Meg's Egg Nog got our week of delicious alcohol-laden holiday drinks off to a strong start. I'm not much of an egg nog fan, though. I liked the egg nog Meg made one year for a Christmas celebration with her family, but most of the time I'd rather leave than take the nog.
What I do like is hot chocolate. It reminds me of childhood days, dragging a sled up the sledding hill in the suburb I grew up in. When I say "hill" I really mean an embankment for the Eisenhower expressway as it crossed the Northwestern railroad tracks. Usually the run we took involved jumping rusty junk in a hole at the bottom of the hill. "Suicide Run" was the steeper slope that led down the hill and emptied out almost directly onto the railroad tracks where freight and commuter trains whizzed by. We all loved that run and all got at least one good scare from it.
Looking back, we weren't the brightest kids, but somehow we all survived.
Anyway, after a long day of sledding, our friend's mother would make us hot chocolate with tiny little marshmallows floating in it. The frost would drop off our feet and our ears would warm from blue to a bright pink again as we sipped. These suggestions help recreate the feel of a warm hot chocolate on a cold winter day, but with the added bonus of booze. Enjoy!
Basic Hot Chocolate - 1 (makes two mugs)
2 tablespoons Droste or other Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons milk
3 cups milk
In a small bowl or cup, mix the 2 tablespoons of cocoa, sugar, and milk together until you have a loose paste. Heat the 3 cups of milk and mix with the paste. Don't boil the milk, but get it to a drinkably hot temperature. Serve as is with mini-marshmallows, or adulterate as below before serving:
For Peppermint Hot Chocolate, add three shots of peppermint schnapps and a drop of peppermint oil if you have it. The schnapps by itself doesn't quite give it the peppermint kick I like, but it pleasant enough by itself. If you garnish with a peppermint stick or candy cane, be aware that it will melt into the drink as time goes by, increasing the peppermint flavor of the chocolate (not unpleasantly so).
For Spicy Orange Hot Chocolate, add three shots of Grand Marnier or cointreau and simmer a bag of spices including cardamom, star anise, and cinnamon in the chocolate for ten minutes, still not letting the beverage boil. Remove bag and serve. Garnish with a curl of orange peel. If you wish, you may add a splash of nutmeg, and cayenne or ancho chile powder for more spice.
For Oaxacan-style Hot Chocolate, ditch the above method of making and get Mexican hot chocolate tablets (which usually contain some cinnamon), and prepare according to the instructions on the package. If you can't find these tablets, use the chocolate recipe above and add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Add ancho chile powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and three tequila shots.
There are dozens of possible combinations. Try hot chocolate with Bailey's or Amaretto or Frangelico or add dark rum and spices for a different sensation.
If a flavor goes with chocolate, try it in the chocolate. About the only plausible drink I don't think I'd try in the hot chocolate is port. I'm not optimistic about how that combination would taste.