Hot cocoa: Get the right mix
In case you haven’t explored the hot-cocoa shelves at the your local market lately, today’s options have come a long way from those clumpy, watery mixes of after-school memories. What’s more, hot cocoa mixes are generally low in fat, offer a calcium boost and do wonders to curb chocolate cravings. Here’s our taste test:
Nestlé’s Rich Milk Chocolate hot cocoa mix ($2.79/10 packets), which has been warming souls for more than 50 years, turned out to be surprisingly chocolaty, creamy and satisfying — and only 80 calories per serving.
The instructions note that one packet of mix is meant for just six ounces of liquid (warm milk is recommended), so be careful not to water down your cocoa by filling up your mug. Some clumps still persist.
We were enthused about Swiss Miss’ Marshmallow Lovers hot cocoa mix ($3.69/8 packets).
Unfortunately, this is a case of less is more. As the mini marshmallows melt (there are more than 70 per packet) they turn into sticky, sugary flotsam that ruins the drink. One fix: Sprinkle just a few extra marshmallows on top and save the rest for another day — or splurge and buy marshmallows that dissolve properly.
Hershey’s Goodnight Hugs White Chocolate hot cocoa mix ($2.39/4 packets) is the only one of the bunch that tastes better when made with hot water. Milk solids make up two of the first three ingredients of this mildly sweet, creamy variation. When you add more milk, the drink becomes cloyingly sweet with an odd aftertaste.
Note that the small, dark bits in the mix are milk chocolate nubs— yes, they’re supposed to be there.
What sets apart the artisanal hot cocoa mixes from the rest is that they skip the fillers and artificial sweeteners, such as whey (a commonly-used milk solid) and corn syrup.
Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate premium hot cocoa ($5.99/12 servings) lists just two ingredients: sweet ground chocolate and cocoa. The resulting treat is so dark, dense and ultra-chocolaty that you just might need a little something else to balance the sweetness — chocolate covered espresso beans, perhaps?
THE CULT FAVORITE
Given that a microwave and blender are essential for the “shortcut” version to making Chocolate Ibarra ($4.99/24 servings) — the cocoa’s base is in the form of hard, circular, chocolate discs, each with eight wedges — this Mexican import isn’t exactly office-friendly.
That said, it’s worth the extra effort at home. One frothy sip of this rich, milk chocolate cocoa —it finishes with a warm, cinnamony kick — and you’ll understand why Chocolate Ibarra is beloved by those who know it.