If you're lucky enough to have ever skied the French Alps (in which case I'm extremely jealous), there's a good chance you cozied up après-ski with a steaming hot mug of Verte Chaud. This regional warmer (the name means "hot green") is made by spiking hot chocolate with Green Chartreuse, the famous herbal liqueur made nearby. Easy to make and richly scented with pine and rosemary, the Verte Chaud is as wintry and invigorating as the Alpine air.
Here's a little background for those of you who aren't familiar with Chartreuse; it's an herbal liqueur made by French monks from a 400-year-old recipe. It comes in green and yellow varieties, and both use a secret blend of 130 herbs and plants. It's a truly interesting spirit with a very long history -- the entire operation is still overseen by just two monks. You may have even tried it before, in classic cocktails like the Last Word or Bijou (two of my favorites). I'm obsessed with the smooth but bracing herbal backbone it gives a mixed drink, but I also love it on the rocks as a digestif.
You don't have to actually go skiing to enjoy this famous French apres ski treat. Since the weather in most of the country is pretty much Alpine too right now (eek!), there are few better weapons to fight the arctic air than a piping hot cup of chocolate. I'm not talking grocery-store-powdered-mix, but the real deal -- chopped bittersweet chocolate bits slowly melted and frothed in simmering milk. If that doesn't sound comforting to you, you're probably out of luck. Short of sending you a basket of puppies, there's really nothing else I can do to save your shivering soul.
If you caught my post on Mexican Hot Chocolate, you know I like to make my hot chocolate very rich and thick, but still smooth and drinkable. It's not quite as heavy as those cafe hot chocolates you spoon out of a tiny cup, but the decadent, almost mousse-like flavor is still there. The secret is starting with a block of real bittersweet chocolate (not cocoa powder), and finishing with a whisk or built-in frother, like the one in this fantastic hot chocolate carafe. It's stovetop safe, so you can make, froth, and serve your batch right out of the vessel (I hate cleaning extra pots and instruments, so this is huge for me).
Top with a spoonful of whipped cream, or a big honking marshmallow. Bonus points if you toast it right in the cup with a kitchen torch -- indispensable this time of year when you don't want to actually venture outside to roast your mallows.
(1) Warm the milk in a saucepan or hot chocolate pot over medium heat, just until steaming. Whisk in the chocolate until completely melted.
(2) Bring the mixture to a simmer, being careful not to let it boil over. Let simmer, whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
(3) Remove from heat and add the brown sugar and salt. Whisk rapidly to combine and froth, or use the pot's built-in frother.
(4) Divide the Green Chartreuse evenly between four mugs (2 oz per mug), and top with the hot chocolate.