The Best Ideas for Leveling Up Your Hot Chocolate - Home & Texture
cooking Hot Chocolate Ideas

If You Love Hot Chocolate, You Need To Try These Ideas for Leveling Up Your Cocoa Game

December 16, 2023 at 9:56 AM PST

If you love chocolate, hot chocolate is one of those comforting winter elixirs that captures the season in one steaming sip. It’s a beverage that’s timeless for a reason, but in the spirit of trying something new, why settle for ordinary when you can take your hot cocoa drink the the next level? Add a twist on a classic with fun ways to switch up your go-to sweet, creamy drink.

Photo credit: Kobby Mendez

The Classic Revival: Perfecting the Base

Start with the basics—a great cup of hot cocoa starts with a rich and creamy base. Here’s how to get it right.

Choose Quality Chocolate

The foundation of any exceptional hot chocolate is high-quality chocolate. Go for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content for a robust flavor. Dark chocolate has a deep, complex taste while having the included benefit of antioxidants that can be great for your health. If you prefer a milder flavor, milk chocolate lovers can go for a smooth, creamy milk chocolate bar.

We recommend melting an ounce or two of chocolate in bar form and then whisking it into heated milk, but you can also use powder or make DIY hot chocolate bombs. For more chocolatey flavor, keep adding in the chocolate until it meets your taste.

Milk Done Right

The choice of milk can make or break your hot chocolate. Whole milk or a combination of whole milk and heavy cream mixes to create a luscious, velvety texture. The fat content in whole milk and heavy cream contributes to the creaminess that we all love in a hot chocolate.

For those who are lactose intolerant or prefer a dairy-free option, nut-based milks like almond milk or oat milk does just as good a job. These alternatives may not be as creamy, but they do have their own subtle flavor nuances that can bring something new to your hot chocolate.

Sweeten Wisely

Balance is key when it comes to sweetness. Use a mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar for a nuanced sweetness that complements the chocolate’s bitterness. Brown sugar adds a subtle caramel-like undertone, while granulated sugar gives a smooth and even sweetness throughout your cup of cocoa.

Photo credit: Ksenia Yakovleva

Flavorful Twists: Adding a Dash of Creativity

When you’re ready to turn up the flavor, try these creative add-ins.

1. Spiced Delight: Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Infuse your hot chocolate with warmth and aroma by adding a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg. These cozy spices add depth and intensify the flavor of your cocoa for a perfect cold-weather treat.

2. Peppermint Bliss

For a refreshing twist, crush some peppermint candy canes and sprinkle them over your hot chocolate. The cool minty flavor combined with the chocolatey goodness is pure bliss. It’s like sipping on a liquid candy cane, and it’s especially delightful during the holiday season. Plus, the colorful candy cane bits floating on your cocoa make for an eye-catching presentation.

3. Go Nuts with Hazelnut or Almond Extract

A drop of hazelnut or almond extract can take your hot chocolate to gourmet levels. These nutty flavors complement the chocolate beautifully, giving your beverage a sophisticated twist. Hazelnut imparts a rich, slightly toasted flavor, while almond extract adds a subtle sweetness. Just a small amount goes a long way, so be sure not to overdo it.

4. Salty Caramel Sensation

Indulge your sweet and salty cravings with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a pinch of sea salt. The contrast of flavors will make your taste buds dance with joy. The caramel adds a luxurious sweetness, while the sea salt cuts through it with a delightful salty kick.

Hot chocolate with cinnamon stick
Photo Credit: Ylanite Koppens

Toppings: The Grand Finale

No hot chocolate is complete without delightful toppings to crown your creation. Here are some ideas:

1. Whipped Cream Delight

It’s classic, but a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream adds that cloud-like softness to your cocoa with an extra rush of sweetness. What elevates it even more is a little dust of cocoa powder or chocolate shavings for an elegant finish.

2. Marshmallow Magic

Float some marshmallows on your hot chocolate, and watch them melt into gooey perfection. Toasted marshmallows take it up a notch, adding a delightful caramelized flavor. The gooey, melty marshmallows create a playful texture contrast with the smooth hot chocolate beneath.

3. Chocolate Extravaganza

Grate some extra chocolate on top or add a chocolate stick to stir. Because there’s no such thing as too much chocolate! This indulgent addition takes your hot chocolate to the next level of chocolatey goodness.



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