Take Hot Chocolate to the Next Level


With the days growing colder and al fresco dining still the norm, bars and restaurants will likely offer more hot cocktails on their menus this winter. One cold-weather treat popular in recent years is spiked hot chocolate — a drink just as warming when made at home.

For David Kaplan, co-founder of the bar group Death & Co, sipping hot cocoa brings him back to his childhood in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “You get off the mountain after a day of skiing and have a hot chocolate and comfort food to bring you back to life,” said Mr. Kaplan, who in those days drank strictly Swiss Miss.

The boozy version, he said, “is one of those things that’s so fun because there’s still a slight level of sophistication while being completely comfortable and nostalgic. The sophistication comes with how geeky you are with the chocolate and how it’s prepared.”

Will Talbott, bar manager at the Standard High Line hotel, where spiked hot cocoa goes on the menu around Halloween and stays until March, prefers to use Valrhona, a premium French chocolate. The 66-percent dark chocolate pellets he uses are “bitter but not too bitter, sweet but not too sweet,” he said, adding, “and it’s got creaminess.”

Brad Thomas Parsons, the author of several spirits books, including “Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueur,” likes to add a splash of Braulio, an amaro made in the Italian Alps. The liqueur’s “warming aromatics and distinctive taste instantly evokes an après ski sensation,” Mr. Parsons wrote in an email.

Below, Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Talbott and Mr. Parsons share their favorite recipes for a boozy hot chocolate to enjoy during what may turn out to be a long and possibly dark winter.

(From David Kaplan)

Yield: 1 drink, with ganache left for many more

1 ounce Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal

0.5 ounces Clear Creek Pear Brandy

1 teaspoon Green Chartreuse

0.5 ounces Demerara sugar syrup

5 ounces hot milk

1 heaping tablespoon ganache

Instructions: Temper spirits and syrup in a mixing tin or metal bar shaker, inside a mixing glass full of hot (or boiling water). Once tempered, combine in a glass with ganache, top with 5 ounces hot milk and gently stir.

Garnish: Whipped cream, grated cinnamon, cocoa powder

For the ganache:

16 ounces heavy cream

16 ounces dark chocolate

Instructions: Bring cream to a boil, pour over chocolate and allow to rest for two minutes. Using a whisk, start in the center of the bowl and gently stir in concentric circles spiraling outward. Be gentle or it will get gritty and be patient, it will eventually come together and get smooth. Keep covered at room temperature.

(From Will Talbott)

Yield: 1 drink

10 disks Valrhona dark chocolate (66-percent cacao; sold as callets or féves)

4 disks Valrhona white chocolate

6 ounces steamed milk

0.5 ounces Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

1.5 ounces Wild Turkey Bourbon

Instructions: In a small pot, warm the milk over low/medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, ensuring that the milk does not boil. Add chocolate pieces and stir continually until all chocolate has melted and blended evenly. Pour mixture into a mug and add the bourbon and liqueur.

Garnish: Whipped cream and cocoa powder.

(From the Seattle chef Eli Dahlin and included in Brad Thomas Parsons’ book, “Amaro”)

Yield: 4 to 6 drinks

5 ¾ cups water

¾ cup Demerara sugar

2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped out (use both pod and seeds)

6 Medjool dates, halved

Zest from 1 large orange, cut into strips with a paring knife

13 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup strong brewed coffee or espresso

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

6½ ounces Brancamenta, a mint version of Fernet Branca liqueur

Combine the water, sugar, vanilla, dates and orange zest in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and allow the ingredients to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, discarding the solids and bring back to a boil.

Break chocolate into pieces and place in a large bowl with the cocoa powder. Pour about 1 cup of hot sugar syrup onto the chocolate. Wait 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is homogeneous and smooth. Continue to whisk together liquid and chocolate, adding liquid in 1-cup increments until all of it is incorporated. Stir in the coffee and salt.

Carefully strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan and bring back to a simmer.

When ready to serve, measure out 1½ ounces of Brancamenta into a coffee cup. Pour in ¾ cup of the hot chocolate.

Garnish: Whipped cream and orange zest.



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