Remember how awesome it was as a kid to come back inside after playing in the snow and sip a steaming, creamy, marshmallow-adorned mug of hot chocolate?
It can still be as much fun no matter how old you are--if you swap out powdered packets for high-quality chocolate bars and add an ample splash or two of your favorite booze. As for the garnishes, they can stay. After all, you’re an adult, so if you want to keep topping off your cup with an extra dollop (or can-dispensed squirt) of whipped cream, go right ahead.
Here is how to set up the perfect spiked hot chocolate bar:
“Start with collecting your choice of spirit,” suggests Ashok Tamang, lead bartender at Kingbird Restaurant at The Watergate Hotel. “I personally like Bulleit Bourbon and peppermint vodkas with spiked hot chocolate, which brings bold character.” You may also want to add crowd-pleasing, easy-drinking bottles like Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream, he says. Raphael Francois, executive chef and partner of Le DeSales, is partial to Armagnac, Cognac and rum. And if you have them or can get them, set out other liqueurs like Cointreau, Frangelico, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur and Cherry Heering.
Next, make your hot chocolate. Remember, this is no time for powdered mixes. Francois likes to use a bitter pure chocolate with cocoa butter instead of vegetable oil, which will be smoother and creamier. “Also, you should always warm or melt the chocolate on a bit of hot water, then add milk and whisk until [the] chocolate is smooth and hot,” he suggests. Keep the hot chocolate warm in a Crock Pot or electric fondue pot set on low heat.
Give guests a few tips on winning combos, either by displaying them on little chalkboard signs, tags or recipe cards. Tamang likes dark chocolate with Bourbon, milk chocolate with Baileys, salted caramel with rum or other whiskey, mocha hot chocolate with Kahlua and peppermint hot chocolate with peppermint-flavored vodka. (Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Vert Chaud, the combination of dark hot chocolate and herbal green Chartreuse brilliantly invented by bartender and writer Jamie Boudreau of Canon in Seattle, which on paper seems like it shouldn’t work, but totally does.) Cointreau with dark chocolate is also amazing, as is a cherry liqueur like Cherry Heering.
Set out bowls or ramekins filled with garnishes. Tamang suggests house made whipped cream, chocolate dolce cream and marshmallows--either out of the bag, homemade or bruleed. As a Belgian, Francois prefers to keep it simple--with milk at most and no other garnish needed. Other fun options include orange peels, cinnamon sticks, crushed chocolate candies or toasted nuts.
Serve it all in tempered glass mugs with handles, to keep bevies hot and guests’ hands cool.
Not feeling creative? Below are some delicious recipes:
Hot Chocolate (Recipe courtesy of Ashok Tamang, Lead Bartender, Kingbird)
Tamang thinks either coffee or cream liqueur works best in this dual-chocolate version. But it’s also fun to play around with aged rum, Cognac or Armagnac.
3 oz. whole milk
2 oz. heavy cream
2 pieces Valrhona dark chocolate
2 pieces Valrhona milk chocolate
2 oz. Bailey’s Irish cream or Kahlua
Toasted marshmallows or whipped cream, for garnish
Add the milk, cream and chocolates to a saucepan, and heat on medium until the chocolates dissolved. Pour into a tempered glass mug, add the Kahlua or Baileys and garnish as desired.
Belgian Hot Chocolate (Recipe adapted from Raphael Francois, executive chef and partner of Le DeSales)
This recipe has been passed down from Francois’s Belgian side of the family.
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
10 oz. 100% bitter chocolate
2 oz. 64% bitter chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
Heat milk and cream in saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the chocolate until melted, then repeat with the sugar until dissolved.