This winter chill doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon, and for once it's totally okay with me. It's not that I've turned a new leaf and started embracing the cold, but I am a fan of hot cocoa. I've been more than happy to embrace this warming drink, and to give it a few new upgrades with the help of some mix-ins.
When it comes to hot cocoa I've always been a traditionalist. The only extras added to my mug have been a splash of heavy cream and a topping of mini marshmallows, or if I was feeling especially indulgent, a mound of whipped cream. It was all about savoring the sweet, rich chocolate — nothing more. But there's so much more to be savored. I was missing out, and I don't want that to happen to you.
So push aside your traditionalist cocoa ways, and follow in my footsteps. You'll be rewarded with the coziest, most flavorful mug of cocoa that will make this final stretch of winter feel totally bearable.
Start with a Basic Mug of Cocoa
Each one of these super-cozy and flavor-packed drinks starts with a basic mug of hot cocoa. Go for a convenient store-bought cocoa mix, make your own mix, or if you're really feeling like a treat, up the ante with a mug of drinking chocolate. There's no wrong choice — it's totally up to you.
Once your mug of cocoa is prepped, it's time for mix-ins.
These mix-ins range from sweet to savory, and even a little spicy (but just a little). Their flavor is present, but subtle. The sweet chocolatey taste that you love and expect from a mug of hot cocoa takes the lead, while each of these mix-ins has its own way of accentuating and complementing that flavor.
Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa
Because peanut butter and chocolate are one of the most perfect paring to ever exist — and hot cocoa is no exception. Chocolatey cocoa dominates your mug, while the nutty peanut butter undertones keep you going back for more.
After mixing the cocoa with hot water or hot milk, whisk in 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter, mixing until it's completely dissolved. Drink immediately.
Malted Milk Hot Cocoa
For those of you with a sweet tooth, this malted hot cocoa is right up your alley. Think of this as a creamy, hot version of a malted milkshake, or better yet, like the wintery drink version of a box of Whoppers.
Add 1 tablespoon of malted milk powder (vanilla or chocolate), whisking until it's completely dissolved. Drink immediately.
Tahini Hot Cocoa
Chocolate and tahini might not jump to mind as a natural pairing, but they work together so well. A spoonful of tahini brings a subtle, savory flavor and hint of toasted of sesame, and adds an extra layer of creaminess to your mug of hot cocoa.
After mixing the cocoa with hot water or hot milk, whisk in 1 tablespoon of tahini, mixing until it's completely dissolved. Drink immediately.
Miso Hot Cocoa
Prepare your tastebuds for a sweet and savory, umami-rich mug of cocoa. The saltiness of the miso paste complements the sweet chocolate for a richer-tasting drink.
After mixing the cocoa with hot water or hot milk, whisk in 1 teaspoon of miso paste, mixing until it's completely dissolved. Drink immediately.
Ginger Hot Cocoa
Even though it's more mild than its fresh counterpart, ground ginger is ever-so-slightly sweet with a warm, spicy bite. It's an ideal paring for a rich mug of cocoa. Adjust the level of ground ginger, adding a extra for a more punchy drink.
After mixing the cocoa with hot water or hot milk, whisk in 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, mixing until it's completely dissolved. Drink immediately.
(Image credits: Kelli Foster)