One Hot Mama Drinking Chocolate
This is NOT mildly-flavored, American-style hot cocoa, which is typically made with cocoa powder, or sometimes with chocolate syrup. Rather, it is European-style drinking or hot chocolate, which is made with high-quality bar chocolate.
Once you have had hot chocolate made in this way, you won’t settle for anything else. I prefer the lesser amount of chocolate specified below, but if you want an extra-rich drink, use the greater amount.
SERVING NOTE I typically make this entire amount and then refrigerate it until needed, usually retreiving one portion at a time over a few days.
4½ cups whole milk
6-8 ounces, premium, bittersweet bar chocolate (65%-75% cacao), roughly chopped (consider organic, single origin chocolate)
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1 cardamom pod, shell discarded, seeds crushed
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like the heat) 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (with perhaps a bit more to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch fine sea salt (don’t even think about leaving this out)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped and lightly sweetened
finely zested orange peel
- In a saucepan, over medium-low heat, bring the milk to just below a simmer.
- Lower the heat to keep the milk below the simmer, and then add the chocolate, orange zest, cardamom, pepper flakes, and brown sugar.
- Stir or whisk until the chocolate is melted.
- Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla and sea salt. Taste, and add a bit more brown sugar if needed.
- Let the flavors meld as long as you can wait (refrigerate if you need to hold longer than an hour), reheat if necessary, strain into a 1-quart pitcher, and then divide equally into six, eight-ounce capacity, Irish coffee mugs. (Each serving will contain six ounces of hot chocolate, leaving you room for a topping of whipped cream, which is a necessary embellishment to my palate. However, if prefer not to add whipped cream, check out the Aerolatte milk frother, which will give you a frothy head without any additional calories; or use the steamer of an espresso machine.)
- Top each serving with a generous mound of whipped cream (for speed, ease, and perfect whipped cream every time, check out the amazing isi cream whip) and freshly zested orange peel. Serve immediately.
Makes six 6-ounce servings.
Is it Drinking Chocolate, Hot Chocolate or Hot Cocoa?
I spent a lively and interesting half hour on the phone with Aubrey Lindley, co-owner of the Cacao DrinkChocolate establishment this past week, trying to get to the heart of the distinction between drinking chocolate, hot chocolate, and hot cocoa. I was set to tell you (after quite a bit of research) that drinking chocolate is made with bar chocolate and liquid (typically water, milk, or cream), whereas hot chocolate is made with unsweetened cocoa powder and milk (with perhaps some cream). But this declaration was going to contradict what I had heard from a couple of the chocolate drink purveyors with whom I had talked. I was prepared to say, well um, that they are all confused.
But Aubrey has worked out the distinctions rather brilliantly I think, and I’m going to go with his thinking on this because it’s clear and it makes sense (adding just a few minor tweaks of my own). This said, you will find that purveyors have their own nomenclature, which may be slightly different from what I suggest below. Here goes:
Drinking Chocolate: High proportion of premium, bittersweet (60%-75% cacao) bar chocolate; hot water, milk, or cream, or some combination thereof; optional spices; served still, rather than steamed or frothed; can be made in bulk in a hot chocolate machine (which holds the melted chocolate in suspension at perfect temperature) or made-to-order; very thick and creamy, almost like melted bar chocolate.
Hot Chocolate: Somewhat lower proportion of premium, bittersweet (60%-75% cacao) bar chocolate; hot water, milk, or cream, or some combination thereof; optional spices; made-to-order; served steamed and/or frothed; slightly to considerably thick and creamy but not as thick as drinking chocolate.
Hot Cocoa: Powdered, unsweetened cocoa with added sugar; optional spices; hot water, milk or cream; typically served frothed and topped with whipped cream or marshmallows; only slightly thicker than the liquid used.
