Hot Chocolate a la Maria Cristina

March 16, 2015

Author Notes: We spent New Years in San Sebastián, Spain. Every night after dinner, we'd stop in the fancy lobby bar for a drink before going to bed. Because of the cold, I was in the mood for something warm.

When the seasoned barman came to our table, I vaguely asked for a hot drink with alcohol in it. He told me to wait, and disappeared into the kitchen.

When he returned, it was with a china cup full of thick, Spanish hot chocolate, and a small milk jug to match. He produced a lighter from his pocket, and then set fire to the contents of the pitcher. Blue and orange flames shot up. As he poured, a string of fire connected the pitcher to the china cup on the table.

The experience was so theatrical, and the hot chocolate so delicious, I've made it at home many times since.

(The recipe can be multiplied to serve a crowd. But I do recommend lighting/pouring one cup at a time. It's the fun part anyway.)
Cristina Sciarra

Serves: 1


  • 1 cup milk (whole will be more delicious than skim.)
  • 2 ounces 70% dark chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ounce Cognac
In This Recipe


  1. Move the milk, chocolate, and cocoa powder into a pot. Set the range to medium heat and, as the milk warms, whisk the chocolate and cocoa powder until emulsified. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the Cognac in another small pot, just until warm. Pour the Cognac into a little pitcher, or some kind of narrow, heatproof vessel that will keep the flame contained. Tilt the pitcher to the side, and quickly light the Cognac on fire. Pour the flaming Cognac into the hot chocolate cup. The fire will burn out in a few seconds.

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