The Surprising Ingredients You Should Use to Spike Hot Chocolate

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Spice up your hot chocolate with tequila, Chartreuse, hot sauce, chili peppers and other ideas to warm up on a cold winter night.

What makes the best hot chocolate? That’s a very personal question. There are so many ways to make a decadent mug of hot cocoa, with a plethora of fascinating variations. Do you like your chocolate bitter or sweet? Do you use cocoa powder or ganache? Are you a Mexican hot chocolate fan, or do you go French? Whole milk, heavy cream, coffee creamer or a non-dairy cocoa? Do you add salt or spices? A pinch of cinnamon or spicy pepper? A little bit of butter? Marshmallow or whipped cream as a topping?

Then, if you are an adult, there’s always the question of whether or not to spike your hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. Does a bourbon or Kahlua hot chocolate sound enticing? What about a warm chocolate eggnog? Those are all great, but over the years I’ve gone even further afield, experimenting with surprising spirits to delicious results.

What Spirits Work Best in Hot Chocolate?

Spiked Hot Chocolate Jason WilsonJason Wilson for Taste of Home

For me, the very best is the green, intensely herbal French liqueur called Chartreuse. In fact, hot cocoa and Chartreuse is a popular drink served at ski resorts in the French Alps, where it’s called Verte Chaud. Beyond that, I’ve had success with a wide range of spirits such as spiced rum, tequila, mezcal, absinthe, kirsch (a cherry-flavor schnapps) or Fernet Branca.

Like with Chartreuse, the savory, herbal qualities of tequila and mezcal blend very well with thick, rich chocolate. Below, I’ve shared my very favorite hot chocolate cocktail, the Green Lantern, originally created by bartender Jim Meehan of PDT in New York.

What Hot Chocolate Mixes Best With Booze?

I’ve tested a number of different methods and techniques, but as a rule of thumb, I find that the more expensive, darker, higher-cocoa-percentage chocolates don’t work best in hot chocolate. In plenty of recipes, sweeter chocolate, with 65% cacao or less, or sweet Mexican chocolate work best. Cocoa powder also works well, and you’d be hard-pressed to beat that old standby, Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder.

How to Make a Green Lantern

Green Chartreuse and hot chocolate is a popular après-ski drink in the French Alps. This version adds a Mexican twist with a little tequila and spice to light your lantern. This works really well with sweet Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra or Nestle’s Abuelita brands, but be sure to stir or whisk well to avoid a gritty texture.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 ounces of Mexican sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 1/2 ounces tequila, preferably añejo
  • 1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
  • 1 dash Cholula hot sauce
  • Pinch dried, crushed ancho chili

Instructions

Step 1: Make the hot chocolate

In a saucepan, heat the milk, cocoa powder and salt, whisking constantly to combine until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the chopped Mexican chocolate, whisking vigorously until it’s fully combined. Makes five servings.

Step 2: Mix in the booze

Add 5 ounces of the hot chocolate to a heatproof mug, along with the tequila, Chartreuse and hot sauce. Sprinkle a pinch of dried chili on top as a garnish.

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