Over the course of the most festive month of the year, in Spike Glee, Allison Shoemaker will explore the wonderful world of slipping some alcohol into a hot beverage, screwing the top on your travel mug, and heading out the door like a boss with a secret. The first beverage up: your trusty old sweet standby, hot chocolate.
Let’s start with one very important guideline for drinking boozy hot chocolate: You go ahead and use whatever chocolate base you want. There’s no need to be snobby about it, because you’re going to be adding richness to whatever you’re drinking anyway. Want to use fancy drinking chocolate? Go for it. Hershey’s in milk? Just fine. Giant tub of Swiss Miss, like the one that I may happen to have in my cupboard right now? Works too. Whatever you like. Don’t overthink it. It’s going to taste good, and it’s going to contain booze, and that, my friends, is our business.
So you’ve got your hot chocolate, and you’re feeling festive. What next? What else goes in there? Sprinkles work, so do marshmallows, and whipped cream is a personal favorite. But come on, it’s time to add some booze.
Everything that follows should be added to your taste—a wee dram is good, a healthy pour is good, it’s the holidays, you’re a grown up, be safe but do you what you want.) I’ve touched on a few different flavors or qualities—creamy, sweet, rich, spiced, smoky—and made one big recommendation for each, but my biggest piece of advice is this: Is it alcohol that sounds like it would be good in hot chocolate? Try it. All it’ll cost you if it tastes bad is your wee dram and a couple scoops out of that giant Swiss Miss container.
And if all else fails, just pour in a tot of a good rye. Whiskey is delicious.
Creamy: Jackson Morgan Southern Cream
Normally, I’ll be giving you a specific spirit, not just a brand, but nearly every flavor of Jackson Morgan would be freakin’ great in hot cocoa (and I can vouch that the peppermint mocha, brown sugar and cinnamon, and salted caramel are delicious, with the last a particular favorite). I have yet to encounter the bread pudding or banana pudding bottles in the wild, but I think they’d both be great, though perhaps the peaches and cream might not be the best bet. The creamy richness makes for a perfect addition to cocoa (and coffee), and while they’re extremely sweet, when diluted throughout another beverage, it becomes the perfect smooth note. I’m such a fan.
Similarly tasty: Kerrygold Irish Cream (like Bailey’s, but not)
Fruity: Oma’s Cherry Vodka
This should be pretty self-explanatory. Oma’s Cherry Vodka, a craft spirit dreamed up by a woman with a pretty extraordinary life, is extremely cherry-flavored (150 cherries per bottle). Hot chocolate is chocolate-flavored. Adding Oma’s to hot chocolate makes the delicious travel mug in your hands taste like a melty chocolate-covered cherry. It’s delicious. 80 proof.
Similarly tasty: Fragola Wild Strawberry Liqueur (like this, but strawberries)
Rich: Mozart Chocolate Liqueur
Another straightforward proposition. Is your only complaint about hot chocolate that it isn’t chocolatey enough? Have I got a very pretty bottle for you. This stuff is insanely rich—like, pour over ice cream in very small doses or you’ll short circuit your brain rich—and makes even my Swiss Miss extremely decadent.
Similarly tasty: There’s always Godiva, but this stuff is the tops.
Spiced: Ålander Spiced Rum (Far North Spirits)
Think about all the flavors in spiced rum. Now imagine them in hot chocolate. You’re welcome. I like this one in particular because Ålander has notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel, as well as the things you’d expect of a spiced rum—allspice, nutmeg, etc. It’s complex and insanely sippable. Not a cheap bottle, but one that will get a lot of love on your bar cart and is delicious with just an iced cube.
Similarly tasty: Is it spiced rum? Does it taste like anything besides alcohol? Give it a go.
Smoky: Bank Note Blended Scotch (or Scotch in general)
Bank Note isn’t aggressively smoky. There’s also some vanilla, a little nuttiness, but it’s very mellow all around. Still, the hint is nice, and while a tasty bargain scotch, this isn’t so remarkable a spirit that you’re going to feel like a jackass pouring it into your mug. The point here is that there’s some of that peaty goodness, and that’s amazing with cocoa. You don’t want something too aggressively peaty, nor something with no smokiness at all (then it’s just whiskey—still good, but not what we’re aiming for). This does the trick.
Next time: The best ways to spike cider.