There comes a time during every holiday season when you have to put on your fuzzy socks, grab that fleece blanket and stare in amazement at the lights on the Christmas tree. In between the hustle and bustle, this is one of the moments I look forward to most — even if it is only for a few minutes. But the thing that makes this holiday mini-break so inviting is the cup of hot cocoa that compliments that little pause.

Below are three variations on the classic treat, including one that calls for a touch of spice:

Dark-Chocolate Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Warm milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add chocolate. Whisk until melted and combined. Add sugar, and whisk until dissolved. Continue to warm mixture until thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in nutmeg.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 drops peppermint oil
  • Sweetened whipped cream, optional

Directions

In a saucepan, combine cream, milk, sugar and salt and heat over medium-low heat.  When the cream mixture just begins to steam, add the chopped chocolate, and stir until melted. Stir in the peppermint oil. Top with whipped cream and serve.

Cinnamon Spice Hot Cocoa

Ingredients

  • 4 cups skim milk
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • Coarse salt

Directions

In a medium pot, whisk together milk, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, chile powder and a pinch of salt over medium-high heat until combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Serve immediately.