Hot cocoa with marshmallows is a staple of the holiday season, but there’s nothing wrong with improving a classic. If you’re looking for a cheerful treat to concoct between study sessions or a well-deserved reward after finals, grab an instant hot cocoa packet and your favorite mug and check out our favorite twists on this wintertime beverage. Hot cocoa will never be the same again! (Bonus: These variations can easily be made in your dorm!)
1. Add a couple drops of peppermint extract and/or stir in a candy cane.
There’s a reason why the mint and chocolate combo works. The refreshing chill of the peppermint perfectly complements the warm, rich cocoa. If you have a bottle of peppermint extract on hand, shake a few drops (just a bit is enough) into a prepared mug of cocoa and stir. No peppermint extract? No worries! Just take a candy cane and stir it into the cocoa until most of the cane has melted into the drink.
2. Add a tablespoon of melted creamy peanut butter.
It’s like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in drink form! In a microwave-safe bowl, scoop in a tablespoon of creamy peanut butter and microwave for 10 seconds, or until the peanut butter is somewhat thin and liquid-y. Stir into prepared hot cocoa for a peanut butter cup in your cup.
3. Add a dash of cayenne pepper and/or cinnamon (for Mexican hot chocolate).
Although traditional Mexican hot chocolate can be foamy and semi-bitter, you can make a dorm-friendly variation of the beverage with a hot cocoa packet and some ground cayenne pepper and/or cinnamon. Stir in a dash of each to literally spice up your hot cocoa!
4. Use white chocolate instead of milk/semisweet chocolate.
Most classic hot cocoa drinks have milk or semisweet chocolate as their base, so switch things up a little by using white chocolate instead! Heat one cup of milk in a saucepan or in the microwave, and chop up a regular-sized bar of white chocolate. Then, whisk the milk and the chocolate together until smooth.
5. Add a dash of espresso powder for hot mocha.
If you need a kick while studying for finals. but don’t want to drop another five dollars at Starbucks, this is your way to go. Stir a dash of espresso powder or a teaspoon of instant coffee into hot chocolate for a classic mocha drink.
6. Add chopped pieces of leftover Halloween chocolate candy.
It’s the yearly Halloween mystery: We didn’t go trick-or-treating, but how did we end up with so much candy? One way to utilize the excess sweets is to chop up some of the chocolate candies and add them to hot cocoa! The extra chocolate and the fillings of the candy will give the hot cocoa a sweeter flavor and a thicker, creamier texture. This method works best with chocolate candies that do not have chunky fillings; for example, Snickers and Kit-Kats might not end up so well, but Milky Ways, Rolos and Charleston Chews would be a hit.
7. Add a dash of leftover pumpkin pie spice from Thanksgiving.
If Autumn’s pumpkin craze left your jar of pumpkin pie spice near-empty, finish it off by adding it to your hot cocoa. It will be like putting the last three months of the year into one mug!
8. Top with Lucky Charms marshmallows instead of regular marshmallows.
Let’s be honest: Lucky Charms marshmallows have more going for them than traditional marshmallows anyway. They are sweeter and look cooler than the white puffs that usually adorn our cocoa. Sometimes, you need a break from the monotony. Plus, their smaller size allows you to pile on a greater amount!
9. Stir in the whipped cream instead of adding it on top.
Speaking of breaking from tradition, who says whipped cream always has to be on top of your hot chocolate? If you’re feeling a lighter-flavored cocoa, try stirring in the whipped cream to slightly dilute the chocolate flavor and add a creamier texture.
10. Add fruity flavors such as raspberry extract or orange zest.
Chocolate and fruit always seem to work together. Although most college students don’t have fruit extracts on hand, if your dorm kitchen happens to stock raspberry or cherry extract, add a few drops into your cocoa for a fruity twist. For a citrusy flavor, add orange extract or fresh orange zest!
Not only are the above methods great on their own, but any combination or variation of them would be delicious as well. Your mug is brimming with endless possibilities; explore them!
Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons