The terms hot chocolate and cocoa are used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Hot chocolate is technically made with melted chocolate, while hot cocoa starts with cocoa powder. Chocolate as a beverage was discovered in Mexico as an Aztec drink made from pounded roasted cocoa beans. The Spanish brought it back to Europe, where it was further refined to become the hot beverage made with milk or cream that we enjoy today.
Semisweet chocolate is typical for hot chocolate. Milk chocolate is too mild. For a more intense cup, try using bittersweet chocolate, which usually has a higher percentage of cacao and less sugar. You can use 2 ounces of chocolate in bar form and coarsely chop it with a knife, or chocolate pieces. You can use any kind of milk, depending on how rich you want the resulting drink to be. Or try part or all half-and-half or even a little heavy cream mixed with the milk. This recipe makes four to six servings.
1. Heat the Ingredients
In a medium saucepan place 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate. Stir in 1/3 cup sugar and 1/2 cup milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture just comes to boiling. Stir in 3-1/2 cups additional milk and heat through but do not boil. Remove from heat.
Tip: To add a mocha twist, add 1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals along with the 3-1/2 cups milk.
2. Ladle into Cups
Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour the hot chocolate into mugs or cups. If desired, serve with marshmallows or Sweetened Whipped Cream.
Tip: For frothy hot chocolate, use an immersion blender or rotary beater to beat until bubbly or frothy. This is an optional step.
Tip: For cocoa hearts on marshmallows, place a heart stencil atop a large marshmallow. Sift sweetened cocoa atop and carefully remove the stencil. Repeat with additional marshmallows and sweetened cocoa.
How to Make Hot Cocoa (with Cocoa Powder)
Some people like the concentrated chocolate flavor that cocoa powder brings to hot cocoa. Because it lacks the creamy mouthfeel of melted chocolate, you might want to use half-and-half or whole milk instead of low-fat milk. Make sure you choose an unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe since it also calls for sugar. You don't need to sift the cocoa powder. This recipe makes four to six servings.
In a 2- to 2-1/2-quart saucepan combine 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Use a whisk to thoroughly combine the sugar and the cocoa. This will help prevent lumps from forming with the liquid is added.
3. Ladle into Cups
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Use a ladle or measuring cup to pour the hot cocoa into mugs or cups. If desired, serve with marshmallows or Sweetened Whipped Cream.
Try these flavor spins with the hot chocolate and cocoa recipes above.
Mexican Hot Chocolate: Prepare as directed, except add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the sugar mixture. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract before serving and, if desired, sprinkle each serving with additional ground cinnamon.
Irish Hot Chocolate: Prepare as directed, except add 1 tablespoon Irish cream liqueur to each serving.
Mint Hot Chocolate: Prepare as directed, except add 1 tablespoon peppermint schnapps or 2 or 3 drops peppermint extract to each serving. Garnish each serving with a peppermint stick.