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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beverages

TIP OF THE DAY: Rich Hot Chocolate With Fewer Calories


Just a few sips hit the spot. Photo courtesy Dolcezza Gelato.


The headline is a bit of a tease, because the way to enjoy rich hot chocolate, laden with cream, is to have it in an espresso cup.

A mug’s worth can be 600 calories or more. If you’re holding a cup with 12 ounces of delicious, high-calorie chocolate, you’ll finish it.

So take this tip from Dolcezza Gelato in Washington, D.C.: Enjoy two ounces in an espresso cup.

The keys to rich hot chocolate are a rich chocolate bar and cream or half-and-half in addition to the milk. Cocoa powder adds extra chocolatey flavor.

If you don’t have heavy cream, use light cream, half-and-half or milk with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

Thanks to Art Pollard of Amano Chocolate for this recipe.

Ingredients Per Cup

  • 2 ounces quality chocolate bar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon premium Dutch process cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk plus
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream

    1. COMBINE 2 to 3 ounces of chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Chop into the size of chips.

    2. ADD sugar and cocoa powder, as well as a few grains of salt. Cover; process in ten second “bursts” at high speed just until finely ground (a few larger chunks of chocolate are O.K.).

    3. HEAT milk and cream in a small, nonreactive saucepan. Stir frequently with a small whisk, until the mixture is steaming hot.

    4. ADD the chocolate mixture. Whisk in well until dissolved. Serve immediately, preferably garnished with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Yields one large or two more reasonable servings.


  • The Best Hot Chocolate & Cocoa Mixes: our reviews.
  • The history of hot chocolate
  • The difference between cocoa and hot chocolate


    RECIPE: Bailey’s Irish Cream Adult Hot Chocolate


    It’s not an innocent cup of hot chocolate. Photo courtesy Baileys.


    It’s National Hot Chocolate Day, or National Cocoa Day if you prefer (the difference between cocoa and hot chocolate). Today we’re making this adults-only version.

    The recipe comes to us from Baileys Irish Cream, using the company’s Original Irish Cream with a hint of Mint Chocolate.

  • If you only have regular Irish Cream, add a bit of peppermint extract.
  • If you have no irish creme at all, you can use 1/2 ounce of crème de cacao and 1/4 ounces of crème de menthe.

    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 2 ounces Baileys Original Irish Cream with a hint of Mint Chocolate
  • 4 ounces hot chocolate
  • Fresh whipped cream
  • Garnish: crushed candy cane and mint leaf

    1. CRUSH the candy cane with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

    2. POUR the hot chocolate and Baileys Original Irish Cream into a coffee mug. Stir to combine.

    3. TOP with a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle the crushed candy cane on top and garnish with the mint leaf.



    GIFT: 5 Sparrows Hot Chocolate With Stevia


    White hot chocolate with stevia sweetener. Photo courtesy 5 Sparrows.


    Five Sparrows is a line developed by coffee shop owners, who wanted commercial products created specifically for handcrafted beverages. They are now available to consumers as well.

    The company makes hot chocolate, chai and frappe mixes, which are available in versions sweetened with sugar or a combination of stevia and xylitol.

    Today’s recommendation is for the stevia products. It isn’t difficult to find a quality hot chocolate mix made with sugar, but good sugar-free versions are hard to come by. These taste very natural—no “artificial sweetener” aftertaste. They dissolve easily into milk.

    (And note that neither stevia nor xylitol are artificial ingredients. Here are the different types of zero-calorie, a.k.a. non-caloric, sweeteners.)

    For friends and family who prefer a beverage with zero-calorie sweeteners, here are:

  • Zero Sugar House Chocolate
  • Zero Sugar House White Chocolate
  • Zero Sugar Monumental Spiced Chai

    A 10-ounce package is $11.00. Buy them online at



    TIP OF THE DAY: Seasonal Sangria


    Celebrate fall with Apple Cider Sangria. Photo courtesy


    Sangria is a popular party drink, and you can moderate the amount of alcohol or use none at all.

    Here’s the version we’re serving at Thanksgiving, compliments of Zulka Sugar. Fall is apple cider season, so Instead of fruit juice, this recipe uses apple cider and sparkling apple cider.

    Cider s available in alcoholic and non alcoholic versions. In the U.S., alcoholic cider is known as hard cider. (See details below.) Find more delicious recipes at



  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/2 cup Calvados or other apple brandy
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) white wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc work best)
  • 1 bottle sparkling apple cider
  • 5-6 apples, cored and sliced thin (use red apples for better color, or a combination of red and green)
  • Garnish: Cinnamon sticks
  • Optional: ice cubes


    1. COMBINE the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Pour a little of brandy in another small bowl. Dip the glass rims in the brandy and then the cinnamon sugar. Add a few apple slices to each glass. Set aside.

