It’s Shitty Here, Too


Christion, one of my boys, and the girls relaxing after dinner.

Just a cold, snowy, crappy day outside. I love snow when the sun comes out the next day- I swear I wake up in a refreshed mood because there is so much glare and brightness caused by the snow, but it’s just been a crappy cold day all day and no sun in sight. Thank goodness for the sunlamp. Got one for my sister last week and she keeps having to steal it back from her office mates.

Made some lousy prepackaged hot chocolate, and decided it is time for me to learn how to make big boy hot chocolate. So I need a recipe. How do you all make hot chocolate from scratch?

Oh, and Christion is seriously a dog whisperer when it comes to Rosie. I’ve never seen her turn into putty the way she does when he comes around. He walks in the door and she is just surgically attached to him. It’s really funny.

67 replies
  1. 1
    Jack Canuck says:

    For a mug: two tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon cocoa: combine in the mug, and kind of grind it with your spoon to get rid of any lumps in the cocoa. Add a bit of milk at the bottom and mix with the cocoa/sugar until it’s a paste. Then either top off with milk and heat in the microwave for 60-90 seconds, or add whatever mix of boiling water & milk suits your tastes. That’s how I learned it from my mom lo these many years ago, and it works a treat. If you want to add something else, put in a dash of vanilla (or use vanilla sugar in the first place), cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Just the thing for a cold winter night.

  2. 2
    Chocko Rocko says:

    Skip the “hot cocoa” mix packets. I usually use Ovaltine regular chocolate flavor and nuked skim milk. You can buy Hershey’s cocoa and there’s a recipe on the side of the container for how much sugar to add if you want to go the ‘scratch’ route.

  3. 3
    Calming influence says:

    2c. milk
    1 Hershey’s dark chocolate bar

    Heat milk and chocolate bar in small saucepan just to the point of boiling.
    Pour in mugs, add marshmallows, and enjoy.

  4. 4
    Calming influence says:

    Great picture, by the way. That couch looks stupor-inducing.

    Edit: Hey, Christion.

    Edit to recipe above: A splash of Brandy never hurts, either.

  5. 5
    caring and sensitive says:

    @Jack Canuck:
    Exactly right. If you’re going to do it a lot, spring for an isi whipped cream dispenser, and top it with whipped cream and then dust the top with nutmeg or cinnamon.

    The dispenser will keep a pint of cream fresh for nearly a month

  6. 6
    max says:

    Oh, and Christion is seriously a dog whisperer when it comes to Rosie.

    Looks like it!

    [‘Just make sure he doesn’t taunt people on campus about it or apparently the entire world will be all up in his grill.’]

  7. 7
    Calming influence says:

    @Calming influence:

    “A splash of Brandy never hurts, either.”

    I should have said brandy. Not everyone knows Brandy.

  8. 8
    Warren Terra says:

    I totally feel your pain. I’m a bit chilly walking home in my short-sleeved T-shirt in the dark of night here in SoCal. It’s barely over 60°F!

  9. 9
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    You can always buy the Mexican blocks (Ibarra, etc.) and melt a couple of chunks in milk, and you’re going to do better than powder in a packet.

    Here’s the radical route: cocoa powder, bit of sugar, good dark chocolate, spices, no milk. Now, you’re saying, that won’t emulsify and ugh. But seriously, this recipe is the business.

  10. 10
    Comrade Luke says:

    Montana Grizzlies REPRESENT!

  11. 11
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    You seem like a drinking chocolate kind of guy to me, John. Once you try it, once you come out of the diabetic coma, you’ll never drink hot chocolate again.

    BTW, love how Rosie is giving you the evil eye in the photo. “I’m only letting you take my picture fatboy, because I’m too cozy with this Christion fellow to run away. There will be payback”

    ETA: I get my drinking chocolate from a local coffee roaster. Excellent coffee, too.

  12. 12
    wmd says:

    I like Ibarra Mexican chocolate. Ibarra comes in a yellow and red box, roughly octagonal bars scored into sections.

    break off sections and add to hot milk, blend with a hand blender. I like about 2 sections to 10 oz of milk.

