Rich, dark, and smooth, this beverage is subtly uplifted with the flavor of mint. I like peppermint; spearmint and orange mint are delicious alternatives. In cafés in Europe, hot chocolate is usually prepared with melted chocolate rather than cocoa powder and served with a dollop of whipped cream on top. If you want to gild the lily here, you can add about a tablespoon of mint syrup to the whipping cream after you have whipped it.
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 6 peppermint sprigs about 4 to 5 inches long
• 2 cups half-and-half or 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup milk
• 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• Whipped cream, optional
1. Combine the water, sugar, and mint in a small saucepan, bruising the mint against the side of the pan with a spoon. Place over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand at least 30 minutes.
2. Remove the mint leaves and squeeze them into the syrup to extract their flavor. This syrup can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to three months.
3. In a heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan, combine the half-and-half, chocolate pieces, cocoa powder, and 1 cup of the mint syrup. Place over medium heat and stir with a whisk. Keep stirring with a whisk until the chocolate is melted; do not allow the hot chocolate to boil. Taste, and add more mint syrup for extra sweetness if desired. Turn the heat to low and whisk until there is some froth on top. Serve hot with whipped cream, if desired.
4. The hot chocolate can be cooled, refrigerated, and reheated the next day.
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A Match Made in Chocolate