    2. ADD the remaining cinnamon sugar to a large pitcher. Add the apple cider and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Top with the brandy and wine and mix. Add the rest of the apples. Chill until ready to serve.

    3. ADD the sparkling cider right before serving. Garnish with an apple slice and a cinnamon stick. Serve chilled. Add ice if desired.

    While in the U.S. and parts of Canada, the term “apple cider” is interchangeable with apple juice, in Europe a glass of cider is not kid stuff: It’s an alcoholic drink that many prefer to beer.



    One of our favorite cider brands. Photo courtesy Crispin Cider.

    Usually made from fermented apple juice (although pears can be used—pear cider is known as perry in the U.K.), the juice ferments for eight weeks after the apples are pressed. The cider then matures or several months, is blended, filtered and carbonated.

    The result is a drink with the carbonation and alcohol of beer and the flavor of apples. As with beer, each brand has a distinct flavor profile and alcoholic content, generally from 3% ABV (alcohol by volume) or less to 8.5% or more.

    In the U.S., alcoholic cider is called hard cider, and it’s becoming more popular. Like wine, it has a relatively high concentration of antioxidants—but enjoy it for the crisp, refreshing taste!

  • Hard cider is best served chilled or over ice.
  • Cider is naturally gluten-free.
  • Cider is less filling than beer.
  • The apple flavor is all-natural (as opposed to artificially-flavored malt beverages).


    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte


    Why run out for one, when you can make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home? Photo courtesy Starbucks.


    We know far too many people who have an addiction to Pumpkin Spice Latte. They often require two per day. To them we say: Why spend a fortune on a PSL habit? It’s easy to make Pumpkin Spice Latte at home.

    Sure, it’s easy to brew coffee, steam the milk and add a shot or two of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup.

    And here’s a better-for-you variation, a recipe that uses canned pumpkin instead of pumpkin-flavored sugar syrup. You get much more pumpkin flavor, plus the ability to customize the amount of sugar, honey, agave, noncaloric sweetener or no sweetener at all.

    Prep time is 10 minutes.


    Ingredients For 2 Lattes

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling*)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice†
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • Optional garnishes: whipped cream, dash of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks
  • Preparation

    1. HEAT the milk, pumpkin and sugar in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot (do not boil). Remove from the heat. Stir in the pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and coffee.

    2. POUR into 2 large mugs. Garnish each with whipped cream, a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a cinnamon stick.

    *Pumpkin pie filling is pre-sweetened and spiced.

    †If you do not have pumpkin pie spice, make your own by combining 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. This will make about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice mix.

    Still want pumpkin syrup in your PSL? Here’s an alternative recipe that uses pumpkin syrup that you make yourself.

    Café au lait is a coffee drink made with regular coffee (typically a stronger roast, like French roast or Italian roast), brewed in a ratio of 1:1 milk to coffee with sugar to taste.

    Latte, also made with a 1:1 ratio, uses espresso—the strongest coffee roast. Espresso is the roast most popular in Italy; French Roast is most popular in France.

    Check out the different espresso drinks in our Espresso Glossary.



    PRODUCT: Coca-Cola Life


    Coca-Cola Life is the newest addition to the Cola brand. Photo courtesy Design Taxi.


    There’s a great new product for cola drinkers: Coca-Cola Life. Made without corn syrup*, it has half the calories of regular Cocoa-Cola: 60 calories per eight ounces.

    The reduction in calories is done with all natural ingredients. The is half sugar, half stevia.

    Stevia, which is 150 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, is derived from a South American herb called Stevia rebaudiana. It has been used for centuries in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten yerba mate and medicinal teas.

    Stevia is almost calorie-free, does not cause cavities, and does not trigger a rise in blood sugar. A small amount of it works in synergy with the sugar to create sweetness with no off taste. (Check out the different types of sweeteners.)

    Why the new formulation?

    It’s a bid to combat obesity globally (the product first debuted in Argentina!) and offer a healthier option to consumers.

    How does it taste? It’s less sweet/sugary than the corn syrup version. There’s absolutely no aftertaste, as there is with the zero-calorie Coke variations. It tastes like regular Coke, just less sweet. Since we’ve always found the regular Coke too sweet, but find the zero-calorie versions too artificial, we’re the perfect market.

    What do other people think? A market research specialist, with no ties to Coca-Cola, released consumer data indicating that 70% of purchasers rated the taste four out of five stars. More than 40% of the survey participants said that Coca-Cola Life has already replaced original Coca-Cola in their households.
    A Greener Bottle

    The new variety of Coke is also targeting the environmental crowd. Coca-Cola Life is packaged in a fully-recyclable plant-based bottle (although our guess is that if it’s a big hit, can and large plastic bottles will join the lineup). That’s why the label is green.

