Ménage à cocoa


Alli McLaughlin

a winter staple

The weather is dropping, snow is sprinkling from the bleak gray skies, and it takes three blankets to stay warm at night. That’s right, it’s officially hot cocoa season.
This delightful winter drink is so versatile, there’s a recipe for almost anybody out there. I prefer to make my cocoa on the stove top to let all of the ingredients incorporate and to give my apartment a wonderful Christmas aroma, but all of the recipes I am about to share are easily made with just a microwave.

Maple Mocha Madness:
This yummy cocoa drink is perfect for a Vermont winter, combining the flavors of pure maple syrup and rich chocolate. The recipe makes one cup of cocoa and only takes about five minutes to make. Here’s what you’ll need:
¾ cups milk of choice
3 tbsp dark cocoa powder (I like to use Hershey’s special dark)
3 tbsp pure maple syrup (don’t you dare use that fake stuff)
¼ tsp cinnamon
Using a small saucepan, heat the milk of your choice over medium heat. I like to just hover my hand over the milk to tell when it’s hot, since it won’t be hot enough to burn, but just use caution. Once the milk is decently hot, but NOT boiling, add in your cocoa powder, maple syrup, and cinnamon. I like to use a whisk to combine well, but a regular spoon will also work.
Once it is thoroughly combined, pour the concoction into the weird goodwill mug of your choice. If you’re feeling fancy, some whipped cream and chocolate drizzle make for a nice finish. If you have maple sugar, that would also make for a delicious topping.

Salted Caramel Hot Cocoa:
This steamy beverage is inspired by the salted caramel mocha from our friends over at Starbucks. The sweet and salty combination hits so many taste buds in just the right ways, and it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser at any holiday party. This recipe makes two servings so you can share the salty sip with a loved one. The necessities are as follows:
1 ¾ cups milk of choice
¾ cups dark cocoa powder (again, I love the Hershey’s special dark)
1 tbsp caramel syrup
½ tsp sea salt
Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until the milk is hot but not boiling. Combine the cocoa, caramel, and sea salt until everything is smoothly combined. I like to take some extra caramel sauce and drizzle it on the bottom and sides of my favorite festive mug before pouring in the hot cocoa. Once the potion has been poured, top with whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a pinch of sea salt.
If you want to make this more reminiscent of its Starbucks inspiration, you can add a shot of espresso to make a delicious dirty mocha.

French Vanilla Swirl Cocoa:
If you’re the kind of person that likes to enjoy a chocolate and vanilla swirl creemee, then this is the drink for you. This delectable drink is rich and creamy unlike any other cocoa I have had before. These measurements will make one big cup of cocoa for your own personal enjoyment, or you can double the recipe to share with a friend. Here is what you will need:
1 cup milk of choice
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder (may I recommend Hershey’s special dark?)
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp French vanilla creamer
½ tsp French vanilla syrup – optional
Just like the past two recipes, this one starts with heating the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat; the smell that this recipe wafts around my apartment is absolute heaven. Once the milk is hot enough — NOT boiling — add in the cocoa, sugar, creamer, and vanilla syrup if you are using it. You can always add more creamer if you want a smoother, richer vanilla flavor.
Top with whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, or any sprinkles of your choice. Best enjoyed by a fireplace while watching Hallmark Christmas movies.