Warm up with style: Holiday drinks with added melty sweetness

Margaret Maples

A little nip in the air sets the stage perfectly for hot cocoa and Irish coffee. And with a little forethought, you can costume these deliciously for their cool weather close-ups.

You’ll need clouds of whipped cream, naturally, and can opt for a variety of whiskies and liqueurs. But the most elegant touch will be one you create yourself: a lattice of piped chocolate — we used both semisweet and white chocolate. You can also use almond bark. All are available at your supermarket.

You can make these ahead of time and, if you like, decorate them with colored sugar. Store them in the fridge until the warm drinks are poured. Now it’s time to rest a lattice on the edge of your cup or footed glass.

Everyone will have an individual lattice style, but remember to pipe the lines a bit heavily, to help the chocolate stand up to the heat of the drink. Although whipped cream will offer some insulation, the lattices will soften and begin to melt. Let them slide into the drink or droop onto the cup’s edge, so your guests will taste a little chocolate or extra sweetness with each sip.

Making a lattice. Line a baking pan with parchment. On this sheet, make several tracings of the top of the cup or glass you’ll use to serve the cocoa or coffee. Cover the tracings with a second sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

Fit a piping bag with a small tip. Melt chocolate or almond bark and stir thoroughly to eliminate lumps that might clog the piping tip. Fill the piping bag. Working freehand, make lacy designs that extend a bit beyond the traced circles. This will let the finished lattices rest on the cup rims. While the chocolate or almond bark is still soft, you can decorate with colored sprinkles.

Chill the lattices for several hours overnight. Keep them refrigerated until just before serving.

Oomph for coffee or cake. Brew your favorite coffee and flavor each serving with one or two tablespoons of liqueur or whiskey. Kahlua, amaretto, Bailey’s, bourbon or Irish whiskey are good possibilities, but there are probably others that you’ll enjoy, too. Top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, powdered sugar, cocoa or ground chocolate, and add a lattice.

These lacy tops also dress up desserts that start with store-bought cake. To add your own flair, drizzle chocolate syrup on the plate or be more daring and mix a syrup of sugar water, Kahlua and powdered sugar. Follow with cake and whipped cream. Sprinkle cocoa and powdered sugar as confetti on the plate. Finish the dessert with a lattice, and let the holiday celebrations begin!

Haute Cocoa. If you have a favorite hot cocoa recipe or ready-made mix, feel free to use it. Or try ours, which is rather rich.

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa (such as Hershey’s or Nestle)

1/8 cup Dutch processed cocoa (such as Droste)

Dash salt

Dash ground cinnamon (optional)

2 1/3 cup milk, divided

Garnishes: Whipped cream, marshmallows, ground cinnamon, colored sugar sprinkles, cocoa powder or grated chocolate, powdered sugar, lattices of chocolate or almond bark. In a saucepan, mix sugar, regular and Dutch processed cocoas, salt and cinnamon, if using. Add 1/3 cup milk and mix smooth. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining milk and return to heat. Bring to serving temperature, just short of boiling.

To serve: Pour hot cocoa to about 1 1/2 inches below the rim of a footed cup. Place whipped cream in a piping bag or a freezer bag with a corner cut off. Cover the hot cocoa’s surface with whipped cream. Lay a lattice across the top of the cup.

Pipe a blossom of whipped cream on the lattice, if desired. Garnish with ground cinnamon, sugar sprinkles, cocoa powder or grated chocolate.