    The plant-based bottle consists of 30% recycled natural materials, and is lighter in weight than regular PET plastic bottles. A lighter-weight shipment requires less fossil fuel.

    Coca-Cola Life will roll out globally over the next several months, but get yours today. After all, it’s National Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day.

    *In the U.S., Coca-Cola is sweetened with corn syrup. In other countries, regular sugar is used.



    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Peanut Hottie


    Wowsa: this hot peanut butter drink is
    terrific! Photo courtesy Peanut Hottie.


    It’s true: We’ve gone nuts over Peanut Hottie, the most innovative beverage we’ve seen in a long time and the first-ever hot peanut butter drink. Instead of hot chocolate, made with cocoa powder, it’s hot peanut butter, made with peanut flour.

    And oh my goodness, after one sip you’ll never want to be without it.

    Like instant hot cocoa, Peanut Hottie is a powder that is simply dissolved in hot water. With delectable peanut butter flavor and aroma, it has just 83 calories per six-ounce cup. It’s caffeine free, and packs a bit of protein from the peanuts.

    Note that the container says there are 13 servings worth of drink powder, but made a few mugs and found that we could use up the contents in six or seven large mugs. No complaints—it just means we had to buy more, sooner.

    And we stocked up big-time. Peanut Hottie will be our stocking stuffer and small gift for Holiday 2014.


    You can find Peanut Hottie at Wal-Mart and other retailers. Here’s a store locator.

    Or, buy it online:

  • Peanut Butter Hottie
  • Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flavored Peanut Hottie
    The idea for Peanut Hottie came to co-creator Lisa Gawthorne, owner of Bravura Foods Ltd in the U.K., when she washed down a spoonful of peanut butter with a sip of hot tea. Captivated by the deliciousness, she tried to find a hot peanut drink. Nothing existed, so she and co-creator Karl Morris decided to make it themselves.

    Peanut Hottie is gets our vote for the hot product of the year. You’ll go nuts for it.

    Discover more at Check out the recipe for a Peanut Hottie Milkshake.



    A steaming cup of Peanut Hottie. There’s also Chocolate Peanut Hottie. Photo courtesy Peanut Hottie.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Fall Mocktail

    Two days we presented an extensive drink menu for a Halloween cocktail party. But what do you serve the non-drinkers and the kids?

    Fall mocktails, of course. You can find many of them online.

    For starters, here’s a recipe full of fall flavor: apple, cinnamon and ginger, courtesy of Reed’s Ginger Brew, which has a portfolio of ginger beers from plain, in different strengths, to cherry and raspberry.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Reed’s Spiced Apple Ginger Brew or other ginger beer
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Optional: splash of grenadine for color
  • Ice cubes
  • Cocktail option: 2 ounces apple schnapps (liqueur), applejack or Calvados (apple brandy)

    1. FILL a tumbler with ice. Pour in Spiced Apple Ginger Brew and optional alcohol.

    2. STIR with a cinnamon stick and serve.



    Looking delicious: a fall mocktail of ginger beer with apple and cinnamon notes. Photo courtesy Reed’s Ginger Brew.




    Reed’s seasonal six-pack. Photo courtesy
    Reed’s Ginger Brew.



    Ginger ale is carbonated water simply fllavored with sugar and ginger flavoring. Ginger beer, on the other hand, is brewed for deeper and more complex flavors and a sizzling ginger “burn.”

    The basic recipe combines ginger, sugar, water, lemon or lime juice (for an acidic pH balance) and the ginger beer plant, a fungus that contains specific yeast and bacteria that aid fermentation. Other live cultures can be substituted, including brewers’ or bakers’ yeast, lactic acid bacteria, kefir grains or tibicos, another culture of bacteria and yeasts.

    Brewers can add citrus zest, cayenne pepper and other hot spices, and blend-ins from nettle or dandelion beers.

    After a few days of fermentation, you’ve got ginger beer, effervescent with natural carbon dioxide (as in the fermentation of beer).

    Ginger beer originated in England, where it can be made with an alcohol content of up to 11%, or with no alcohol at all. In the U.S., it is typically found as an alcohol-free soft drink.




    PRODUCT: Motto Sparkling Matcha Green Tea Drink

    First there was the buzz about green tea and its antioxidants. Now, the buzz is about matcha, a powdered green tea that has long been used by Buddhist monks and Samurai warriors to prepare for meditation and to improve mental clarity and concentration. It’s also the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu.

    Motto, the world’s first bottled matcha green tea beverage, delivers the health benefits of the centuries-old elixir even better than a cup of green tea. In fact, just one bottle of Motto packs the health benefits of 12 cups of steeped green tea, with one-third the caffeine of a single cup of coffee.

    The beverage is brewed from premium stone-ground matcha, sourced from one of the oldest family-owned tea cooperatives in Japan. The matcha flavor is layered with organic apple cider vinegar, honey, organic agave and fresh lemon juice.

