Wine & Spirits: Tricked Out Hot Cocoa

Herbal or coffee liqueurs and boozy marshmallows add an adult feel to a childhood favorite.

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Spruce up the warm childhood favorite winter beverage this season. (PRNewsFoto/Kahlua)

Each January, my thoughts turn to cozy food and drink to get me though withdrawal and the seemingly endless winter days stretched before us: slow-braised roasts, simmering stews, freshly baked bread, Port and warm tipples. And perhaps nothing is more comforting during this time of year than a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Now, a powdered packet with freeze-dried marshmallows will do in a pinch (barely), but I’m much more partial to the good stuff, made with high quality chocolate, and topped with freshly whipped cream, or homemade marshmallows.

And lest you think that that mug of cocoa need always be served G-rated (i.e. N/A), here are some ideas for chocolate-based, comforting concoctions you can make at home, or find at Washington area bars this winter.

Last year at Bourbon Steak, mixologists and made me an illogically delicious combination of Valrhona chocolate and Green Chartreuse. Unexpected yet incredibly addictive, the bitterness of the chocolate played nicely off the herbal quality of the French liqueur. This year’s hot chocolate riff at Bourbon Steak combines Valrhona chocolate with maple, topped with marshmallow and can be spiked with your choice of liquor. And I bet the guys would honor your request of my favorite version with Chartreuse from last year—or use the adapted recipe to make it at home. The duo is also mixing up other winter warmers, like the creamy Hot Buttered Rum, with Mount Gay Rum, vanilla bean, ginger and allspice.

Green Chartreuse Hot Chocolate
Recipe adapted from Bourbon Steak, Washington,
1 cup whole milk
¼ cup Valrhona Le Noir 61%, Le Noir 68% or Caraibe 66%
¾ tsp cocoa powder
1 to 1 ½ oz. Green Chartreuse
Freshly whipped cream, for garnish
Green sugar crystals, for garnish

Bring the milk to a simmer. Put the cocoa powder in a bowl, add the  hot milk and whisk vigorously until there are no more lumps. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. Pour a third of the liquid mixture onto the melted chocolate, and mix until elastic and shiny. Add the rest of the liquid mixture, and stir. Add the Green Chartreuse to a mug. Add the milk and chocolate mixture, stir gently, and garnish with the whipped cream and the green sugar crystals.

Wondermade Guinness Marshmallows are a great addition to a mug of hot cocoa. (Photo courtesy of Wondermade)

Chocolate den Co Co. Sala has a selection of cocoa-based drinks that can be served hot or frozen, including dark, white, milk, peanut butter and chocolate, salted caramel, chipotle and pumpkin spice. Order a trio for $9 and ask them to be kicked up with a shot of Bourbon or dark rum.

Bibiana Osteria Enoteca always strives to use Italian products behind the bar, so their hot chocolate is spiked with Vecchia Romagna Brandy and topped with a cardamom marshmallow.

Kahlua Midnight has a shot of coffee liqueur. (Photo by Pernod Ricard)

Speaking of marshmallows, Wondermade Handcrafted Marshmallows (available for order online) come in several boozy flavors, including Guinness and Bourbon as well as other dunk-worthy ones like S’mores, Peppermint and Gingerbread. Drop one into your favorite mug of cocoa, and the melting marshmallow adds creaminess; the ‘mallows with a boozy infusion also give you a nice little mid-afternoon kick.

And if you want to turn your mug of hot cocoa into a leaded mocha, add a splash of new Kahlua Midnight. Flavored with rum and black coffee liqueur, a shot added to a milk chocolate-based cocoa adds depth, complexity and caffeine. The liqueur also works as a chilled shot.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter @kmagyarics.

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