{drink it up} Hot Chocolate vs. Hot Cocoa

Guess what kids… it’s still winter.

At least it is here in Upstate New York. While the temperatures are supposed to hit a “balmy” 40 degrees this week, there is still a decent blanket of snow and ice covering everything on my little farm.

Hot Chocolate

While the terms “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” might seem interchangeable, they are indeed different things. The dividing line between the two is, most simply, one uses cocoa powder while one uses melted chocolate. Hot cocoa “mix” can be made ahead of time in bulk and be stirred into hot water (or milk) to constitute the drink. Personally, I am more of a hot chocolate lass – the rich consistency does it for me. Winter isn’t over yet, so you still have plenty of time to test both options and decide your own preference.

serves 4


  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract*
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon* (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until it is hot and slightly frothy. Whisk in the chocolate and sugar, and continue to whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper (if using). Serve immediately and top with whipped cream (or add a little homemade Irish Cream for an adult kick, or flavor with homemade coffee creamer).

*Steep a cinnamon stick and split vanilla bean in the hot chocolate for 5-7 minutes on low heat instead.

Makes 5 ½ cups mix


  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 ½ cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Hot water or milk

Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. Keep in an airtight container. When read to use, fill a mug halfway with hot cocoa mix, then add hot water or milk and stir slowly until mix is dissolved. Top with marshmallows.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. rakisheats says:

    Sounds like it’s time for an experiment! Maybe a blind taste test. My hypothesis is that I will like Hot Cocoa more

  2. Stephanie says:

    I prefer cocoa for an everyday traveling drink– you dump it all into a pint jar, lid it, and by the time you arrive, it’s well-mixed and ready to drink. But I also prefer it with much less sugar. In dark cafes from elegent little demitasse cups, sweet intense chocolate all the way!

  3. Susan says:

    I’ve been looking for ‘cocoa’ mix to keep at work for a treat when I don’t want coffee. I look a lot, and never find one with decent ingredients. I’m going to try this one! thanks!

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