    The result is lightly sweet and very refreshing, and pairs well with everything from sushi and Pacific Rim cuisines (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, etc.) to sandwiches and pizza.

    Motto is currently sold in 28 states and growing—everywhere from Whole Foods Market to gourmet delis and small natural grocers.

    Find a store locator at



    Handsome bottle, tasty contents. Photo courtesy The Verto Company.




    Make a Motto cocktail. The recipe is below.
    Photo courtesy The Verto Company.



    Matcha is a bright green, powdered green tea that is ground to the consistency of talc. It is made from ten-cha tea leaves, which are gyokuro leaves that have been not been rolled into needles but are steamed and dried. The tea bushes are shaded from sunlight for three weeks before harvesting, producing amino acids that sweeten the taste of the tea.

    Unlike whole leaf tea, which is heat-panned for steeping, the leaves for matcha are ground like flour, slowly and finely in a stone mill. To brew the tea, the powder is whisked into water, where it produces a wonderful aroma, a creamy, silky froth and a rich, mellow taste.

    Powdered tea is the original way in which tea was prepared: steeping dried leaves in boiling water didn’t arrive until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

    Matcha contains a higher amount of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, L-theanine amino acids, polyphenols, chlorophyll and fiber) than other teas. In recent years, matcha has become a popular cooking and baking ingredient, and now comes in different grades for different uses—including the popular green tea latte.

    In the absence of green tea ice cream, sprinkle some matcha on vanilla ice cream (check out these uses for matcha tea).



    Here’s a refreshing yet sophisticated cocktail idea from Motto:

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3-4 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce agave
  • 1/2 lemon squeezed
  • 6 ounces Motto
  • Small bunches mint and basil
  • Ice
  • Garnish: lime wedge

    1. MUDDLE equal parts mint and basil in a cocktail shaker. Add gin, agave and lemon. Shake over ice.

    2. STRAIN into a tall glass over cracked ice. Add 6 ounces Motto and stir gently.

    3. GARNISH and serve.



    FOOD HOLIDAY: Lemonade Recipes For National Lemonade Day


    Melon lemonade, an inspired idea. Photo
    courtesy Zulka Sugar.


    According to chef and food historian Clifford A. Wright, the all-American summer drink, lemonade, may have had its origin in medieval Egypt. It’s hard to tell, because while the fruit originated farther to the east, the earliest written evidence of lemonade comes from Egypt.

    The wild lemon originated in Assam, India and northern Burma. It was cultivated, and travelers brought it to China, across Persia and the Arab world to the Mediterranean.

    The wild fruit was very acidic and filled with seeds. Given the scarcity of sweeteners, it was initially used as an ornamental tree in early Islamic gardens, producing fragrant blossoms.

    The trade in lemon juice and lemonade was quite considerable by 1104, says Wright. Documents from the Cairo Geniza, the medieval Jewish community in Cairo from the tenth through thirteenth centuries, show that bottles of lemon juice were mixed with lots of sugar, consumed locally and exported.

    So you can celebrate today, National Lemonade Day, with our classic lemonade recipe, make the Sparkling Melon Lemonade recipe below, or spike it with a clear spirit, particularly gin, tequila or vodka.

    The recipe is courtesy of Zulka Morena, manufacturers of premium quality sugars. You can find more sweet recipes on the website.


    Ingredients For 3 Quarts

  • 8-10 cups chopped melon (you use any—watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, etc.—but a half watermelon is ideal)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Sparkling water or club soda
  • Optional garnish: melon balls and fresh mint

    1. MAKE a simple syrup: Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Chill completely before using.

    2. PURÉE the melon in batches with some of the lemon juice and simple syrup, using a blender or food processor. Use even amounts of each ingredient each time. Combine all batches once blended in a large 3 quart pitcher, and chill at least 4 hours.

    3. TO SERVE: Fill large glasses with ice and then halfway with the melon mixture. Top with sparkling water and stir.



  • Lavender Lemonade Recipe
  • Peach Lemonade Recipe
  • Spicy Lemonade Recipe


    This elegant cocktail is a world apart from bottled hard lemonade, and takes less than three minutes to put together. It’s perfect for brunch, outdoor parties, warm days and menus that go with lemonade.
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part triple sec
  • 1 part fresh lemon juice

    1. FILL a shaker with ice and add ingredients. Shake vigorously for one minute.



    Add some gin, tequila or vodka for a lemonade cocktail. Photo courtesy Beefeater Gin.

    2. POUR into a collins glass. Garnish with mint leaves and serve with a straw.


  • Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail Recipe
  • Lemonade 485 Cocktail Recipe
  • Limoncello Lemonade Recipe
  • Tequila Lemonade Recipe
  • Saké Lemonade Recipe


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