When I came up with this idea for Twelve Days of Cocoa I knew I had to pay homage to the classic pairing of chocolate and mint. Not because it’s a popular drink, but because it paints a picture of a young Daisy on Christmas Eve awaiting the annual tradition of walking around the neighborhood looking at Christmas decorations, watching The Harry Connick Jr. Christmas Special, and drinking a mug of hot cocoa with a pretty red and white candy cane resting inside.
This was the tradition of Christmas Eve at my dad’s house. Our big dinner was on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and we opened all our gifts on Christmas Eve. Of course, Santa still filled our stockings while we slept so we had one last surprise on Christmas morning. After finishing dinner we would go on a short walk around the neighborhood to look at all the lights and decorations. Then we would come back and open one present. If I remember correctly the one gift was simply a diversion. Something to keep us occupied until later in the evening when we would open all the gifts as a family. I’m sure the one-gift-early rule was established after much whining and asking, “When can we open presents?!”
We would then settle down on the couch and watch The Christmas Special. We probably watched whatever was new that year, but starting in 1994 we watched the Harry Connick Jr. special. My dad taped it that year in 1994 and it has been watched every year since. When VHS players became obsolete my dad copied it onto a DVD for me. That DVD now stops part way through so I only get to watch the first portion of the show. Earlier this year my younger brother found the CD at an estate sale and I have been listening to that recently.
Along with all the food, presents, and music came the hot chocolate. Our Christmas tree always had candy canes on it as ornaments and we were allowed to choose one from the tree to place into our piping hot mug of cocoa.
Then one year, when I was about fifteen, we were drinking our cocoa and my dad’s wife said, “Mmm minty”, which confused me because she did not have a candy cane! When I asked how her’s was minty she smiled and replied, “Peppermint Schnapps”. I had no idea what that meant and would continue to be baffled until I was 21-years-old. No, I am not lying to appease my parents. I never drank, or even tasted, alcohol until my 21st birthday.
So the year I turned 21 I decided to try this candycane-less minty cocoa. I bought a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps and added some to my cocoa. Let me tell you, I was not impressed! The alcohol flavor just completely ruined the minty cocoa experience for me, and that was the last time I ever had candycane-less minty cocoa. Until tonight.
I do not have Peppermint Schnapps in my Jack Skellington mug. I tried making Mint-Infused Simple Syrup, instead. And it worked. My dark chocolate ganache hot cocoa has mint-infused simple syrup added to get a more natural mint flavor. Although not as festive in appearance I prefer this simple syrup method because the mint flavor is more mild and not at all overpowering.
If you must, you may still throw a candy cane in your cocoa mug, but don’t you want to be able to tell people you have made mint-infused simple syrup?
I used the dark chocolate ganache because I feel it stands up more to the mint flavoring, and the simple syrup adds some sweetness.
Minty Hot Cocoa
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Ganache Hot Cocoa
2 Tablespoons Mint-Infused Simple Syrup
-Heat milk and ganache
-Stir in simple syrup
Mint-Infused Simple Syrup
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Bunch Mint
-Combine all ingredients in saucepan (you can add the full mint leaf, stems too)
-Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves
-Strain to remove solids
-Store in an airtight container
-Will keep for up to six months