Devilish Hot Chocolate

Devilish Hot Chocolate

The summer before my senior year of college I did this crazy thing where I commuted from Philly to NYC for an internship, Monday through Thursday, for 10 weeks. Also, even though it was the hottest summer of my entire life, I did this other crazy thing where I had hot chocolate every day. Because when you are interning for Penguin Books and there’s a Jacque Torres chocolate shop across the street with a hot chocolate bar, that’s what you do. 

But this was not just any hot chocolate. No no no no – it was the “Wicked” Hot Chocolate. When I walked in that first day (into heaven), I decided to get some hot chocolate and asked the girl at the bar for a recommendation. She said the “wicked” was the most popular. I explained that I’m a total wimp and steer clear of spicy things, but she encouraged me to try a sample, “just in case.” DING DING DING. I drank Wicked Hot Chocolate every day that summer.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

If you’re ever in NYC and have the opportunity, you MUST try this hot chocolate. For me, it borders on the line of being too spicy, but never quite crosses it. I suppose the chocolate and the fat in the drink must mellow out the spice just enough for me to be able to bear it. It was unlike any other hot chocolate I’d ever had in my sheltered life. They also serve frozen hot chocolates, but I drank those too quickly and would end up with a serious sugar rush, so I stuck with the hot chocolate … even though it was 100 degrees outside.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

My internship at Penguin was a major player in fostering my love of cookbooks. Employees received a 75% off discount in the employee bookstore … which resulted in me spending most of my paycheck on books (because I would never have this opportunity again!!!!!), and therefore also resulted in me having to ship boxes of books home to myself because I couldn’t carry them all home on the bus with me. Womp woooomp. Best summer ever! No, really – it was awesome.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

I got a lot of reading done that summer, mostly because my Megabus was usually 30-45 minutes late. I spent many an hour standing in line for the bus while reading a book. As soon as I discovered I could read on the highway while sitting on the top level of the Megabus without getting carsick, I got even more reading done. There were also those random days where we sat in traffic for 30 minutes or more, just waiting to get to the Lincoln Tunnel. So, yeah – LOTS of reading time.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

I read a lot of novels, but I also started buying cookbooks. I remember the day I bought The Modern Baker; I spent the whole bus ride home just poring over that gorgeous book, taking in the graphic design and lovely photos of cookies, cinnamon buns and cake. I was in love. As one of my early cookbooks, I baked out of it a lot. During senior year I made multiple batches of the gingersnaps from it (The BEST gingersnaps!), sometimes at 10 pm on a Saturday night, “just because.” And then I would eat half of them before bed. It also has my favorite brownie recipe I’ve ever made, which is really more like fudge disguised as a brownie. To this day, it is one of my favorite cookbooks.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate recipe is one of the first recipes I ever developed on my own. It almost acts as a little bookmark at the beginning of my journey with food, and I love it for that. I have tinkered with it quite a few times, taking diligent notes in my little notebook of recipes that my good friend Jackie gave me for Christmas in college.

This recipe was really born out of necessity. At the end of that summer, when I was used to my daily dose of Wicked Hot Chocolate, I started to panic. How would I feed this habit for the rest of my life? No worries – Jacques Torres came to the rescue with his hot chocolate mix. I bought one of his tins of Wicked Hot Chocolate mix to satisfy my cravings for the next few months. (For a hot chocolate mix, I highly recommend it. I was making it with skim milk back in college, and it was still insanely delicious and just as I remembered it.) But then the tin ran out, and I decided to try my hand at a homemade version. So this is it!

Devilish Hot Chocolate

This hot chocolate is not for the faint of heart, so consider yourself warned. A little bit goes a long way. I hope you love it as much as I do.

p.s. – Here’s a fun podcast interview with Mr. Chocolate himself, and here’s a goofy little comic I made about a typical day of my Penguin internship.

