Entertain this delicious drink: Hot chocolate
Sometimes eating chocolate is not enough.
As temperatures drop, a decadent, chocolatey beverage to warm the body and hands is needed. And with Parade of Lights, early morning Christmas shopping outings and other wintry pursuits coming in the days ahead, hot chocolate definitely is a sweet idea for adults and children alike.
Whether it’s called hot chocolate or hot cocoa matters little, local beverage artists said. What matters more are the ingredients used to make it.
Tyler Graff, manager at Traders Coffee and Tea, said the secret to hot chocolate is using steamed milk instead of water and a liquid chocolate syrup and dry cocoa powder mix combined in the milk. The powder is 70 percent dark chocolate and 30 percent milk chocolate.
“Milk chocolate can be too sweet,” Graff said.
To spice things up for customers with a minimal sweet tooth, Traders, 666 Patterson Road, Suite J, also serves a Mexican cocoa with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and chili powder.
Both beverages are topped with whipped cream, of course.
Although most places around the Grand Valley vary their hot chocolate recipes, the one thing that stays relatively consistent is the use of whole milk instead of water, Graff and others said.
For example, Enstrom Candies, 701 Colorado Ave., uses steamed whole milk and ground Enstrom’s chocolate to make its hot chocolate. That’s it, said Charlene Watson, Grand Junction-area manager for the store. Enstrom also has retail locations along Patterson Road and in Fruita.
“It’s made with good ol’ fashioned ingredients,” Watson said.
The beverage is topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle. People can substitute soy or low-fat milk in for whole milk.
But for some even whole milk isn’t decadent enough for hot chocolate.
Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St., takes hot chocolate to another level.
The Polar Express used to be seasonal but now is sold year-round, supervisor Adrian Soleta said.
The Polar Express uses half and half — half milk and half cream — instead of whole milk, making the drink thicker and sweeter.
Dark chocolate syrup and real semi-sweet chocolate chunks are melted into the half and half. It is topped with whipped cream.
Main Street Bagels also offers a standard hot chocolate, which is popular with children.
“Kids tend to go with the regular hot chocolate, but adults go for (the Polar Express),” Soleta said.
Depending on age, taste seems to change when it comes to hot chocolate.
Graff admitted that as he’s gotten older he finds himself drinking fewer hot chocolates. If adults drink hot chocolate, at least some adults Graff knows, they typically spike it with flavored alcohol.
Non-alcoholic peppermint and dark cherry syrups are the most popular flavor additions to hot chocolate at Traders.
Fruit-flavored liqueurs, such as cherry or raspberry, or alcoholic drinks with a mint or peppermint kick mesh well with chocolate and are available in most liquor stores.
But maybe the best addition to classic hot chocolate has no alcohol, milk or chocolate at all. It’s marshmallows.
Wayne Smith, chef instructor with Western Colorado Community College’s culinary arts program, has a homemade marshmallow recipe he likes to use.
Smith also makes a homemade hot cocoa powder mix to give as gifts. The mix includes real chocolate ground into powder because real chocolate has cocoa butter, which adds creaminess and body to the drink.
The powder is added to a hot beverage and paired with a light, crisp cookie but nothing more because the drink is “so rich already,” Smith said.
As a chef, Smith is aware there are plenty of people who firmly believe the best things come to those who wait.
And with that, he admitted, people who take the time to slowly melt real chocolate into real cream over a hot stove will have a truly delicious drink to warm any cold day.