Image: Michael Novak

Whether winter takes you to the mountains or you’re just hunkering down in the rainy city, a cup of hot cocoa brings instant comfort, and there are practically as many different ways to prepare it as there are snowflakes.

Keep things simple (but boozy) by adding ¾ oz Sailor Jerry, ½ oz Rumple Minze, and ¼ oz Cointreau to some cocoa mix before topping with boiling water, a recipe concocted by a Rambler bartender named Rachel, after a late night sipping hot chocolate at the Roxy left her wanting a more adult version. At the Rambler, in a converted 1920s house on N Mississippi Avenue, they use their own custom mix and top it with whipped cream and crushed peppermint stick. (That was easy to do with our pictured at-home version, too.)

“I really like the play of flavor overproof peppermint schnapps has with the chocolate,” says the inventor’s bartender colleague Christian, who starts getting requests for the concoction as soon as the temperature dips. “That, mixed with the rich spices in the rum and a hint of dry orange make for a delectable winter sipper.”

Hot cocoa fans up for putting in a little more labor, though, can try this recipe for Xico’s habanero caramel drinking chocolate. The drink, an instant favorite when then-pastry chef Mindy Keith introduced it at the SE Division Street spot shortly after it opened in 2012, works with or without a jolt of mezcal.

Powder Power

Got some cocoa mix hiding in your cupboard? This winter, put it somewhere you’ll actually use it, or throw some in with your gear on your next adventure. And remember, just as with the boozy version above, you don’t have to follow the instructions exactly. That container of Moonstruck Milk Chocolate Cocoa I’ve had since last Christmas? I made it a breve, with a 3:1 ratio of 2 percent milk to half-and-half, and the result was incredibly rich and creamy. The dairy-free Good & Gather Pumpkin Spice Hot Cocoa Mix made me want to string up the holiday lights after the first sip, and with the coconut milk I added the pumpkin was more of an aftertaste. I wasn’t surprised to find tried-and-true Swiss Miss in my kitchen.

Sprinkle some mini marshmallows to up the glamour, or use a trick my mother taught me: add a small coating of Hershey’s syrup to the bottom of the cup, leaving those last few sips rich and sweet.

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