With all the snow and cold days we've been having over the past few weeks, I've been finding solace with as much comfort food as possible. A big bowl of gumbo or meatballs goes a long way in making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But sometimes I need a little more than comfort food. When my fireplace is revved up and the snowflakes are falling, nothing makes me quite as happy as a mug of warm, homemade hot cocoa.
Of course, the best, most comforting hot cocoa means it must be extra decadent, and that's exactly what this recipe is. Unlike most hot cocoa recipes, my homemade hot cocoa doesn't just rely on milk. I also use a little heavy cream, which gives this homemade hot cocoa a thicker, richer, more velvety body. When it comes to hot cocoa, I'm not in the business of skimping.
Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate
Considering that this is hot cocoa, my recipe also uses cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. We tend to use hot chocolate as the blanket term, but there's actually a difference between the two with hot cocoa using cocoa powder and hot chocolate using melted chocolate. I love both and think it's fun to change it up.
You can use any type of cocoa powder you prefer, but I especially love using dark cocoa powder. I find the flavor is a bit deeper and richer, which is exactly what I want in my hot cocoa. Remember, it's all about decadence.
Not only is this truly the best homemade hot cocoa you could ever try but it's also a breeze to whip up. Honestly, you'll wonder why you ever bothered with prepackaged hot cocoa mix when this recipe is so easy and about a million times more delicious. Let's get into it.
To start, we pour milk, heavy cream, cocoa powder, white sugar, dark brown sugar and vanilla extract into a saucepan. You might panic when you see this clumpy mess of cocoa powder.
Tip: For a holiday twist, you can swap the milk and heavy cream for my favorite Baileys eggnog.
But don't worry. Just keep whisking and it'll smooth out like this.
Ahhhh! See? Photographic proof. Now we simply heat the hot cocoa until it reaches a nice serving temperature. For warm drinks, that's generally around 160-185 degrees in case you want to get extra thorough and use a thermometer.
If we want to keep it fuss-free, we can pour the hot cocoa into a mug and enjoy as is. Or we can get fancy and rim our glasses with hot fudge, chopped nuts and cacao nibs and then top it with a generous heaping of whipped cream or marshmallows. Your choice.
Best Alcohol for Boozy Hot Cocoa
Want to booze up your hot cocoa for an adult version with a little added warmth? No problem. While this hot cocoa is amazing without the booze, I also like adding a little extra kick when I'm feeling peppy, so I consider myself an expert in this area. As it turns out, we have so many delicious options. Here are some I recommend.
- Peppermint schnapps
- Butterscotch schnapps
- Bourbon (consider this vanilla bean-orange-infused bourbon)
- Dark rum
- Coconut rum
- Marshmallow vodka
- Whipped cream vodka
- Cointreau or Grand Marnier
OK, I think you have enough ideas to get you started. ?
You might be tempted to go all in on the chocolate and grab a big brownie, but sometimes you can have too much chocolate. That combination would be overwhelming and possibly leave your stomach feeling not so great. Not the best situation.
Instead, I recommend balancing this hot cocoa with a light snack. Some spiced nuts with a touch of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are perfect. Warm spices and chocolate were made for each other, and I love how the spices add some complexity and contrast to our dessert in a glass.
The next time you find yourself craving something warm and comforting, I hope you try this homemade hot cocoa.
Looking for Another Comforting Drink?
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The Best Homemade Hot Cocoa
- Medium saucepan
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- ⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 1-2 ounces your favorite alcohol or liqueur optional
- Chocolate fudge for garnish, optional
- Chopped pecans for garnish, optional
- Cacao nibs for garnish, optional
- Marshmallows for garnish, optional
- Whipped cream for garnish, optional
- In a saucepan over medium heat, pour in the whole milk and heavy cream. Add the white sugar, dark brown sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
- Whisk the mixture until the cocoa powder smooths out.
- Heat the mixture until it warms to serving temperature, whisking frequently. The ideal serving temperature for warm drinks is 160-185 degrees. The mixture will hit this temperature range before simmering.
- If desired, rim the glasses with chocolate fudge, chopped pecans and cacao nibs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows. Pour into mugs and serve. Enjoy!
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.