Winter break is just in sight, and nothing beats a nice warm cup of hot chocolate to get me in the holiday spirit. While a regular cup of cocoa never fails to hit the spot, I decided to try a variety of different combinations to spice up my hot chocolate drinking experience. All of the different recipes can be thrown together with simple ingredients and a microwave. They are fast, easy and taste delicious. The basic ingredients needed for each cup of cocoa are milk — I used 2 percent — and the hot chocolate mix of your choice. You will also need access to a microwave. Spoons to distribute the hot chocolate and stir are also needed, and your favorite mug for serving. I recommend using a medium sized mug that would hold approximately a cup and a half of milk. Peppermint Hot Chocolate Extra Ingredients: ● Mini candy canes ● Whipped cream Directions: Heat the milk in the microwave for two minutes, or until your desired temperature is reached. Place one mini candy cane in the milk and stir until completely dissolved. After the candy cane is mixed, stir in two heaping spoonfuls of hot chocolate. Top it all off with a generous dollop of whipped cream and crushed candy cane bits. Add a single mini candy cane for additional decoration and to stir with. Peppermint hot chocolate is a great option for a warm festive treat. The peppermint flavor is subtle — adds a nice hint of a sweet minty flavor with each sip. The crushed candy cane bits from the top add a pleasant crunch and the whipped cream acts almost like marshmallows with its light, fluffy texture and slightly sweet taste. Caramel Hot Chocolate Extra Ingredients: ● Hershey’s Caramel Syrup ● Whipped cream Directions: Heat the milk in the microwave first for two minutes just like the peppermint cocoa. After it’s heated, stir in two squirts of the caramel syrup. Mix until completely combined before adding two heaping spoonfuls of the hot chocolate mix. Once mixed in completely, top with whipped cream and a drizzle of the caramel sauce. The classic combination of caramel and chocolate pairs well in this recipe, and it’s the perfect variation of hot chocolate for caramel lovers. The caramel adds a distinct sweetness to the hot chocolate without being too overpowering. You can add as much or as little of the caramel syrup depending on the level of sweetness that you want. Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate Extra Ingredients: ● Two Reese’s chocolate peanut butter cups ● Peanut butter ● Whipped cream Directions: In a small bowl, melt three heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter in the microwave until the consistency is runny. Heat the milk for two minutes like the previous recipes. Add one spoonful of the melted peanut butter to the heated milk and stir until completely combined. The other two spoonfuls will be used for the drizzle. Once mixed, add and dissolve one Reese’s peanut butter cup to the milk mixture. Add two heaping spoonfuls of the hot chocolate mix and stir well. Add whipped cream, peanut butter drizzle and half of a peanut butter cup to top it off. I love chocolate peanut butter everything, so I was very excited try this combination. This recipe was full of the peanut butter flavor, but balanced well with the chocolate. The peanut butter cups also add a familiar taste against the cocoa. S’mores Hot Chocolate Extra Ingredients: ● Graham crackers ● One regular Hershey’s chocolate bar ● Mini marshmallows Directions: Heat the milk for two minutes in the microwave. Stir in three rectangles of the Hershey’s chocolate bar into the hot milk. Mix until combined. Add two heaping spoonfuls of hot chocolate mix. and stir to dissolve. Garnish with a handful of mini marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey’s rectangles and crushed graham crackers. This recipe is fun to make and to eat. S’mores are a classic summer treat and this a great recipe to enjoy the flavor without venturing out to a bonfire in the cold winter weather. The heat from the drink melts the garnish of chocolate and marshmallows — making it perfect to use the graham crackers to enjoy a mini s’more before drinking the hot chocolate. Cookies and Cream Hot Chocolate Extra Ingredients: ● Mini Oreos ● One regular Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme bar Directions: Heat the milk in the microwave for two minutes. Crush five mini oreos with your hands in a plastic bag, and stir in to the milk. Add in three rectangles of the Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme bar, and stir until melted. Add the two spoonfuls of hot cocoa, and combine. Top it off with whipped cream, mini oreos, Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme bar and crushed Oreos. Cookies and cream makes a great ice cream flavor, so I was curious to try it in hot chocolate — it did not disappoint. The crushed Oreos in the hot chocolate make a chunky texture, but it’s still delicious. The melted Hershey’s bar adds a hint of white chocolate flavor to the cocoa, and the Oreos on top are fun to eat. Hot Chocolate Float Extra Ingredients: ● Vanilla ice cream — I prefer Turkey Hill’s Vanilla Bean, however any brand will work ● Whipped cream ● Hershey’s chocolate sauce Directions: Heat the milk in the microwave for two minutes Add in two spoonfuls of cocoa. Stir until dissolved. Place one scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the cocoa. Finish it off with whipped cream and a chocolate syrup drizzle. This recipe is one of my favorites of the six. It is a fun twist on a classic dessert and is the perfect addition if you want to turn your cup of cocoa into a dessert. The ice cream was a nice contrast to the hot chocolate. It partially melted into the cocoa, adding a sweet and creamy vanilla flavor. The float is best enjoyed with a spoon and I recommend eating it quickly before all of the ice cream melts. Ally Donberger is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.