One of my favorite flavor combinations of the seasons is caramel and orange together – and I love both of them with chocolate, so I experimented and put all three in a cocktail with this salted caramel orange hot chocolate. It is delicious and decadent and so full of sweet cocoa flavors I am in love.
I know, I say that about so many cocktails, but I don’t share with you my failures, so when I say I love it it’s probably because it took me several tries to get the combination right. In this case, just the smell of the orange and caramel together, wafting off the cup of the hot chocolate tells your brain that you are in for a treat.
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Making Boozy Hot Chocolate
There are so many wonderful, comforting flavors around this time of year, and so many of them go well with chocolate. The holiday season is all about indulgence and this year, I feel like we all need and deserve the beautiful, homemade tastes of the season.
Fortifying hot chocolate with alcohol is not a new thing, but it’s something people do more at home than at bars. A simple addition of some Irish cream or mint liqueur can dress up a hot chocolate at the end of the day. Those low alcohol additions add lots of flavor but don’t kick up the ABV too much. Usually people add 1 to 1.5 ounces to a 10 to 12 oz cup of hot chocolate. It’s enough to add flavor, but not enough to get you tipsy.
When you add spirits to hot drinks, more of the alcohol smell and flavor wafts off the top of the drink. That’s because alcohol turns into a vapor at a much lower temperature than water. Those volatile chemicals that make up spirits’ tastes explode from the surface of the drink and give warm drinks a much more prevalent nose.
Flavors in the Salted Caramel Orange Hot Chocolate
Coffee houses love to add caramel and orange flavors to coffee, but I wanted to stick to chocolate. Coffee’s bitterness tamps down the sweetness of the caramel and orange together, but I was in the mood for a sweet, chocolatey, warm cocktail.
This is not a bitter, balanced cocktail; it is definitely on the sweet end of the spectrum. But with all of the insanity of 2020 I felt like sticking to sweet, hot drinks near the end of the year was allowed.
Rather than give you a recipe for hot chocolate, I’m encouraging you to use the cocoa you already know you love. I’m partial to a home-made mix with almond milk, but if you’re team melted-chocolate and cream or team Swiss Miss, go for it.
How to Make the Caramel Orange Hot Chocolate
Start with 8-10 oz of your favorite hot chocolate, freshly made and very hot. We’ll add in an ounce of bourbon, a half ounce of caramel liqueur and a half ounce of orange liqueur. Top that off with some salted caramel syrup, and stit to make sure everything is combined. If you need to, pop it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and warm it up a bit.
Finally, we’ll add a layer of whipped cream, drizzle some salted caramel and toffee bits, and add in a dehydrated orange. I have this Mexican Chocolate Orange available through https://www.dried-peel.com/shop and it is deadly with any hot chocolate. The notes of cinnamon and slight spice here make it a perfect match for a fancified hot chocolate.
For my caramel liqueur I used Ballotin’s Caramel Turtle whiskey (http://www.ballotinwhiskey.com/ballotin-home.html#flavors) – which has a little nuttiness in addition to the caramel flavor – although I also tested with Van Meer’s Stroopwaffel liqueur (https://www.stroopwafelworld.com/en/brands/van-meers/) and that was a great match, too.
While you could use any of the myriad of orange liqueurs available from Cointreau to Grand Marnier, I went with Solerno’s Blood Orange liqueur . But triple sec or any orange curacao will work wonderfully, too.
I used Old Forester 100 for the bourbon, but you’re not adding a ton – you just want enough to add in some nice vanilla and oak notes to the nose of the boozy hot chocolate.
Other Warm Cocktails You Might Enjoy
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Salted Caramel Orange Hot Chocolate
- ½ oz orange liqueur I used Solerno Blood Orange liqueur
- ½ oz caramel liqueur I used Ballotin Caramel Turtle
- 1 oz bourbon
- ¾ oz salted caramel syrup
- 10 oz hot chocolate
- Garnish: whipped cream caramel drizzle, toffee pieces, dehydrated Mexican Chocolate Orange wheel
- In a hot mug, add hot chocolate, orange liqueur, caramel liqueur, bourbon and salted caramel syrup. Stir well to combine and pop in the microwave for about 10-15 second to warm it back up. Finally, add the whipped cream and garnish toppings