A connoisseur's boozy hot chocolate involves two very ‘fancy’ elements: The finest alcohol, and the finest chocolate (of the specialty category). Fine hot chocolate doesn't have to be complicated.
We are chasing a flavour experience here, as opposed to the more traditional marshmallow-topped, sweeter affair.
It boils down to knowing the personalities of the ingredients which we are working with. Case in point, here are three (almost) effortless recipes I've concocted, using various types of chocolate and port. Why port? Because port wine is one of the easiest alcohols to pair with chocolate, given its sweet, dessert appeal. Also, who amongst us isn't dreaming of a vacation in sunny Portugal, weekend in Douro Valley included, at this very moment?
I am conscious that not everyone is spending the holidays with loved ones and as such, have
provided recipes for one. The recipes can be easily multiplied by the number of people.
Photo: Shobitha Ramadasan
The White Christmas (White Hot Chocolate with White Port)
The bright acidity of White Port balances the sweetness of white chocolate. I recommend the vanilla white hot chocolate from Gra, or plain white chocolate from Hotel Chocolat or Cocoa Atelier.
1. Heat 1 cup of full-fat milk or Barista grade plant milk
2. Add in 2 level tablespoons of finely chopped white chocolate. Mix.
3. Add a generous pinch each of nutmeg and cinnamon
4. Once fully dissolved, remove from heat and add in 2 tablespoons of white port. Make it 3 if you're feeling bold.
The Hygge (Milk Hot Chocolate with Tawny Port)
Basic tawny ports carry notes of caramel, toffee and some nuttiness - all which pair beautifully with
the creamy dairy notes of milk chocolate. This is ultra-comforting, and I recommend Exploding Tree’s 75% Dark (intensity will lighten once melted into milk) or Irish Milk 45%.
1. Heat 1 cup of whole fat milk or Barista grade plant milk
2. Once it reaches a simmer, add 2.5 heaping tablespoons of milk chocolate (finely chopped or
powdered). Use a whisk if necessary.
3. Once any lumps have dissolved into a uniform mixture, remove from heat.
4. Add in 3 tablespoons of tawny port and stir.
The Dark Secret (Dark Hot Chocolate with Ruby Port)
Be careful with this one, as this is ‘sipping chocolate’ (chocolate with water instead of milk) and delivers a deep cacao punch. Any dark chocolate won't do; we need a quality fruity number with cacao notes of berries often found in Dominican Republic, Madagascar or some Ecuadorian origins. I recommend Hazel Mountain Single Origin Hot Chocolate (Ecuadorian cacao, full of dried fruit and plum notes), The Proper Chocolate Company's 70% Dominican Republic or Bean & Goose’s Winter Spice Hot Chocolate.
1. Heat 1 cup of water
2. Once it reaches a simmer, add 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate (finely chopped or powdered). Use
a whisk if needed.
3. Once lumps have dissolved into a uniform mixture, remove from heat.
4. Add in 3 tablespoons of ruby port and stir.
If you like a mulled wine touch, take those stewed fruit notes up a notch by adding in a little
piece/pinch of cinnamon, clove and star anise when heating the water. Remove before pouring.
Photo: Shobitha Ramadasan
The beauty of homemade hot chocolate is accessible decadence and shouldn't require professional bartending skills to make a worthy cup. Remember, these recipes are guidelines. Your tastebuds are
the best judge of what works well for you. In other words, if you fancy using ruby port in your hot white chocolate because to you, it's reminiscent of a berry pavlova - go for it.