Hot Chocolate Recipe to Start the Season

hot chocolate

Photo by renee_mcgurk

Today was the first day it seemed like cold weather is just around the corner.

I suddenly felt the need to get sweaters out of storage and put the summer clothes away. The grocery store had pumpkins and hay bales displayed in the front. The sun was bright, but not as warm as it used to be.

It was the first day that drinking a cup of hot chocolate felt just right for the weather. I love how hot beverages become such an important ritual to cold winter days. Common events seem so much more significant. Coffee with friends, hot tea with scones, hot chocolate by the fireplace…

How do you like to drink yours?

Coffee — yes, definitely made each day in the french press and poured into an oversized mug. Lots of milk, and generous spoonfuls of sucanat (dried sugar cane juice).

Hot Tea — black tea or green, always with cream and extra honey. Chai tea too with milk, served hot or cold over ice while I’m wrapping presents.

Hot Chocolate — do you put marshmallows on yours, or a pile of whipped cream? It always makes me think about camping trips and football games. I have a delicious recipe for hot chocolate, the classic way it should be.

Hot Chocolate Recipe

For each serving:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2-3 drops of vanilla extract
  • small sprinkle of cinnamon

The real secret to this recipe is in the method. First warm the milk in a pot over medium heat for a couple of minutes, swirling it occasionally to keep the milk from scalding.

Then if you have one, use an immersion blender to mix the ingredients. It will froth the milk and smoothly blend the cocoa. Blend gently to prevent it from from spilling.

If you want to pretend you’re in the movie Chocolat, add a tiny sprinkle of red cayenne pepper– it’s good! Drink and enjoy!

What’s your favorite — coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or something different? How do you make your favorite drink on a cold day?

Next Friday is Comfort Soups Day!

Bring your favorite winter soup recipe to share. You can share it in the comments or write about it on your blog and share the link to it. I can’t wait to hear your favorites and learn some new soup recipes to try this season.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Good Morning Rachel,

    I just recently found your blog through a comment made by Liz Pulliam Weston, in her column.

    Your posts are so fresh and inspiring!

    Warm beverages are definitely on my mind this morning. I have a bit of a cold and hot chocolate sounds heavenly right now. I like to make homemade, mint flavored marshmallows to float on mine.


  2. I love my “stick blender”, too. Hot chocolate is a whole new experience.
    My favorite hot drink is a Colombian drink called “Agua de Panela”. It’s made from sugar cane, sold in blocks, which you dissolve in boiling water. Super sweet? Yes, but I put hot milk in mine. Yum! When he’s sick, my husband will make Panela with lemon, and it’s like honey-lemon tea. It’s also served cold, but warm, with foamed milk, is my rainy-day treat.

    Evenshine’s last blog post..Cuteness overload

  3. I love hot chocolate–especially with whipped cream, extra cinnamon, and a drizzle of caramel. Perfection.

    Mama Koala’s last blog post..Tag, I’m it!

  4. smallnotebook says:

    Welcome Lucinda, and thank you. Mint-flavored marshmallows are a new one to me!

    Evenshine, that’s a good one.

    Mama Koala, I never thought to put caramel in my hot chocolate. Brilliant.

  5. I don’t drink coffee or tea, but love a good hot chocolate. I’ve had it with the cayenne in it and it is surprisingly good.

    Another hot drink that sounds weird but is really good is Hot Dr. Pepper with lemon. Heat it slowly in a pot and put lemon slices in it for extra flavor. It is really yummy!

    If you don’t believe me, check out this link:

    Holly’s last blog post..More Wedding Pictures


    I have a homemade chicken noodle soup recipe in this post that is TO DIE FOR.

    Alison’s last blog post..Tantalizing Tuesday

  7. Oh BOY, this made me want some ho cho.

    Isn’t it funny how hot drinks just make it feel like fall? The sound of the coffee maker in the morning gets me right out of bed, ready to put on my school clothes. It sounds like possibilities.

    kitchendoor’s last blog post..Frugal Friday: In Which We Cook From the Freezer

  8. Hi Rachel:
    We got our first real cold day yesterday as well, and VG and I are ready for our hats! – and hot chocolate of course.

    I love all hot drinks. I usually make a non-fat latte in the morning and strong black tea after lunch and after dinner (my British roots). I can drink a big mug of strong tea and fall right to sleep!

    I remember my mom making hot chocolate on the stove w/Hershey’s cocoa and sugar. We’d have our snowy mittens and socks warming on the radiator and it would be so cozy. The packaged stuff is just dreadful, don’t you think?

    I would love to participate in the comfort soup project!

    Vintage Mommy’s last blog post..I Shouldn’t Have Gloated

  9. smallnotebook says:

    Holly, my grandma loves hot Dr Pepper, so I know what you’re talking about!

    Alison, I didn’t see the soup recipe on that post. Bring it next Friday, I want to see it.

    Kitchendoor, you’re right, just reading these comments is making me feel more cozy.

    Vintage Mommy, we are all about winter hats. They are a big deal at my house. Those sound like such pleasant memories!

  10. coffe coffee coffee! with lots of soy milk hot OR cold. I love coffee!
    i’m so glad things are cooling off in texas but I know i’ll miss the fours seasons we had in Japan, Germany, and New Jersey.

  11. I’m not a coffee drinker but I do love me a cup of chai tea. That’s my fave. I also like hot chocolate (kitchendoor – love the term ho cho; I may have to coin that phrase at our house if you don’t mind). I will admit that I use the Nestle ho cho mix at our house in the morning as we’re usually pressed for time to get to school/work in a timely manner. Youngest and I add just a splash of milk to cool it to a drinkable temp.

