By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 29, 2020 at 1:01 PM

As we close out 2020, we wanted to share some of our favorite stories from the last decade. We hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we enjoyed telling them. Click here to see the rest of our picks of must-reads and happy new year, Milwaukee!

This article was originally published in December of 2016.

It's winter and there's a chill in the air. And that’s means there’s nothing better than snuggling up at home with a cup of delicious hot chocolate.

But how can you take your next mug of hot chocolate to the next level? Turns out, it’s as simple as adding a bit of red wine.

Combining the complex flavors of chocolate with red wine is nothing new. Wine lovers have long known the magic of nibbling a piece of dark chocolate while sipping a glass of red wine. But thanks to the internet, this classic combination has seen a resurgence, as bloggers and food magazines have declared red wine hot chocolate one of the hottest new tipples for the winter months.

In celebration of this delicious trend, we created a top-shelf version of the drink using local ingredients. Most notably, we took our creation up a notch by using the dark chocolate sea salt bar from Indulgence Chocolatiers as our base. At 54 percent cocoa, it offers up deep, rich chocolate notes that play well with the flavors of dark berries and spice inherent to the wine. Finishing the drink with Bittercube cherry bark bitters underscores the sweetness, while balancing things out with a touch of bitterness.

This recipe creates a thick, creamy drinking chocolate that's far more rich than your average cup of hot cocoa. If you'd prefer it as a slightly thinner, less-rich beverage, you can reduce the amount of chocolate in the recipe. Want a little more wine flavor? You can add more wine to taste.

Red wine hot chocolate a la Milwaukee

1 1/4 cups Sassy Cow half & half (substitute whole milk if you like)
7 ounces Indulgence Chocolatiers dark chocolate (two bars), finely chopped
3/4 cup dry red wine with nice deep fruit flavors 
2 generous dashes Bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters
Garnish: whipped cream, orange zest, cocoa powder or grated chocolate

In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Take care not to let the milk boil. When the milk is hot (you’ll see steam rising and little bubbles beginning to form at the edges of the pan), take the pan off the heat and add the chopped chocolate.Whisk vigorously until all of the chocolate has melted.

Once the chocolate is melted, add the wine return to heat. Whisk for an additional 2-3 minutes or until hot and frothy. Remove from heat and add bitters.

Pour hot chocolate into mugs. Top with whipped cream, a bit of orange zest or a dusting of cocoa powder or grated chocolate, if desired. Makes 2-4 servings, depending on the size of your mugs.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.