There are several reasons I enjoy the season of winter unlike no other, and the ability to enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate without breaking into a sweat covers about 80% of them. Seriously, there's so much more to a cup of hot cocoa than it being a yummy beverage. It's the feeling of homely comfort packaged into a drinkable mug. When the temperatures outside plummet to the level of chilly discomfort, there's nothing that works to get those dopamine levels up like wrapping yourself in the plushiest of blankets, putting on a cheesy holiday movie, and sipping on some heavenly hot chocolate.
But taking into account that this is my winter ritual every single year, I won't blame you if you told me you're bored of the classic recipe. Because, in all frankness, so am I. Maybe bored isn't the right word here, considering I'll still pick it over any other winter special drink. But the itch to experiment and add a twist of your own, is only natural. And I'm here to help you satisfy that. With that thought in mind, let's get into our list of 10 mouthwatering ingredients that'll elevate the taste of your hot chocolate, to a whole different tangent!
1. Caramel Syrup
Make your own fancy coffeeshop-suitable hot chocolate, by adding a salted caramel twist to the concoction. In fact, salted caramel hot chocolate is one of the most sought after winter-themed drinks at crowd-favourite beverage spots like Starbucks. The salty-sweet addition really takes the taste up several notches by adding some depth to the flavour profile. You can get a bottle of packaged caramel syrup, and add a pinch of sea salt to get the desired results.
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2. Vanilla Extract
Add a splash of vanilla extract to your instant hot chocolate for a zing of flavour and aroma. Vanilla extract in itself comprises of a complex flavour profile, and when you add it to the sweet beverage, it mixes things up brilliantly. The warm, floral notes of this ingredient can amp up the feeling of comfort in your cuppa, while adding a soul-soothing smell that pleases all your senses at once. Vanilla extract also comes with several health-enhancing benefits. Be sure to only add a small amount, or the bitterness can become a bit overwhelming.
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3. White Chocolate Shavings
If you're someone who approaches their desserts and drinks with a perspective, there's nothing that can compound the taste of your hot chocolate, like adding some more chocolate into the mix. Milk chocolate shavings are perfect for this task. This ingredient is ideal for when you find yourself in an indulgent mood this winter, and can't be bothered with buzzkill thoughts like counting the calories you're consuming!
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4. Peppermint Extract
Dial up the refreshing quality of your hot chocolate by adding a small swish of peppermint extract into the mug. If you're someone who enjoys the taste of mint, and harbours a fondness for experiencing clashing flavours that somehow work well together, this is the ingredient you should be on the lookout for on your next grocery trip. Also, the taste and smell of peppermint always remind me of the end-of-year festive season, so I really can't think of a better Christmas drink to amp up your holiday spirit with!
Image Courtesy: Medical News Today
5. Maple Syrup
Did you think maple syrup only belongs on top of your pancakes and waffles? Well, think again! The flavours of chocolate and maple syrup complement one another brilliantly, and the outcome is a mix that's a total delight to the senses. Maple syrup is such a classic cold-weather ingredient to add to any recipe, so suffice it to say, it's only going to make your hot chocolate that much better. It's also a great substitute for sugar, so if you're worried about downing a beverage full of calories, this one can ease your concerns!
Image Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials
6. Cinnamon Sticks
I guess this is where I confess about the soft spot I hold in my heart and stomach for the flavour of cinnamon. First off, what is with that decadent smell? It instantly transforms you to a happier, cosier place! And when you read about the mile-long list of health benefits cinnamon brings with it, the decision to add some to your drink only solidifies. It also adds a load of warm spicy flavours to the beverage, and makes you feel all fuzzy inside!
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7. Peanut Butter
Honestly, I've never really been much of a peanut butter enthusiast. Until, of course, I stumbled across a peanut butter hot chocolate recipe online, and let my tastebuds make the call. Well, I'm glad to announce my mind has changed, and how! Add a spoonful of peanut butter in a bowl with a creamy sweetener, and whip them together till you have a gooey solution. Add the mix to your hot chocolate, and stir till it dissolves and mixes well. Next, just relish in your artisanal hot chocolate cup!
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8. Tabasco Hot Sauce
All my fellow spice lovers, where you at? If I've learnt anything through my culinary experiences, it's that literally, any recipe can go from blah to hell yeah! with a drizzle of Tabasco hot sauce. But while I always added a touch to my cocktails, I didn't expect this trick to work so well in the case of a sweet beverage like hot cocoa. Guess what? It did! Hot, spicy, sweet and warm, if that's what you like your drinks to taste like, add this ingredient without so much as a shadow of a doubt.
Image Courtesy: The Today Show
9. Black Coffee
Sometimes, you just need that extra kick on a cold, frosty morning to get out of your bed, and onto your desk. Especially what with everybody working from home for ages now. A good helping of black coffee or freshly made espresso added into your hot chocolate can get you the best of both worlds. You get to enjoy the rich taste of your cocoa, while also getting a much-needed boost of energy to be productive during chilly winter days!
Image Courtesy: Unique Times Magazine
10. Malibu Coconut Rum
The kid version of me may have loved the classic hot chocolate cup more than anything, but adult me enjoys adding boozy flavours to practically every kind of drink. So, if you're on a similar mission, some flavour liqueur is the perfect ingredient to reach for when stirring up your hot chocolate. We'd highly suggest you go for the iconic Malibu Coconut Rum, so you can pretend to be snowed in AND chilling on a beach, at the same time!
Image Courtesy: Wine Liquor Store
Season of winter? Excuse you, do you mean hot chocolate weather?