[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Winter might be halfway over, but round these parts it seems like things are just beginning to get really cold. We love our hot drinks around here, and if you're feeling really lazy (who isn't on a cold winter's day?), you can do worse than snuggling up with a cup of boiling water, a packet of Swiss Miss, and a bottle of rum. Go ahead and do it—we won't judge you.
But if you feel like fancying things up a bit, here are a baker's half dozen easy ways to spike your hot chocolate, complete with fancy-pants garnishes and measurements to boot!
Click through the slideshow above to check out each drink, or just jump straight to the recipes with the links below, then tell us: How do you like to spike your hot chocolate?
Orange Pisco Hot Chocolate brings orange liqueur and pisco together. It comes off with the scent of a jaffa cake and the flavor of a foil-wrapped chocolate orange—but better. Orange zest rubbed on the rim adds some fresh citrus aroma and candied orange peel makes for a perfect edible garnish.
Tequila Mint Hot Chocolate is the simplest combination we've got, but it's a winner. Peppermint and tequila come together for an icy-hot punch.
Salted Butterscotch Hot Chocolate could start with a commercial butterscotch or caramel base, but it's so much more fun (and tastier) to make your own out of real sugar, Scotch, and cream. Remember to reserve a little bit to drizzle over the whipped cream on top. If you've got some nice flaky sea salt, now would be the time to pull it out.
Better Than Baileys Hot Chocolate one ups the classic. It's easy enough to spike your cocoa with a couple glugs of sweet, creamy Baileys, but mixing in the individual flavors—almond, coffee, vanilla, and Irish whiskey—allows you to fine tune them just the way you like them (hint: try extra whiskey).
Guinness, Baileys, and Jameson Irish Whiskey Hot Chocolate: You probably know these flavors better by their explosively politically incorrect moniker, but changing the name doesn't make it any less delicious. Unless you enjoy curdled cement mixer-style Baileys, do not—I repeat do not—mix your Baileys with your whiskey until you've diluted it into the hot chocolate. The key to great roasty Guinness flavor? Reduce it on the stovetop into a concentrated syrup first.
Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate is the obligatory bacon version. Forget wussy crumbled bacon on top. For this one, we emulsify bacon fat right into the drink. Drinkable liquid bacon? Yep. Bourbon is a natural pair for cured pork, and Frangelico adds a nutty sweetness.
Aztec Chile and Cinnamon Hot Chocolate combines classic flavors from the ancient home of hot chocolate. Made with bittersweet chocolate, this guy is rich, thick, and complex with a bit of heat and fruity flavor from dried ancho chiles, some cinnamon spice, and plenty of smokiness from a generous shot of mezcal. Don't have mezcal on hand? You can also try it with aged rum or tequila.