  13. 13
    Calming influence says:

    @Warren Terra: Sheee-it, what a wuss. Here in Seattle it’s barely 46°, and it’s damp, too! (I had to put on a sweater!)

  14. 14
    Gemina13 says:

    24 oz of milk, about 12 oz dark chocolate, sugar to taste, serve with real whipped cream on top and a healthy splash of brandy or Bailey’s Irish Cream. Now that’s cocoa.

  15. 15
    Jack Canuck says:

    Forgot to add: Bailey’s added in is delicious as well.

  16. 16
    Phoebe says:

    Can’t help with the weather, but I can offer a formula for the ultimate hot chocolate. It’s a formula rather than a recipe, and it’s dead simple. You need (1) your favorite chocolate and (2) water; how much of each will depend on your taste and on how the chocolate you pick behaves.

    Take a saucepan and pour in enough water to make as much hot chocolate as you want. (Roughly speaking. If you like milk or cream in your hot chocolate, you’ll want less water at this stage.) Break up some of your chocolate and put it into the water — you probably want a couple of ounces per cup, but different chocolates behave differently. The more chocolate, the more intense the result will be.

    Now heat it all gently until the chocolate has melted. Keep stirring so that it’s evenly dispersed in the water, and bring it up to a full simmer. At this point the starches in the cocoa mass will swell and gelatinize, just as any starch will, and the hot chocolate will begin to thicken and smooth. (If it continues to look like little masses of chocolate floating in water after it’s reached a low boil, you probably need to add more chocolate.) You’ll recognize when it’s finished thickening: it will have the consistency and smoothness of a very light eggnog.

    If you’ve gotten the chocolate just right, it probably won’t need sweetening and you’ll be done. If it’s not sweet enough for your taste you can add the sweetener of your choice (and next time, you can choose chocolate that has more sugar in it to start out with). And if you like milk or cream in your hot chocolate, now will be the time to add it — just pour it in and bring the hot chocolate back to to full hotness. But the reason to start with just water is that you get a more intense and purer chocolate flavor that way. Cream is delicious, but the result isn’t quite as hardcore.

  17. 17
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Warren Terra:

    I’m a bit chilly walking home in my short-sleeved T-shirt in the dark of night here in SoCal. It’s barely over 60°F!

    Remind us to share our stories of drinking glasses of cold water in the summer when your taps run dry.

  18. 18
    Violet says:

    Christion is cute! And who doesn’t love a dog whisperer? Attractive quality.

    As for the hot chocolate, there are some very good upscale pre-made mixes out there. Just scoop into a mug add hot milk or water and you are good to go. Look around for some. Nice to have when you’re feeling lazy.

  19. 19
    Calming influence says:

    @Gemina13: Liking the Bailey’s approach. Usually keep some Jameson on hand, but Bailey’s puts all the additional goodies (cream, sugar, and maybe a pinch of guar gum?) in one bottle.

  20. 20
    jenn says:

    Yep, Rosie looks pretty damn happy! (Hi Christion, welcome to the crazy world of Balloon Juice!)

  21. 21
    MikeJ says:

    @Calming influence:

    Here in Seattle it’s barely 46°, and it’s damp, too! (I had to put on a sweater!)

    I put a flannel shirt on over my t-shirt.

  22. 22
    Percysowner says:

    For Hot Cocoa. Come to Akron, Ohio. Go to a place called Angel Falls. Order a Vulcan Negro. Seriously, if you are in the Akron area, it is the most decadent, incredible hot chocolate ever.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Suffern ACE says:

    2 cups powdered sugar
    1 cup cocoa
    21/2 cups powdered milk
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp cornstarch

    We used to keep it in the fridge for breakfast. We but about 2 Tbl of mix in boiling water.

    As for the alcohol of choice for hot chocolate, I’d go with rumchata.

  25. 25
    AxelFoley says:

    Cole, did you know you had a black dude on your couch?

    I’m fuckin’ witcha, dude. LOL

  26. 26
    Calming influence says:


    Flannel shirts for when you’re feeling casual, baggy wool when you’re dressing up. And I’m not giving up my shorts until it goes below 32°.

