Wintertime Survival Guide

Cocoa Loco

It’s been hot chocolate season for a while now. Three experts share ways you can amp up a classic.

By Adam Ried
January 30, 2011

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Classic Hot Cocoa

Serves 4

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed

1/3 cup light brown sugar


3¼ cups whole milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together cocoa, brown sugar, salt, and 3/4 cup water until smooth. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, making sure the whisk gets into the edges of the pan. Add the milk, whisk to combine, increase heat to medium, and bring to a simmer (do not boil), whisking occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and whisk to combine. Divide among 4 cups and serve at once.

Ming Tsai, chef of Blue Ginger in Wellesley and star of the TV series Simply Ming, uses Vietnamese cinnamon and Korean chili flakes to kick up plain cocoa.

To make hot chocolate super-rich, says Nicole Coady, executive chef of Finale Desserterie in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, use cream instead of milk. And to approximate Finale’s decadent hazelnut brew, she suggests stirring in Nutella – plenty of it.

America’s Test Kitchen star Chris Kimball likes to top cocoa with Tuccelli vanilla marshmallows. They’re handmade on the South Shore and sold online (14 for $12) at

(Photograph by Jim Scherer)