Take hot chocolate to the next level – The Denver Post

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

For David Kaplan, co-founder of bar group Death & Co, sipping hot cocoa brings him back to his childhood in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “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 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, prefers to use Valrhona, a premium French chocolate. The 66% dark chocolate pellets he uses are “bitter but not too bitter, sweet but not too sweet,” he said.

Brad Thomas Parsons, author of several spirits books, 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,” Parsons wrote in an email.

Below, Kaplan and Talbott share their favorite recipes for a boozy hot chocolate. Don’t forget the whipped cream.

RECIPE: Night Watch

(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

For the ganache:

  • 16 ounces heavy cream
  • 16 ounces dark chocolate


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. Be gentle or it will get gritty, and be patient, it will eventually come together and get smooth. Keep covered at room temperature.

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

RECIPE: The Standard’s Haute Chocolate

(From Will Talbott)

Yield: 1 drink


  • 10 disks Valrhona dark chocolate (66% 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


In a small pot, warm milk over low/medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, ensuring 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 bourbon and liqueur.

Garnish: Whipped cream and cocoa powder.

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