The Twelve Drinks of Christmas: Volume 2, Drink 5
The holidays are a time for the classics, if you don’t believe me, check the viewing schedules for the next week or turn on your radio. It is a pretty steady diet of things you know and, possibly, love. It is also a time when you have to be careful, there are many remakes hiding out there just waiting to disappoint you. Don’t get me wrong I love a good remix, but if your re-imagined take on a classic doesn’t bring something new, don’t bother. We’re not very keen. We’ve already got one, you see. It’s very nice. So, with a nod toward those rare cases where we can improve on a classic won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Verte Chaud.
That’s right my Francophiles, we are making “green hot”. Now, you know I love to give credit where it is due, but I have haven’t had any luck finding anyone to thank for this perennial alpine classic. That is understandable, it was most likely invented by some thirsty guy or gal who happened to have a bottle of Green Chartreuse, some hot chocolate and a thirst. Who knows when they first hit upon this classic combination, but the Carthusian monks who make the green stuff have been selling bottles since 1840 and hot chocolate has been around at least that long. So, I am guessing that the first maker has been lost to history. Whoever that clever person was, their creation is still served aprés ski in lodges across the Alps and without the need for strapping sticks on your feet first, everywhere else. Since, none of us have the skills or knowledge to craft 130 different herbs into chartreuse, we are going to have to focus our making skills on the hot chocolate.
The key to any hot chocolate is, obviously, the chocolate you start with, so find some quality stuff. I am a big fan of never cooking with any ingredient you would not eat on its own, so find a good bar that you like, I am using Ghirardelli 70% cacao. You are going to need 8 ounces of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate. In a saucepan, warm 3 cups of whole milk over medium heat until just steaming. Whisk in the chocolate until it is completely melted. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly for 3-5 minutes until it thickens slightly. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, I use Bell Buckle Country Store; and a pinch of sea salt. Whisk rapidly to bring to a froth. Grab a suitable vessel, I opted for a vintage Santa Claus mug and add 2 ounces of Green Chartreuse to the bottom. If you want to be adventurous, you can swirl the chartreuse around and then set it on fire, like the Rubicon cocktail. I like the way the chartreuse caramelizes a little and I love anything en flambé, so have fun with it. Whether you call down the gift of Prometheus or go the safer, if more mundane, route, fill the glass with hot chocolate, give it a quick stir and serve; maybe toss some whipped cream on there and top with shaved chocolate, if you are feeling fancy.
Of course, this is wonderful. Face it, fresh, homemade hot chocolate is a gift from whatever gods may be, so adding carefully crafted herbal liqueur to this gift just makes things better. It’s not quite mint, more menthol, if that makes sense. Lot’s of pine and rosemary hiding behind the creamy chocolate goodness. It’s alpine, that’s probably the best way to describe it. I love that the liqueur is there, but not overpowering. Nice balanced, I’d call it, as I asked for a second helping.
I love making hot chocolate at home, so I was not sweating this recipe at all, but I understand that it can be a bit intimidating. If you walk away from this one the milk will scald and make a hell of a mess to have to clean up. I know, I have been there. The good news is, it works well with any high quality hot chocolate. So, if you don’t have the time or the spoons to make it homemade you can still enjoy this one with a high quality instant blend like Mama Lee’s Double Dutch. Just use a whisk to froth things up before adding your chartreuse and you will be rewarded with a wonderfully cheery pick me up. If you really just can’t even, grab a venti hot cocoa from Starbucks and slip a couple of ounces of Chartreuse in there. It doesn’t matter how you find your happy place, the important part is to get there. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay festive, my friends.