  27. 27
    wasabi gasp says:

    The salt is key.

  28. 28
    Calming influence says:

    @wasabi gasp:

    “The salt is key.”

    You just blew my mind. And I think you just broke a food wizard law or something.

  29. 29
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    It got into the frickin’ 80s yesterday afternoon down here; was out in it half the day, having to hit every goddamned HEB in Austin to find fresh beef heart. Was warm enough over the weekend to do some serious garden work; dug out a bunch of grass runners at the back of the garden and schlepped compost while RoonieRoo varmint-proofed the lettuce and the peas. Gregor went on vole patrol while Isaac grabbed sticks from the woodpile to parade around with. Labs have such wonderfully uncomplicated personalities.

    Today was more normal; high 50s to low 60s. Supposed to get down to the 40s with some rain later in the week.

    We are aware of this thing other people refer to as “snow” (I know one person who describes it as “albino brain chiggers”), but we only see it about once a decade or so. GIven how Austinites “drive” when there’s a hint of moisture on the pavement, this is probably not a bad thing.

  30. 30
    Yatsuno says:

    @Calming influence: Actually…no. A small amount of salt heightens the sweetness of desserts. It’s why all cookie recipes call for salt. It engages in some interesting chemistry on the tongue. But you only need a little bit of it.

  31. 31
    Calming influence says:

    @Yatsuno: I see that now; but seriously, good cooks aren’t supposed to tell the general public that, are they?!?

  32. 32
    RobertDSC-Power Mac G5 Dual says:

    Oh, and Christion is seriously a dog whisperer when it comes to Rosie. I’ve never seen her turn into putty the way she does when he comes around. He walks in the door and she is just surgically attached to him. It’s really funny.

    I noticed that right away. Good on him and good on Rosie.

  33. 33
    rda909 says:

    @Calming influence: Speaking of Seattle, and since this has been a popular topic recently, people should learn some backstory before rushing to judgement:

    Erin Andrews can take her privileged suburban eye-roll and condescension, and go cover golf if she can’t handle football.

  34. 34
    kc says:

    Nice pic. Now gimme some Steve!

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    I came back from a quick walk down the block to drop off the Netflix returns (and to get to my 10K steps) and Charlotte tried to make a break for it when I opened the front door. Little biotch. They’re all worked up because it’s a warm winter and they think they should be outdoors killing things and making kittens when it’s only physically possible for them to do one of those things.

  36. 36
    Calming influence says:

    The consensus hot chocolate recipe:

    Skim milk
    2 tsp sugar
    1 tsp cocoa
    1 Hershey bar
    More sugar
    whipped cream
    Ibarra Mexican chocolate
    more milk at this point if it’s getting thick
    upscale pre-made cocoa mix
    21/2 cups powdered milk
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp cornstarch
    a bigger pot and more milk I guess
    Rumchata (probably about a quart at this point; go ahead a have a shot while you’re at it)
    sugar, salt, and alcohol to taste

    Filter through a flannel shirt, and serve in soup bowls.

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Calming influence:

    Brandy is a fine girl. Her like could steal a sailor from the sea.

    The weather here in Tracktown USA is looking up…the fog has thinned just enough for the pathetic winter sun to burn it off for a few hours in the afternoon before it smothers us all again. This has been going on for a solid week.

  38. 38
    Mj_Oregon says:

    Recipes for a number of different hot chocolates from our local decadent chocolate pimps: Euphoria Chocolate

    Winter is a good time to order supplies from them too. I recommend them wholeheartedly!!

  39. 39
    Chocko Rocko says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: 85% of water use in CA is agriculture, and only 10% is residential. And that 10% will be the last to go, so bottoms up!

  40. 40
    wasabi gasp says:

    @Calming influence:

    Handpicked moons and stars out the lucky charms box optimal.

  41. 41
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Mnemosyne: My new phone tracks my steps and will play a little tune and put up a notification with a little metal like icon when you reach your goal. Due to my wife’s injury, I haven’t made my goal(10,000 steps.

