Top 5 Hot Chocolate Recipes for Sipping By the Winter Campfire

A quintessential seasonal drink, there’s something about a steaming mug of hot chocolate that takes you back in time. It’s nostalgic and indulgent. And a drinkable sugary-sweet treat that is totally acceptable to consume copious amounts of when there’s snow on the ground or a campfire is crackling. Ideally, all three are happening at once.

Here at NEMO, we don’t think you ever need a reason to get outside or enjoy a good winter tradition. But if you need one, then sipping a decadent cup of hot chocolate around a roaring fire sounds like a pretty good excuse.

Looking for the right recipe to make for a cold winter night? We made a list of five hot chocolate recipes that will satisfy your cravings and make you feel like a kid again — from a classic, no-fuss cup, to a boozy hot chocolate, and even one with all the toppings (and then some!).

Here’s your guide to the best hot chocolate recipes to sip by the winter campfire this season.

Cheers!

THE CLASSIC HOT CHOCOLATE

Swiss-born, Ilona Oppenheim is the author of Savor, a cookbook inspired by the rustic cuisine she forages and cooks up for her family in her home of Aspen, Colorado. Of course, there’s a strong undercurrent of her Swiss heritage at play and her tasty hot chocolate recipe could warm you up no matter which snow-capped mountain range you’re exploring.

File this one away as a go-to. It’s simplicity at it’s best, with only five ingredients. Oppenheim adds a pinch of fine sea salt to help balance out the sweetness and let the rich flavors shine through without being too heavy. Genius.

Delightful when the weather is frightful, or simply whenever you want, try this classic hot chocolate recipe for yourself.

Serves 4!

  • 1-quart whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon organic sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate, at least 70% cacao, chopped into small pieces

Heat the milk, 1 tablespoon sugar, the cinnamon stick, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. When the milk begins to simmer, lower the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Cook at a low simmer until the chocolate mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Add extra chocolate shavings, a sprinkling of cinnamon, dollop of whipped cream, or cocoa powder if desired.

SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE WITH ROASTED MARSHMALLOWS

On a really cold night, there’s truly only one way to warm up, and this spiked hot chocolate will do the trick. It also requires you to toast some marshmallows, which is perfect, since you’ll already be huddled around a blazing fire. So, hand out the toasting sticks, grab a mug, and some graham crackers while you’re at it — you’re only one ingredient short of a s’more, you know.

This recipe from Bon Apetit leaves it for you to decide which liquor to spike your drink. Chocolate pairs best with something dark and caramel-flavored that will both complement and cut through the sweetness. Select a whiskey or dark rum for something smooth, or punch things up with Kahlua or Cointreau for a brighter taste (Cointreau will have a citrusy flavor, yum!). Choose your own adventure.

Remember to drink responsibly, especially if you’re outside in the cold. The goal while drinking spiked hot chocolate is to feel warm, but not fuzzy… cheers!
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons crushed cinnamon sticks (preferably Ceylon)
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (preferably Scharffen Berger), finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons demerara or granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 ounces bourbon or liquor of your choice
  • Toasted marshmallows (for serving)

Bring milk and cinnamon to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally and making sure milk doesn’t boil, until cinnamon is fragrant. This will take about 10 minutes.

Whisk in chocolate, sugar, and salt and cook, whisking for about 5 minutes until mixture is smooth, creamy and chocolate is melted. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup and discard the cinnamon.

Add liquor to the hot chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Divide among mugs, then top with toasted marshmallows and enjoy!

Toasted Coconut Hot Chocolate (Vegan-friendly)

This dairy-free hot chocolate from the folks at Southern Living substitutes coconut milk for regular whole milk for a rich and creamy vegan alternative. Whether or not your diet is plant-based, you’ll enjoy this cocoa for all the same reasons the traditional drink delivers: it’s warming, satisfyingly sweet, and unapologetically indulgent — everything your cup of hot chocolate should be.

There’s no rule that says you can only use coconut milk as a dairy alternative in hot chocolate. In fact, almond milk and cashew milk work well because they have a thicker consistency than other types of nut milk like oat or rice milk. That being said, the flavor combinations in this recipe (coconut, chocolate, and cinnamon) are next-level and will not disappoint. If that doesn’t convince you, the shredded toasted coconut adds a tasty crunch that’s pretty mindblowing. This recipe includes an easy coconut whipped cream from the canned milk, which you can skip, but our question is, why would you want to do that?

Cheers!

  • 1 (13.66-oz.) can chilled coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-quart unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 6 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • toasted coconut
  • shaved chocolate

Without shaking or tilting the can, carefully open 1 (13.66-oz.) can chilled coconut milk. Remove solidified cream from the top, reserving liquid, and place in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat with an electric mixer until medium peaks form — about 3 minutes. Chill until ready to use.

Whisk together remaining coconut milk liquid, 1-quart unsweetened coconut milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, and whisk in 6 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon,1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Pour into 4 serving cups, and top with whipped coconut cream, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, toasted coconut, and shaved chocolate.

SPICY MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE

Want another way to warm up without adding booze to your hot chocolate? Bon Apetit is comin’ in hot again (in more ways than one) with their Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate recipe. Caramel, coconut, and cinnamon aren’t the only flavors that play well with chocolate. A ground chile de árbol, or the more common pantry item, cayenne pepper, take things up a notch and adds heat when the campfire isn’t enough.

BA’s recipe calls for semisweet, not bittersweet chocolate or cacao. An important distinction. By using a sweeter varietal, you prevent these intense flavors from competing with one another or simply becoming diluted. Instead, what you get, is a heavenly combo of decadent chocolate with a spicy kick of pepper that’ll heat you up from head-to-toe. A dash of vanilla brings some smoothness, or almond extract adds depth. Feeling mucho adventurous? Combine chopped dark chocolate with a smoky chipotle spice!

You’re in for one heckuva night around the campfire!

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons crushed cinnamon sticks (preferably Ceylon)
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chile de árbol or cayenne pepper, plus more for serving
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream (for serving)

Bring milk and cinnamon to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally and making sure milk doesn’t boil, until cinnamon is floral and fragrant — about 10 minutes. Whisk in chocolate, sugar, vanilla, salt, and ¼ tsp. ground chile and cook, whisking frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy and chocolate is melted — about 5 minutes.

Divide hot chocolate among mugs. Top with whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder.

THE BEST INSTANT HOT COCOA

There is a very distinct difference between cocoa and hot chocolate. Put simply, hot chocolate is actual chopped pieces of chocolate, and cocoa is a chocolate powder mixed with sweetener. The large majority of us are most familiar with hot cocoa because it is easy and delicious. What’s wrong with that?

So, it only seemed fair to include the powdered drink we’ve been enjoying all these years. An honorable mention, if you will. Many of these mixes can fall flat, but there is one that stands apart from the rest thanks to its rich taste and hot chocolate-like consistency. Next time you’re gearing up for a winter campfire or need something portable go for the Land O Lakes Chocolate Supreme Hot Cocoa Mix. It’s a flavorful and rich instant cocoa that doesn’t require any chopping, whisking, or melting. Simply tear open, pour in, and stir. We’ll take two. Enjoy!