Discovering European-Style Drinking or Hot Chocolate in Portland, Oregon
Owners, Jesse Manis and Aubrey Lindley, are pacesetters on the high-quality chocolate front in Portland. In their shops, they make made-to-order hot chocolate with a variety of world-class chocolate pistols (chocolate buttons), liquid of choice (typically milk or part cream), and just a touch of Dutch-process cocoa powder for added depth of flavor. This drink is steamed and frothed using the steamer of an espresso maker. They also add spices to some of their special offerings.
In addition, they make drinking chocolate, which has the mouth feel of a melted chocolate bar (high viscosity). This drink is kept in perfect suspension and at perfect temperature in a machine made especially for this purpose. It is a still drink, meaning it is not steamed or frothed.
(Many thanks to Aubrey Lindley for his clear explanation of the differences between the three distinctive (and sometimes confused or blurred) chocolate drinks: hot cocoa, hot chocolate, and drinking chocolate.)
Owner, Adam McGovern, sampled a wide variety of top-quality chocolate before deciding on French maker, Michel Cluizel’s Concepcion Single Origin variety. At this excellent coffee house with a university campus vibe, each made-to-order hot chocolate is created with chocolate pistols (one-inch chocolate buttons), steamed with milk, cream, and a pinch of Portuguese salt (using the steamer of an espresso machine). The resulting hot chocolate has a superb flavor (bright, beautifully nuanced, fruity with vanilla and caramel undertones) and is, to my palate, a perfect viscosity for this drink (not too thick).
Owner, Sarah Hart, uses a variety of organic, single origin, premium chocolates in her chocolate drinks, as well as heady spices, such as cardamom and jasmine, and also chiles. At Alma, two chocolate drinks are made: a drinking chocolate (either in a drinking chocolate machine or made-to-order) made with bar chocolate, spices, and milk; and a hot chocolate, made in the same manner but with a greater proportion of milk to chocolate (thus less condensed).
Copyright 2008-2015 Susan S. Bradley. All right reserved.
This is definitely a gift alright! WHO DOES NOT LOVE DRINKING CHOCOLATE?! They shouldn’t be on this planet 😀
YUM. That makes me so want some drinking chocolate right now. I didn’t really know the definition between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. That was a fun piece of knowledge for the morning! And agree, Cacao and Alma are both so great!
P.S. I’m all over the drinking chocolate!
What a lovely gift! I would love to receive this 🙂
Such an informative post! I like my chocolate very strong, but not too thick. Great ideas!
I love cacao. Always like taking people there to experience a little something delicious.
I would LOVE this gift! thanks for this information – so much great stuff here. I just adore drinking chocolate…
What a great gift set to put together!!! It sounds absolutely delicious!
Coffeehouse Northwest – BEST hot chocolate in Portland, hands down!
So I’ve never actually thought of the difference between drinking chocolate and hot cocoa before. Here on forward?? bring on the drinking chocolate!
I’m also a fan of the new Moonstruck Chocolate collaboration with Sunshine Dairy for a very affordable at home version of drinking chocolate
I love drinking chocolate! I never actually thought about the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. I always figured they were the same thing, but just different terms or slang. Interesting!
HMMM! I love a hot cocca, drinking chocolate – pretty much anything chocolate. Yum.
I agree with Marylnn. I love all chocolate! I’ve recently gotten into drinking chocolate myself- love the stuff!!
I’ve often wondered about the difference and sometimes hesitate before using one term over the other because I’m never quite sure I’m being 100% accurate… good to know there’s some healthy debate and no absolute, clear cut answer 🙂 I love it all: drinking chocolate, hot chocolate, hot cocoa – as long as it’s good quality chocolate and piping hot, I will enjoy it!
I love this post! I spent my whole life disliking “hot chocolate” and feeling left out. Then I discovered Williams Sonoma’s “hot chocolate” and realized that what I dislike is my hot cocoas, because they are absurdly sweet and do not have that chocolate mouthfeel you describe. I now make my own from scratch always. Heavy on the chocolate and light on the cocoa. And yes always with a good chocolate. Those recipe that start out with chocolate chips drive me batty!
