It has become a holiday tradition for my friend and I to spend a weekend making chocolates for family and friends, but we were lacking the needed inspiration this year so decided to take a break. I couldn’t quite let it go completely so decided to have some friends over for an evening of hot cocoa and cider and it was so much fun!

Jess (of chocolate making fame) happened to be down to visit a couple days before the party so I roped her into helping me try homemade marshmallows. We had a Smitten recipe so I was confident, and it was justified. They came out perfectly and were the hit of the night.


The night of the party I had a ton of fun prepping toppings and putting them into little bowls. Then I heated up some almond milk and melted a serious amount of bittersweet chocolate.

melting chocolate

Adding melted chocolate to hot milk never quite works out the way I want. I stir forever and it still doesn’t quite come together. So I risked a pot full to the brim and used the magic stick (stick blender, that is) and tada! hot chocolate perfection! It was silky smooth and delicious. Incredibly rich, but delicious. I paired that with a second pot of hot cider.

One of the easiest parties I’ve pulled together and it was a perfect, mellow evening in the midst of holiday craziness.

the spread

Toppings included some absolutely incredible pumpkin spice liqueur (that appeared after the photo) that made hot cider magic, maple bourbon, Bailey’s, marshmallows, peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks, candied ginger, orange zest, chocolate shavings, salted caramel, sea salt (the most popular topping) and my personal favorite: star anise. The great thing is that most of the toppings worked with either the hot chocolate or the hot cider.


We kept the servings small so everyone could try a few versions, then enjoyed a night of yummy drinks and good conversation.