    I got a really festive doodle on google today.

  42. 42
    Mnemosyne says:


    G has that on his iPhone 5. I probably won’t upgrade until at least the 6 or 7, so I have a FitBit Force instead. It’s a fun toy.

    We may be having a GTG in a couple of weekends — I think it’s the evening of 2/8, depending on ruemara’s schedule. I’m proposing the Story Tavern in Burbank, and no one else seems to have a better idea.

  43. 43
    Culture of Truth says:

    How do you all make hot chocolate from scratch?

    Step One: use prepackaged hot chocolate

  44. 44
    DWD says:

    The only way to make hot chocolate is to go the Spanish route:

    16 oz whole milk
    3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
    1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, to taste
    Pinch salt
    1/2 to 1 tsp corn starch, depending on how thick you want it

    Whisk corn starch into cold milk, bring just to boil, take off heat and whisk in chocolate until melted, then sugar and salt. Bring back to boil until thickened, then drink (makes at least 2 servings, probably more since it’s very rich). I probably had 2 cups of this stuff every day for 2 weeks, when I was in Spain many years ago. Amazingly good.

  45. 45
    karen marie says:

    Hot chocolate easy peasy

    1 big mug (mine holds 1-1/2 cups) filled 3/4 way up with milk (or for extra scrumptiousness, half&half), microwaved 2 minutes.

    While that’s going, in a small bowl, combine 2-3 measured tablespoons cocoa powder and 1-3 tablespoons sugar (when I’m adding home-made marshmallows I add less sugar).

    Adding a little cold milk at a time, stir into a smooth paste, then add a bit more milk so it’s loose enough to pour into hot milk. Stir into hot milk, then microwave for another minute to get it piping hot.

    It’s as easy to make “scratch” cocoa as the packet stuff, so why deprive yourself?

  46. 46
    Warren Terra says:

    RE the hot chocolate: prepackaged hot chocolate needn’t be terrible – the main problem is that the directions tend to recommend using water, instead of milk. Using milk won’t make it as good as made-from-scratch, but it will be a big improvement over using water.

  47. 47
    MikeJ says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    Step One: use prepackaged hot chocolate

    You do know that cocoa powder isn’t prepackaged hot chocolate don’t you?

  48. 48
    Neurovore says:

    Actually, the best hot chocolate recipe I can think of is to use Alton Brown’s (From the old Good Eats cooking show.) recipe for chocolate syrup as it mixes readily with milk even when the milk is cold and it is not overly sweet.

  49. 49
    Origuy says:

    @DWD: With those little churros that look like curly fries? Yum!

  50. 50
    Churchlady320 says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Yeah – I’ll take the snow and have water over our CA drought any day of the week. I’m stuck here for work, but I long for a GREAT snowstorm where I can stay home with a good bunch of books, soup and stew (homemade), and a fire – we can’t have them anymore due to weather inversions even though nights are below freezing in the Sacramento Valley. So I’m not impressed with overly warm weather in JANUARY – it has consequences beyond what snow brings.

  51. 51
    Pogonip says:

    It’s a toasty 3 degrees F here. You kids dress warm, Ok? I know Christion’s invincible at his age, but dress warm anyway; he needs all his fingers to skritch the dog properly.

    Thanks to all those who cited The Man Who Was Magic:

  52. 52
    raven says:

    Not to start any shit but seems to me these guys are young men.

  53. 53
    Matt McIrvin says:

    I was kind of looking forward to being snowed in and not having to rush my kid to school in the deep freeze this morning. But the storm almost completely missed us: there’s just a dusting on the streets. They got hammered on the South Shore.

  54. 54
    currants says:

    Hot chocolate: Order some shaved chocolate (hot, milk, or white) from Burdicks. Follow their instructions. Notice the glow enter the room.

    Seriously, once you’ve made it like this, then you have something to shoot for, and you can play around with various chocolates (high quality only) and skimmed-creamed milks.

    But should you ever get to Cambridge, go to the store. Best mocha I’ve ever had (espresso’s pretty terrific too).