Devilish Hot Chocolate

Some notes from me:

• If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, just add a little bit of ground cinnamon with the other spices.
• This gets thicker as you have it on the heat longer. While we were photographing this, we had it on the heat for a little longer than normal – as you can see, it became quite thick. But I like it like that.
• I think this is best with whole milk, but use whatever kind of milk you prefer. I’m sure it would be great with almond milk, and coconut milk might be crazy delicious.
• I find it difficult to make a single serving of this without accidentally making it too spicy for me. If you want to try it, just cut this whole recipe in half. No biggie. Just be careful with that chipotle chili powder!

Devilish Hot Chocolate

Devilish Hot Chocolate

Yield: 2 servings


  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • SMALL PINCH chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • dash maple syrup (optional)
  • whipped cream (optional)


  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm up the milk with the cinnamon stick, stirring occasionally.
  2. Once the milk has warmed (little bubbles should form by the edges of the pan and you should see steam), add in the cocoa powder and sugar. Whisk until dissolved.
  3. Stir in the salt, allspice and chipotle powder. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. At this point, taste it and adjust seasonings as necessary. If you want it sweeter, add a dash of maple syrup. If you want more spice, add another pinch of chipotle powder.
  5. When it is to your liking, take it off the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into cups and top with whipped cream. Put on your favorite sweatpants and enjoy.
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Photos by Robert Cornelius
Prints of my illustrations are available in my Etsy and Society6 shops.


  1. says

    I would have probably picked up a cookbook on each trip so I’m with you. The chili and cinnamon addition sounds delicious, hot chocolate is perfect for any weather so the next time I visit NYC I need to get a taste of the wicked drink!

    • Sara says

      Yes .. I bought so many books! But I think the cookbooks made the most lasting impression. And for sure, the next time you are in NYC you MUST try it.

  2. says

    Holy goodness gracious does this sound (and look!) divine. I’m going to try this soon! I love hot chocolate. I think the best one I ever had was in Cusco, Peru in a tiny little chocolate shop. It was pretty much liquid fudge as rich as it was but I tell ya, I sat down and curled my hands around that mug and didn’t let go until I was done! So good! I swear, things like that, those moments can transform your /life/! Will never forget it. :)

    • Sara says

      I can only imagine how good hot chocolate must be in Peru. And in my opinion, the thicker the better. I think my other favorite hot chocolate I’ve had was in Venice. I got scared when after I ordered it they pulled out a paper packet with a powder mix of some sort, but that stuff was like thick chocolate soup. SO GOOD.

  3. Kate says

    What a summer! I absolutely love spicy chocolatey things, so I have no doubt I’d adore this hot chocolate!

    • Sara says

      Yes, Kate – it was nuts!! If you love spicy chocolate, then this hot chocolate is definitely for you. :-)

  4. Kelley K. says

    Sara, this looks so good!!! I am writing the ingredients on my shopping list for the week! Thank you!

  5. says

    70 % off? Oh my… Trust me, I would have gone nuts too so absolutely no judging there. Besides, cookbooks have no expiration date – they can be handed down from one generation to the next. That’s what I always say to myself ;)
    Now to this AMAZING recipe. I truly can’t wait to make it. It sounds and looks heavenly.

    P.S. Loved the comic strip. Must have been a great, yet tough, summer.

    • Sara says

      Oh my goodness, Sini. So many books. And I forgot to mention all of the FREE ones I got that summer. :-D I hope you enjoy the hot chocolate when you try it out! And thanks for checking out the comic strip … it WAS a tough summer, but I was drunk on books and chocolate so I got through it.

  6. Chartown says

    So Sara, your page here is one of the few things I can view at work…because of that I’m gonna need to you post daily so I can make all my coworkers drool over your amazing illustrations.
    I know you have plenty of free time to make this happen ;) thanks!

  7. says

    Love this so much, Sara! The spicy hot chocolate, the illustration, everything. I interned at a publisher too back in the day! And oh, those free books…… I miss those days. Totally worth all those Megabus trips, I’m sure. Beautiful post.

    • Sara says

      Thank you! And yeah, it was totally worth it. I got to hang out with children’s books and original artwork all day, and get free books in the process, so yeah – pretty sweet.

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