    My absolute fall favorite drink is hot apple cider. My mother would make it for us regularly — simmer on the stove with cinnamon sticks & cloves — heavenly.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Morning Chatter

  12. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a hot chocolate with whipped cream… although for everyday usage I stick to coffee. In my Nespresso, a “Cosi”, milk and sugar. And a cookie on the side!

  13. When I’m feeling really decadent – I warm 2 cups of milk on the stove and stir in 3 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate until it melts. Both my husband and I love it – it’s rich but oh so good on those cold days. We spike it occasionally with a little coffee liqueur or mint schnapps too…

    Kathie’s last blog post..Frosty Mornings

  14. I love hot drinks in the fall! Bliss! I’m not a coffee drinker, but I love hot tea with milk & sugar {Splenda these days}. But chai is at the top of my list, especially one with strong spices. I agree about frothing the hot chocolate. I’ll have to try adding the cinnamon/cayenne. Sounds super good? Have you ever had homemade marshmallows?? Decadent when compared to the ones that come in a bag :>)

    Rebecca’s last blog post..I *heart* fall

  15. I would have never thought of using my stick blender for hot cocoa. Genius!

    Mother Hen’s last blog post..Frugal Entertainment

  16. Oh, YUM! Only our weather has spiked to almost 80 these past few days, inspiring more iced tea than hot.

  17. My favorite hot drink lately has been Abuelita’s Mexican hot chocolate. I love the chocolate with the extra spice! I make it on the stove top with a whisk and its just delicious!

  18. Hmmm….I was just going to make myself some coffee, now I want hot chocolate. Maybe I’ll make a Mocha?

    Thanks for the recipe, it sounds wonderful.

    Michelle’s last blog post..

  19. You’re making me want to go make a cup of hot chocolate! Made with hazelnut milk or hemp milk, in our house. :)

    Sally Parrott Ashbrook’s last blog post..Oh My Goodness

  20. What a great recipe, Rachel! I used your ingredients as a starting point, tweaked it a bit, and now this is our official hot cocoa drink. (I used a bit less cocoa and sugar to stretch the ingredients…still tastes super yummy!)

  21. smallnotebook says:

    Aggie, I love honey, I’ll have to try that!

  22. Dear Rachel,

    I recently came across your blog. I bookmarked it and have visited it very often ever since.

    Most of the things you write do strike a chord with me. I am a Portuguese free translator and subtitler, and live near Lisbon with my German husband, who works as a consultant, and our four cats.

    We both come from extremely modest backgrounds, and after a rather hedonist and materialist twenty-something period, we are now enjoying frugality and simplicity more than ever.

    We learned from our parents and grandparents that being thrifty is not the same as being poor – it’s a way of living fairly and meaningfully, as well as achieving your own goals. And it’s exhilarating and liberating in this world we live, where things seem to define people, instead of the opposite.

    Congratulations on your blog; I might send you some of my recipes for frugality. In Portugal we still cook everything from scratch.
    For the moment, I take Aggie’s cue and say: milk (cow or soy), honey and… cinnamon! Works for us…

  23. yea – so happy I refound this post today – I thought I copied down your hot chocolate recipe yesterday (which looked delish!) and then last night realized I’d only gotten about half of it…glad I was able to still track it down!
    thanks! can’t wait to try it!

    jodi @ bpr’s last blog post..Blueberry Cake – Afternoon Delight

  24. Rachel,
    That question is a toughy… I like each one at different times, a lot of the times is just depends on my mood. Lately I have been having a cup of unsweetened apple cider, piping hot mind you :) , at night after I put the children to bed… it is SO wonderful and so relaxing and doesn’t give me a sugar rush or a caffeine rush either. I love this time of year and cider fits the bill PERFECTLY for me. :)

    Chas’s last blog post..Tea Time

  25. i make mochas for my husband and i a few times a week. yum! after halloween, i start adding peppermint syrup for the “holiday” season. :)

    Kelli’s last blog post..Be My Friend

  26. I just made your recipe for hot chocolate tonight. Yummy! I think I need a tutorial on using a stick blender, though. It didn’t mix well in the pan so I put everything in a mug to blend, and hot chocolate flew everywhere! But what was left in my mug was so tasty, I didn’t mind the cleanup. :c)

    Rachel’s last blog post..Itty Bitty Pincushion

  27. smallnotebook says:

    Oh no Rachel! I should have added a blender warning. That’s happened to me before, but I didn’t mind the cleanup too much either.

  28. revalca says:

    Good morning Rachel,

    Thanks for your hot choc recipe,am preparing it now.
    Your marvelous.


  29. Earlene Appelhans says:

    What IS a stick blender??

  30. Hot chocolate recipe looked interesting enough to keep, but printed on two pages with a lot of useless information! Would you format your recipes on a single page in the future and save a tree? Also intrigued with the foam design in the photo — how is that done? Thanks.

  31. Rachel,
    I discovered your blog last year when I bought your ebook through a link on The Frugal Girl. I have been thoroughly enjoying your posts and delving through your archives :)

    A few days ago I found this post and I am so thrilled. It’s almost 6am here in Seattle and I have been under the weather for a couple of days. This morning I awoke before dawn and couldn’t go back to sleep. I had just put the kettle on for a quiet cup of tea (I am Irish, born and bred and moved to Seattle 11 years ago) when I remembered this post. I made this instead, added the cayenne and discovered bliss amid my sniffles.

    I am planning to prepare it for my little ones today. The next best thing to discovering bliss is sharing it. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  32. Kim inAZ says:

    It’s 110 in Phoenix and I made this this morning. In my Vitamix! It was wonderful because it heats it up for me and made everything so smooth and creamy and frothy! And I used organic turbinado sugar which made it taste even sweeter so I cut way back on the sugar. Two of my boys requested peppermint extract. It was really delicious!