add whatever kind of sweetener you prefer, and however much you like. Granulated sugar, honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup are all great options.

Let’s Talk About Add-Ins

If you’re wanting to bring in another exciting flavor profile to your next cup of hot chocolate, rest assured that the possibilities are endless. Your favorite nut butter, nutella, or even a spoonful of tahini all add a delightfully nutty component to the cocoa. You can even whisk in a swirl of caramel sauce. For a zing of caffeine, sprinkle in a couple pinches of instant espresso powder. And while you’re at it, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a quick swig of vanilla extract could never hurt, either.

Top it Off

If you took a sip out of a cup of hot chocolate and didn’t have a white mustache of some sort afterwards, did you really take a sip? Once you’ve poured your drink into your favorite fireside mug, top it all off with a handful of marshmallows, a couple spoonfuls of marshmallow fluff, a hit of heavy cream, or a generous dollop of whipped cream. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, turn this situation into a hot chocolate float and pour the hot cocoa over a hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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