  55. 55
    hello rochester says:

    Follow the directions on the Hershey cocoa box, pinch of salt, drop of vanilla. Drinking chocolate is delish, but unless you have a bodega nearby, I’d do mine.

  56. 56
    everbluegreen says:


    Delurking to second Burdick’s. It is Simply The Best.

    If you do get the opportunity to go to Burdick’s in person, the mocha is good, but get the dark hot chocolate. Somehow it’s even better than what you can make at home with their shaved chocolate. (Unless you have an espresso machine that lets you froth the milk properly, maybe.)

    One of the things I’m grateful for in this life is that I work a stone’s throw from Burdick’s.

  57. 57
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    @Calming influence:

    This, but with half and half, or whipping cream. Also, 88% dark chocolate, skip the hershey’s crap.

  58. 58
    Keith P. says:

    Say. ‘no’ to hot chocolate and ‘yes’ to drinking chocolate. It’s. little bits of chocolate that you melt into hot milk.

  59. 59
    Hawes says:

    Makes 8 cups:


    6 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
    4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    Pinch cayenne pepper
    2 (12-ounce) bags semisweet chocolate chips (recommended: Hershey’s)
    Cocoa powder, for serving

    For stovetop: In a large pot over medium heat, whisk together milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Add chocolate chips. Stir until chocolate is melted. Cover and turn heat to low for 5 minutes.

    For slow cooker: In a 4-quart slow cooker, whisk together milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Add chocolate chips. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 2 to 3 hours, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes.

    Serve with a dusting of cocoa powder.

  60. 60
    Svensker says:

    First, you have to decide whether you want hot cocoa or hot chocolate. Big difference. Hot chocolate is decadent and rich, hot cocoa is cozy and comforting. Also, too, cocoa is a lot easier — just follow the directions on the Hershey’s cocoa box.

  61. 61
    Miki says:

    I make up a batch of Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix with a couple of tweaks – a tad more than a pinch of cayenne is fine – really makes it pop. A quarter cup is too much mix in a cup – make it to whatever suits you. Brandy is good, as is Sambuca.

    Keeps well in a quart mason jar for about a single season of shitty Minnesota winter.

  62. 62
    Gemina13 says:

    @Calming influence:

    I love Bailey’s in hot chocolate. Sometimes, though, some Evan Williams Honey Bourbon does the trick too. ;)

  63. 63
    Citizen_X says:

    Go with Mexican hot chocolate bars. I like Popular.

  64. 64
    The Golux says:

    I’ll be the umpteenth to agree that a pinch of salt is the key. If you taste two cups side-by-side, one with salt and one without, you’ll be astonished at how blah the unsalted one is.

    Also, kahlua, or Myers dark rum. If you happen to have an espresso machine, a single shot will liven things up if you don’t want to add booze.

  65. 65
    elsaran says:

    I’m a long-time lurker but this post hit a chord as I am a huge hot chocolate fan. It’s easy to make your own mix, and it will last for a while on the shelf. I’ve tested out a few recipes and this is by far the best, simply amazing, and you can tailor it to your chocolate taste:

  66. 66
    am says:

    Hey Cole, didn’t check the comments so this is likely a duplicate 10 times over, but the key to hot chocolate is:

    milk, sugar, dark chocolate/cocoa powder, vanilla extract, corn starch, and salt. Something on the order of 8oz milk, 1 tbsp sugar (minus a little if chocolate is sweetened), 1 tbsp cocoa powder or equivalent in chocolate, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2-1/4 tsp corn starch, and a sprinkle of salt. The salt is crucial, don’t skip it.

    I put them all in a mug and microwave for a few minutes, stirring with a whisk (because it does a better job than a spoon). Corn starch is just a proxy for a big molecule for mouthfeel & to help emulsify the chocolate. Tapioca starch might work, too. You can build off of this recipe for a base (eg, add cinnamon & cayenne), too.

  67. 67
    am says:

    Actually, Alton Brown did it better that I did:

    The episode of Good Eats where he goes through that recipe is good watchin’.

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