Hot chocolate: the best thing ever?

Julia Stanyard 30 January 2015

Fellow students, we have returned to Cambridge. We have returned to a Cambridge, moreover, which is drizzly and grey and miserable, particularly if your college, like my own, has decided that simply switching off the heating would be a fantastic way to economise. The holidays are over and we are haunted by the spectres of unfinished essays, unread texts and the all-seeing eye of Sauron, also known as my Director of Studies. 

What can help us in these desperate times? I think I have the answer: there is one drink to rule them all. I know what you’re thinking, but actually it’s not Sainsbury’s Basics vodka, which can be described as a ‘slippery slope’ at best. Nor is it one pound Jagerbombs despite their impressive money-to-alcohol ratio. It’s not even that most British of beverages, the trusty cup of builder’s tea. 

Naturally, I am referring to the good old hot chocolate. Settle in out of the miserable weather, cocoon yourself in several blankets and a hot water bottle, and throw all your tenuously-held New Years dieting resolutions to the winds in a cholesterol-filled extravaganza.

Not meaning to blow my own trumpet too much, but I consider myself something of an expert in the field of hot chocolate, as it has been my obsession since about the age of ten. Although few people believe me when I say this (although some of them do question my sanity) hot chocolate making really is an art form.

So without further ado, some basic requirements must be addressed. Firstly, hot chocolate made with boiling water is little more than a sacrilege and should be avoided like the plague. In all seriousness, it is an insult to the senses. In fact, even milk is a slightly unappealing option, until topped up with a little splash (or more) of double cream to make the perfect silky consistency.

My first serving suggestion is of course the classic Bailey’s hot chocolate, as naturally the only possible way of improving creamy chocolatiness is to add alcohol. The knack with this little number is perfecting the amount of Baileys, as too much can cause the milk to easily form a skin, which is of course revolting. Luckily this can be counteracted by limiting the Baileys but adding a teaspoon of vanilla extract for flavour.

Another personal favourite is the Christmas hot chocolate, the most delicious way possible of harking back to the holidays. This involves adding just a splash of ginger wine, a quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half-teaspoon of grated orange zest, which must be added to the milk whilst heating, mixed thoroughly, then left to settle. If ginger wine is unavailable (admittedly it isn’t a usual student essential) simply increase the quantities of cinnamon and orange for a less indulgent but still delicious beverage.

Finally, for the more adventurous amongst you is the Aztec Hot Chocolate. This also involves a half-teaspoon of cinnamon, but also crucially a tiny pinch of Cayenne pepper (or less tiny if you dare). This one provides the ideal mix of comfort and spicy kick for a mid-essay crisis break.

My last message to all fellow hot chocolate lovers everywhere is to get creative. Use marshmallows, use whipped cream, use sprinkles and biscuits and spice and all things nice. One time over Christmas I used edible glitter and it was wonderful. Hot chocolate is an art form: let’s keep it that way.