When it’s turned colder I always want to fill my tummy with something warm on cold days and this Smoke and Oak, Smoked Hot Chocolate created for Bourbon Women fits the bill as the perfect warm bourbon cocktail to wrap your fingers around.
During the holidays, as the days shorten, I’m dreaming of warm, toasty locales. Bet you didn’t think I meant a cooperage, did you? Lately I’ve been dreaming of the beauty and drama of a cooperage – the smell of fresh-sawn oak in the air, the smoke and heat from the toast and char of the barrels, the pounding of the mallets striking down the hoops.
I wanted to create a warming hot chocolate with hints of smoke and heat – one that can carry us through December and the colder months to come. So we’re dressing up hot chocolate with an oaky bourbon, a dash of cayenne for heat, cinnamon for spice, and a hint of smoke from Scotch or mezcal.
This is the perfect cocktail for Bourbon Women. Not only does it include a healthy pour of bourbon (and lets you taste the bourbon all the way through the cocktail) it’s reminiscent of experiences we’ve had on the bourbon trail visiting rickhouses and cooperages.
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Boozy Hot Chocolate is Perfect in the Winter
We all know bourbon and chocolate are a magnificent pairing. If you don’t, have a sip of a lovely bourbon and a nibble of a hand-made chocolate or bourbon ball. The flavor explosion of the chocolate and bourbon together meld into a ready-made dessert in your mouth. It’s so effective many distilleries include a chocolate or bourbon ball pairing as part of their tastings.
While you can add any spirit to hot chocolate, aged spirits like rum, whiskey and older tequilas add vanilla notes and sweet oaky barrel tones to a cocktail. Adding gin can work, with the right gin, and there are some magnificent flavored vodkas that pack a punch in a hot chocolate. Raspberry, orange, peppermint and vanilla all come to mind as excellent vodka prospects.
But we love bourbon best in this house, so we’ll stick with bourbon as the main added spirit of choice. It’s a classic pairing and always one to savor.
Flavors in this Smoked Hot Chocolate
Since I was playing with the flavors that remind me of a cooperage floor, I wanted both heat and smoke in the flavor profile. To do that, I added a little splash of smoky spirit – Scotch or mezcal. Just a bit to the hot chocolate itself, then another dose to the whipped cream.
I wanted the first sensory experience from the hot chocolate to be the smoke that you get when near the charring and toasting stations.Topping the hot chocolate with smoky whipped cream was the perfect way to accomplish that.
But once you sip on the cocktail, I wanted to add a little heat. If you’ve ever been in a cooperage in the summer, the heat pulses out of the building – not just from the kilns drying the wood, but the charring and toasting stations. And the heat from the machinery itself.
A dash of cayenne added to the cocktail adding that element of heat without causing me to break out into a sweat.
Finally I needed the oak. While there might be a way to infuse cream with oak, I didn’t want splinters from the cocktail, so I settled on Woodford Reserve Double Oaked because it’s what I had on hand. However, if you really want to push the oak, I find tons of it in Orphan Barrel Barterhouse and in Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Neither are expressions I keep around the house, but if you have them, they’ll add all the oak you need in this smoked hot chocolate.
Making Smoked Whipped Cream
I wasn’t interested in a dollop of fully whipped cream on top of the hot chocolate. Rather I wanted that thick layer of cream you find on top of an Irish coffee. So it was time for a little infusion.
To infuse the whipped cream, I added ½ oz of mezcal or scotch to 3 oz of the whipped cream and used a hand-held latte whisk on them for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have a whisk, put the contents in a jar and shake vigorously for about a minute. The cream will thicken and it’ll have lovely smoky notes wafting from it.
How to Make the Smoke and Oak Smoked Hot Chocolate
First, prepare the smoked whipped cream as described above. Set it aside in the fridge while you make the hot chocolate.
Add the hot chocolate to a hot mug. Add in the bourbon, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of cayenne and a bar spoon or so of smoky scotch or mezcal. Stir until well combined, then add a layer of smoked whipped cream on top and garnish with a little drizzle of chocolate and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you like.
Then try to sip slowly. Be careful, because it’s warm it’s easy to drink quickly, and with two full ounces of bourbon it it, it’s a hefty pour for a cocktail.
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Recommended Bar Tools
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
Smoke and Oak: Smoked Hot Chocolate
- 10 -12 oz hot chocolate
- 2 oz oaky bourbon – I used Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
- Dash of ground cinnamon
- Dash of cayenne
- Bar spoon smoky scotch or mezcal
- Garnish: 1-2 oz smoked whipped cream, dash of cinnamon, chocolate drizzle
- Add the hot chocolate to a warm mug. Add bourbon, a dash of cayenne powder, a dash of ground cinnamon and a bar spoon of smoky scotch or mezcal. Whisk to combine. Layer 1-2 oz of smoked whipped cream on top and a dash of ground cinnamon.
- 3 oz whipping cream
- 1/2 oz smoky scotch or mezcal