How To Make Gourmet Hot Cocoa From The Packet-Stuff

The title of this post sounds like some drug reference but I promise it isn't. Also, I apologize for the random post-without-a-recipe on Tuesday! That was meant to stay as a draft and somehow sneaked out of the fold. Anyway.

A girl makes friends her whole life and sometimes – rarely, but sometimes – those friends know how to make The Perfect Cup of Hot Cocoa. And even more rarely, that friend will agree to let you invade her kitchen and, you know, spill all her secrets and let you bring weird fruit no one has ever heard of before. Meet Candace Rarick: the woman behind this alchemy.

I first encountered her brand of hot cocoa madness at a girls' night during Hurricane Joaquin (which didn't actually make it to Virginia). Candace was all, “I'll bring stuff to make hot cocoa!” in the group message and the other girls and I let her have that one, little realizing what she actually meant by “I'll bring stuff to make hot cocoa.”
Hot cocoa packets.
Chocolate syrup.
Chocolate chips.
Whipped cream.
Oh my goodness. This girl's serious about her cocoa. After a little begging on my part, Candace let me watch her deceptively easy steps to making the perfect cup of cocoa. Before my eyes, this 5'2 brunette turned a bagful of groceries into a dozen mugs of hot cocoa the perfect color, consistency, temperature, and flavor. If I had not watched her dump the packets of hot cocoa into the mugs, I would never have known this cocoa wasn't made from scratch. It tasted like brownie batter in liquid form and wrapped around the my weary soul like a chocolate-flavored plush blanket. It tasted the way the Swiss Miss commercials make it look like their instant packets would taste. It tasted like all your childhood dreams of hot cocoa not ruined by that ubiquitous cup of tepid brown water we all anticipated after a rare snow day. You know, the kind that has mummified mini marshmallows that still crunch when you bite them, and a half-inch of undissolved powder when you finally reach the bottom of the cup? Candace formulated her recipe over the years by trial and error, making a batch and thinking, "No, that isn't quite right - what can I change?" It began with extra powder. It ended with the recipe as we know it today, which I daresay would be hard to improve. As I watched Candace conduct this magic I crouched. I waited. I asked if I could come again sometime for lessons. She said yes and we forced our schedules to collide and now, after months of waiting, I can finally share the definitive way to Make Packet Hot Chocolate Taste Gourmet.

See, at some point in your life you will want hot chocolate and are A) out of cocoa powder to make it from scratch or B) out of range of a stove. This recipe, then, is for those moments. But though making totally homemade hot cocoa will never go wholly out of style, I think it's safe to say that this recipe for hot cocoa equals (or beats) any completely homemade version I've ever made. It's indulgent and best enjoyed in place of a meal (because, really, who wants just a taste? Go all or nothing, I say) and you'll be forever changed. But before I get to the meat of the post, we have to define some terms:

Hot Chocolate: a hot, creamy drink based off of melted chocolate mixed with milk, rather than cocoa-powder-based.
Hot Cocoa: a hot, creamy drink based off of cocoa powder, sugar, and milk.

What we're making is hot cocoa, which means that the finished liquid should be dark brown rather than the paler color permissible in hot chocolate. The various steps are also important and will be further described in the actual recipe. What you need to know now: you're mixing all your “dry” ingredients, adding BOILING water (yes, you really want it actually boiling, as this will melt the chocolate) and cooling the drink to perfect sipping temperature with a splash of cold milk. Got it? Now: Candace's recipe.

Decadent Hot Cocoa (from a packet)
For a large mug (or thermos) of hot cocoa:

2 packets hot cocoa mix (Ghirardelli makes a fantastic mix)
A generous Tablespoon of Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
A few pinches of dark chocolate chips/chunks (about 8 chocolate chips)
½ cup whipped cream (plus more for topping off)
6 oz. BOILING water
1/3 cup cold milk

  1. Start off by dumping the contents of the packets in your mug. To this, add a generous “globble” of chocolate syrup. Basically spin the bottle several times, squeezing hard. This is inexact. Toss in the chocolate chips.
  2. If using Reddi-Whip-style whipped cream, spray a generous portion (about ½ cup) into the mug. Allow to soak into the powdered ingredients while your kettle boils. In place of stove-top boiling, you may boil water in the microwave. When the kettle is boiling, pour 6 oz. (or a bit less, depending on the depth of your vessel) of water into your mug and stir into a concentrate of all things miraculously chocolatey.
  3. When your concentrate is all set, go ahead and douse it with the cold milk. At this point you're just topping and cooling with the milk, so fill your mug as far as it will go and stop there. Top with a generous display of whipped cream and a little more drizzled chocolate syrup.

Though there are probably five hundred and twelve calories in every mug, sometimes (especially post-snowball fight) it's worth it. And you'll know when you taste it that you've been in the presence of genius. We hail you, Candace, Queen of Hot Cocoa. MAYSHELIVEFOREVER.


  1. I needed this, I can't wait to try this.

    1. I hope you can make it soon! It really is quite something. :)

  2. I just made this, and it *was* good. I didn't do it exactly right; I didn't have any packets of cocoa (just some homemade mix), and I didn't have any whipped cream. But it was still really yummy and chocolatey. Thanks for sharing!