Ack not MY hot cocoas, but hot cocoas in this country in general!
I never thought about the difference between these—thanks for the lesson! I am a big fan of chocolate any way, including drinking it!
Thanks Susan for sharing this excellent post about the different kinds of chocolates,
What an informative piece. I truly enjoy a good drinking chocolate. The melted chocolate bar affect is everything I love about it. I had never thought about the milk or cream dulling the flavors of the chocolate. I’ll have to give it a go with some water sometime to see the difference. A new chocolate tasting shop opened nearby and I’ve been meaning to go to a tasting and pick up some fine chocolate bars. I’ll have to pick one out specifically for a drinking chocolate.
I was going to type “What a great idea” – but then your comment checker said it was not enough words!!
What’s in a name, right? It looks great no matter what you call it.
I can’t believe how much drinking chocolate has taken off this past year! I agree sometimes that it’s a little heavy, basically melted chocolate. Love your homemade idea and the flavor pairing in your recipe sounds divine Susan!
So happy to read your lovely review of the decadent European sipping chocolate. Thank you!
Photographer in London
Am gonna try that – however coffee tastes best in a nice coffee house.
I did not make it to the NW chocolate Festival last year, I’m going to try and make it this year though!
The Oregon Chocolate Festival is March 6-8th If you come down, let me know and we’ll do some chocolate tasting.
Darn! We will be in the Southwest in March. It sounds like a wonderful event, will definitely try to make it next year. Thanks for the tip!
Bradley, thanks for the compliment on the site, it’s still a work in progress. 🙂 I would bet Cacao has the Michel Cluizel’s Concepcion if you wanted to try it. I like his Cru de Plantation Vila Gracinda better, but they are both amazing bars.
We sell the top five bars from
. It’s a great site and forum for fine chocolate. 🙂
Thanks again for an awesome article!
Wow, Brandon, thank you for all the great tips! I need to go chocolate shopping. 🙂
Coffehouse northwest’s idea of using Michel Cluizel’s Concepcion is brilliant! The middle gives off high notes of carmel finishing with nuts and I bet it makes awesome drinking chocolate! I’m going to run to the shop and get a bar and rush home and try it! 🙂
Thank you, Brandon! You’re right, it really is amazing chocolate. There are so many nuances dancing around on your palate that if you are paying attention, it’s quite an experience. I don’t have a ready source for this bar chocolate but really must locate one soon. I drank the last cup of my latest batch of One Hot Mama Drinking Chocolate last night and need to get another batch going today.
Great post and thank you! We’ve been selling fine chocolate down here in Ashland (or.) for a few years now and have wanted to start offering drinking chocolate….thanks for those definitions. 🙂
To add to your list of the world’s best chocolate: Amedei, Bonnat, Domori and Pralus. I’ve never heard of Weiss being called the world’s best, but hey, you learn something new everyday! 🙂
Thanks again for the article!
Thank you, Brandon! I knew that “world’s best” list would get me in trouble. 🙂 Francois Payard lists Weiss in his top three, and I admit that it puzzled me too. Pralus is beautiful chocolate! I will try to find the other three you mention so that I can sample.
Did you attend the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Portland this past year? I especially appreciated the many chocolate and other ingredient tastings (chocolate and coffee, chocolate and tea, chocolate and herbs and spices, chocolate and red wine). There was even a chocolate and beer booth. I have to work up a chocolate and stout cake this year, maybe for Valentine’s Day. That combination is appearing here and there across the Portland dessert landscape.
Your website is awesome! Would love to see your shop next time I’m in beautiful Ashland.
You post drinking chocolate and I’m snowed in with skim milk and chocolate chips–VBS! I’ll dig my way out! I will make this before the week is out! Thanks.
I’m had the Callebaut chocolate, needs a little something in it. I’m going to try your recipe! Thanks.
Clark, thank you! This drink will be wonderful with Callebaut bittersweet chocolate. I have a serving or two left in the frig from a recent batch, so guess what I’m having tonight?