It started as a cool idea: Try a bunch of different boozes in hot chocolate and write about it. In the end, my husband, Ryan, felt nauseated, and I swore I’d never eat chocolate again.
We began with the experiment’s control: whole milk, half-and-half, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips, vanilla and salt, combined slowly over a makeshift double-boiler. This was one of our best batches, and we regretted using it for science instead of sipping.
But we’re fearless explorers, so I chose nine bottles from our extensive liquor cabinet and measured two teaspoons of each into three tablespoons of hot chocolate — a 1-to-5 ratio, which seemed reasonable.
The ruby port, a sweet fortified wine, was surprisingly good. I expected it would be too sweet — Ryan thought so — but I took a second sip. Tawny port, the ruby’s dry cousin, was terrible.
“Not even once,” Ryan commented, referring to the Meth Project ad campaign.
Since red wine in hot chocolate is a thing now, I added some from our open bottle of Los Cardos, a middle-of-the-road malbec.
“Reminds me of a cake I once threw up,” Ryan said about the mixture. In future, I’ll try a cabernet sauvignon or garnacha instead.
I was hopeful about Snap, a gingersnap liqueur, since chocolate-covered Moravian cookies are so easy to eat. One sip triggered my gag reflex.
“Very promising,” Ryan wrote as I dry heaved over the sink. I can’t even see different proportions working out on this one.
I planned to save St-Rémy VSOP brandy for last since it’s my go-to for hot chocolate, but moved it up to take a break from bad ones. Even it tasted weird. Since we were using sourdough bread as a palate cleanser, the culprit was probably the booze to chocolate ratio.
Krupnikas, the Durham-made honey liqueur, is normally bad on its own. I was skeptical it would work, but it was delicious, placing second after the ruby port in my book. Ryan loved it, too, saying it’s more than the sum of its parts.
We both hated Disaronno, an Italian amaretto, although it’s great on its own. And we were split on Redemption rye whiskey and Rumchata, which usually tastes like milk from a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I hated them; Ryan appreciated both. With less booze, they might have been alright.
If we experiment again, I want to try bourbon, butterscotch schnapps or tequila — apparently it makes a good Mexican hot chocolate — and even combos like vanilla vodka and Chambord, a raspberry liqueur.
But right now, I’m taking a break from hot chocolate, and with the all-clear from my doctor after a brief hiatus from drinking, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.