Wine & Spirits

Chocolate Comfort

Johnny Michaels offers up the cure-all for these drab winter months

Hot chocolate

There are certain times and places where the living is easy. February in Minnesota is not one of them. Old Man Winter is giving us everything he’s got, pummeling us and going for a knockout. We need to keep our spirits up, so I highly suggest indulging in the food of love: chocolate. Eating it is great, but combining it with fine liquor and drinking it can be even better. Make your own hot chocolate at least once a year—I promise it will blow the powdered versions away. I combine my drinking chocolate with Tia Maria and oloroso sherry, but you should customize to your tastes. If that sounds ridiculously decadent, you are right, but it is February in Minnesota, and we deserve something outrageously delicious. Top the drink with freshly made, lightly sweetened vanilla whipped cream, and pair it with some juicy tangerine wedges and crunchy, nutty hazelnut biscotti. At La Belle Vie, we call this drink “A Love Supreme.” Try it, and you’ll know why. 

In a saucepan, gently heat milk over medium heat. Remove ¼ cup of milk and whisk in cornstarch, then return it to the saucepan. Whisk in cocoa. Raise heat, whisking, until you reach a gentle rolling boil. Remove from heat and continue whisking for a few seconds, then add chocolate chips, stirring until completely melted. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer. This part can be made ahead of time and chilled. 

I generally recommend two parts hot chocolate base to one part liquor (I use 50 percent Tia Maria and 50 percent oloroso sherry). Combine these ingredients in a larger coffee mug than needed, then microwave until hot but not boiling. Stir the mixture to achieve a silky smoothness and pour it into a smaller pre-warmed (with hot water) coffee cup, taking care not to overfill, as a beautiful dollop of whipped cream will melt and can cause an overflowing and sticky cup.

Make It:
12 oz. whole milk 1/8 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup cocoa powder
12 oz. chocolate chips