We live out in the middle of nowhere. Like, so far out in the middle of nowhere that we heard sirens off in the distance the other day, and I tried to remember the last time I heard an ambulance and couldn’t think of another time. That’s the way we like it—nice and isolated.
We have next to nothing in the way of amenities near to us. We have a tiny grocery store in our town (like, smaller than most convenience stores tiny), a gas station, a couple of down-home restaurants, and one, um, rugged drinking establishment. We did get a RedBox last year, and that was kinda a huge deal.
It’s all well and good, because we make regular trips to the “big city” to stock up on former city-dweller essentials like chia seeds and craft beer. The long drive to Whole Foods is totally worth our blissfully private life out in the country. And, we are fortunate enough to have one really awesome city-living attraction near to us—one of the best wineries and distilleries in the area is a whopping 10 minutes from our house.
People drive for hours to get there, but we can just hop over on a random Wednesday to do some wine tasting (and we have). They also have one heck of an awesome flatbread pizza menu. It’s nice to have such a high quality touch of city life out here in the country (and it’s always fun watching the city-slickers who drive out here to get back to nature).
One of our favorite things to do at the winery is head up to their tasting bar and do their distillery tasting flight. We aren’t huge wine people—I don’t mind a glass every now and again, but I’d much rather have a good beer or a G&T—so getting to sip on all their speciality spirits is a really fun thing for us to do.
Last time we were there, when our bartender brought out the last item in our flight—a raspberry brandy—he set out a big pile of dark chocolate chunks for us to nibble on with the brandy. He said the chocolate really made the brandy, and he was right, it was incredible! That pairing got me thinking of different ways to use chocolate and booze together in recipes. That moment right there was the origination spark for this boozy, wine-based hot chocolate recipe!
This red wine hot chocolate is gloriously rich and boozy, but still wonderfully balanced. It has enough chocolate in it so that folks who aren’t big wine fans (hello, me) will still love it. It doesn’t taste like wine, it just tastes like a rich, warm, fruity (and, ahem, alcoholic) hot chocolate. Of course, you can highly impact the flavor of your mug of cocoa by changing what kind of wine you use. For a sweeter, fruitier end result, use a fruit wine (like a raspberry or strawberry wine). If you want something drier, use a merlot, shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. Unlike regular hot cocoa, I don’t think this hot cocktail needs any sort of garnish—no whipped cream or marshmallows here. It is gloriously rich all on its own.
I would recommend making sure to use high-quality chocolate—you can really taste the difference in simple recipes like this. My go-to chocolate chips are the Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet. I like that they are a top-shelf brand (or at least, higher shelf) that you can get at most “normal” grocery stores—well, normal if you live in a town bigger than the size of a postage stamp. Ghiradelli chips are pricier than a lot of the other brands in the store, but I think the difference is worth the money. Enjoy!
- ⅔ cup semisweet chocolate chips (recommended: Ghiradelli)
- ⅔ cup dry red wine (merlot, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon)
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup half and half
- 2 tablespoons sugar, optional (see notes)
- Pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine the chocolate chips, wine, milk, half, and half and sugar (if using), in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is hot.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour into mugs and serve
For a sweeter, fruiter vibe, swap out the dry wine for a fruit wine—make sure you omit the sugar.
Zest on a little bit of orange or clementine peel just before serving to really take this drink over the top!