It’s dark early now, and the spirit needs a lift. This spiced hot chocolate is, for me, an instant-good-mood substance, especially with a tiny glass of Cointreau or amaretto served alongside.
Many substitutions can be made in this recipe. You might add a bit of instant coffee or espresso powder, or use ground cardamom instead of cayenne for a bright burst of orange. A pinch of chipotle in place of the cayenne will add a smoky undertone and subtler heat, if that is preferable. You could also simply add a pinch of finely ground aniseed to the powdered chocolate/sugar mixture and have a liquorice-flavored drink. You’re free to use milk instead of water, but the drink is intense as it is, and milk might lull the palate–and the rest of you–to sleep. I prefer to enjoy the effects of this elixir with open eyes.
Spiced Hot Chocolate
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate (preferably 60-70% cocoa)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Break the chocolate into smallish pieces and whiz in a food processor until the texture of coarse meal. By the time you achieve this, some of the chocolate will already be powdery, which is fine (see photo below).
Remove your chocolate to a bowl. Add the sugar and ground spices, and stir very well to ensure even distribution.
Place 2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the chocolate mixture and stir–a rubber spatula is helpful for breaking up any larger bits of chocolate. At this point I froth it in the pan for a moment with an Aerolatte. A good whisking will work just as well and ensure an even, velvety texture. If you prefer a thinner drink, stir in a little more water, simmer a moment, and whisk again.
Pour into espresso cups. Serve with a glass of liqueur or a long drink of water.
Serves 6, in espresso-sized cups. For a single serving, use 1/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons water and 1/4 cup chocolate powder. Stir the chocolate mixture before measuring, as the spices may have settled.