This rich, creamy Peppermint Hot Chocolate is an ultimate treat for the holidays or a snow day. It’s easy to make and prep ahead for entertaining. White Chocolate, spiked, and lighter variations in the recipe notes.
Peppermint is to the winter months what pumpkin spice is to fall: cozy, essential, and divine in the right proportions.
Chocolate and peppermint make one of the most classic winter pairings. But, since peppermint can be an assertive flavor, it’s important to strike the right balance for a great mug of hot chocolate. Too little peppermint, and the festive feel of the drink is lost; too much, and it overpowers.
This Peppermint Hot Chocolate recipe is my favorite. It’s decadent, made with semisweet dark chocolate melted into warm milk and cream. The experience is like drinking a bar of chocolate, highlighted with a wisp of cool peppermint flavor. The ultimate cold weather indulgence.
Making Peppermint Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Extract
There are a few ways to infuse hot chocolate with peppermint. Some recipes crush and melt candy canes into the milky base. I find that you get the same (if not better) flavor with high quality peppermint extract.
It’s also quicker for when the hot chocolate craving comes knocking!
I like to buy pure peppermint extract, which is made with alcohol and peppermint oil. With extract, it’s easy to control how much peppermint flavor you want to add to your hot chocolate.
Since strength can vary by brand and the age of the bottle, I like to take in the aroma of the extract before adding it to the pot. If my nose tells me that it’s particularly aromatic, I’ll start with a little less and add to taste.
Quality is key with all extracts, and especially one like peppermint. I vastly prefer pure peppermint extract to imitation.
You can use peppermint oil instead of extract, but it’s much more concentrated, so you’ll need less of it. A mug of cocoa only needs a couple of drops of peppermint oil, as compared to about an eighth of a teaspoon of extract.
For the adults in the room, you can also forego the extract and substitute a shot of peppermint schnapps. Just like extract, you can easily adjust the quantity to control how strong you want it. I typically use 2-3 tablespoons of schnapps (a shot or a little less) to a mug.
Easy Hot Chocolate: Make It Ahead!
If you’re entertaining this holiday season and time is of the essence, you can scale this recipe up and prep/chill the base a day in advance. While the recipe is quick as written, it’s nice to be able to prep it early if you’re going to serve this for, say, a tree trimming party.
When making the hot chocolate ahead of time, I like to add the vanilla and peppermint extract or schnapps after the base is re-warmed, so the flavors are at their brightest.
The hot chocolate will thicken in the refrigerator, but will return to a drinkable consistency when warm. Reheating only takes a few minutes on the stove, over a low flame.
Serving Peppermint Hot Chocolate
In the great marshmallow vs. whipped cream debate, it’s difficult to choose a winner for topping Peppermint Hot Chocolate. Depending on your sweetness preferences, they both work well.
I tend to go the lightly-sweetened whipped cream route, as I prefer an overall less sweet hot chocolate. But honestly, if you have one of those big, gourmet marshmallows melting into the top of a mug, it’s pretty irresistible too.
Especially when I’m entertaining, I like to sprinkle a little crushed candy cane on top of either the marshmallow or the whipped cream for a pretty presentation. A peppermint stirring stick or candy cane also lends a festive touch.
For fun, you could also make a little hot chocolate bar and let your guests top their mugs with the accompaniments of their choosing. Add a bowl of snowman- or snowflake-shaped sprinkles for the kids, and everyone will enjoy customizing their cup!
Peppermint Hot Chocolate
- 1 cup milk (whole or 2% are best)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
- pinch kosher salt
- 3 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips (about ½ cup)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon peppermint extract
- whipped cream, marshmallows, and crushed candy canes , for garnish (optional)
- In a pot, whisk together milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and peppermint extracts, and salt. Heat on the stove on medium-low until bubbles start to form around the side of the pan.
- Reduce heat to low, add chocolate and extracts, and whisk until melted, glossy, and thickened slightly, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour into a mug and top with lightly-sweetened whipped cream or marshmallows and a sprinkling of crushed candy canes.