Whenever someone says “hot chocolate”, two images spring to my mind. One is the drink of my childhood, piled high with marshmallows. The other is a tiny cup of weapons-grade chocolate I once had at the Granja M Viader café in Barcelona – so dark and thick you could, pretty much literally, stand a spoon up in it. I don’t think I slept for a week.

But that’s the thing about hot chocolate. You can spin it so many ways. One of my favourite variations is hot chocolate with a dash of Green Chartreuse. And this season, in the Alps, there seems to be a lot of this herbal liqueur about. At the Experimental Cocktail Club in Verbier they do a particularly indulgent take on verte chaud made with Green Chartreuse, vanilla pods and double cream.

Cartografie single-origin hot chocolate, £16.50
Cartografie single-origin hot chocolate, £16.50

At the Hôtel Mont-Blanc in Megève, skiers can now defrost with no fewer than nine different types of hot chocolate, including a Chocolate des Neiges made with white chocolate, orange blossom and lemon zest.

If it’s spice you are after, artisan chocolatier Paul A Young makes a vegan-friendly Aztec hot chocolate blend (£11.50) laced with spices and cayenne pepper. Young recommends using hot water rather than milk or cream, “so you can really experience the flavours of the cocoa bean”. Adding a little pinch of Cornish sea salt will “intensify the experience even further”.

Pierre Marcolini hot chocolate; Grands Crus tablets from £8
Pierre Marcolini hot chocolate; Grands Crus tablets from £8
Paul A Young Aztec Hot Chocolate
Paul A Young Aztec Hot Chocolate

High-end chocolate can be just as nuanced as coffee or wine. Single-origin specialist Cartografie makes four sustainably sourced hot chocolates (£16.50) that spotlight different terroirs. Its Venezuelan is soft and creamy, with notes of Earl Grey. The Tanzanian is fruitier: caramelised banana, pineapple and espresso. If you’re willing to make your drink from chocolate en bloc, the single origin, Grands Crus tablets from Pierre Marcolini are excellent: the Cuba tablet (£8) makes an aromatic, almost coffee-like drink.

Hot chocolate at the Hôtel Mont Blanc in Megève
Hot chocolate at the Hôtel Mont Blanc in Megève

Knoops is a fun brand that does hot chocolate flakes in a range of different strengths. The mellow 34 per cent milk chocolate flakes (£9.25) may underwhelm cacao fiends, but the 72 per cent single origin flakes (£9.95) hit the spot. It also does white chocolate flakes and a rather fearsome 100 per cent cacao variety (£9.95).

For a hot chocolate with social impact, try the 52 per cent cocoa hot chocolate from the Modern Standard Coffee roastery in Fife (from £6). Ten pence of every bag sold goes to the Empowering Dreams project, which helps to nurture (mainly female) entrepreneurs in the part of Colombia where the cocoa is from.

What will the next hot chocolate trend be? I’m putting my money on hot chocolate with mezcal. Oaxacan brand Pensador has produced a limited-edition kit (£41.50) featuring a bottle of mezcal and a tin of Oaxaca hot chocolate made from stone-ground Tabasqueño cacao beans, lightly spiced with cinnamon and almond. Served with a twist of orange, it tastes divine and what’s more 10 per cent of every sale goes to support local good causes.

@alicelascelles

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