Amanda Biddle of Striped Spatula
PHOTO: Amanda Biddle/Striped Spatula
Amanda Biddle of Striped Spatula's Peppermint Hot Chocolate
(CNN) —  

Hot and steamy chocolate with gooey marshmallows on top needs no introduction. But there are countless amazing premade mixes and even more delicious ways to make hot chocolate from scratch.

What makes the perfect cup of cocoa? Well, it turns out that there are a lot of different opinions on the matter. We zeroed in on some classics and some new favorites — with the help of a few aficionados — to level up your hot chocolate game a few notches.

Hot chocolate recipe ideas

Peppermint hot chocolate recipe

Amanda Biddle of Striped Spatula
PHOTO: Amanda Biddle/Striped Spatula
Amanda Biddle of Striped Spatula's Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint adds a taste of the holidays whenever you choose to whip up this hot chocolate recipe by Amanda Biddle, creator of Striped Spatula. Biddle advises that for this recipe, “You’ll need a small saucepan, a whisk and peppermint extract. I like to use a saucepan with a pour spout for easy serving.”

Ingredients for one large mug of peppermint hot chocolate:

See Biddle’s full recipe here.

French hot chocolate recipe

Erin Clarke of Well Plated
PHOTO: Erin Clarke/Well Plated
Erin Clarke of Well Plated's French Hot Chocolate

Erin Clarke, cookbook author and creator of the blog Well Plated, says, “Hot chocolate has been one of my favorite treats, ever since I was old enough to microwave a cup of milk and stir! I remember warming up with it after playing in the snow with my sisters, and my grammy has made it for us every Christmas morning since I can remember.” Clarke’s recipe for French hot chocolate comes straight from her own personal experiences in Paris: “Every sip takes me right back to the Paris café where I first tried it. I’d never experienced hot chocolate so decadent and intensely chocolaty. Heaven! I knew I had to re-create it at home.”

Ingredients for two large servings of French hot chocolate:

See Clarke’s full recipe here.

Hot chocolate bombs recipe

Liz Marek of Sugar Geek Show
PHOTO: Liz Marek/Sugar Geek Show
Liz Marek of Sugar Geek Show's Hot Chocolate Bombs

A radical new way to experience hot chocolate. These magical spheres melt in a cup of hot milk to reveal hot cocoa mix and marshmallows inside. Stir, and voilà! Making your own hot chocolate bombs takes less than 30 minutes, and the result will dazzle any hot chocolate lover. Liz Marek is the owner of the popular Portland, Oregon-based online cake decorating school Sugar Geek Show and is best known for her sculpted cakes and cake recipes. But Marek has gone viral with her hot chocolate bombs recipe, which has nearly 600,000 views on YouTube. The potentially odd tools you’ll need to make these? A sphere mold, an instant read thermometer and some fancy chocolate.

Hot chocolate bomb Ingredients for six spheres:

See Marek’s full recipe here.

Homemade hot cocoa mix

Dana Holmes
PHOTO: Dana Holmes
Dana Holmes' homemade hot cocoa

One of our personal favorite recipes for hot chocolate from scratch is so easy you might never go back to those little packets again. You just need a few unique pantry staples on hand to pull it off.

Ingredients for four servings:

Optional: Top with marshmallows, sprinkle some cocoa powder on top or toss in a cinnamon stick as a stirrer for added fun.

More unique hot chocolate ideas

So what other amazing ways are there to mix up hot chocolate? Well, tons! But here are a few of our experts’ favorites.

“When I’m craving flavors that aren’t quite as rich, I love to make lightly sweetened White Hot Chocolate,” shares Biddle.

Biddle also advises to get creative with mix-ins. “Use high-quality chocolate and have fun customizing the flavors with add-ins from your pantry. Try maple syrup instead of sugar; a pinch or two of cinnamon, cardamom or ancho chile powder; a splash of bourbon or orange liqueur for adults… The possibilities are endless!” she says.

Clarke offers another take: “When you are making hot chocolate for a crowd, this Crockpot Hot Chocolate is perfection.”

Premade hot chocolate mixes to try

Melville Candy Store Gourmet Mini Marshmallow Chocolate Stirrers, 8-Pack ($27.95; amazon.com)

Melville Candy Store Gourmet Mini Marshmallow Chocolate Stirrers, 8-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon
Melville Candy Store Gourmet Mini Marshmallow Chocolate Stirrers, 8-Pack

These fun stirrers are perfect for a special treat. Just heat up some milk and stir away. We would probably keep some extra marshmallows nearby to add since these will probably melt into the milk, making the hot chocolate taste marshmallowy — yum!

Swiss Miss Lucky Charms, 6-Pack (prices vary; target.com)

Swiss Miss Lucky Charms, 6-Pack
PHOTO: Target
Swiss Miss Lucky Charms, 6-Pack

Love Lucky Charms cereal marshmallows? Love hot chocolate? Meet their love child. This is a magically delicious cup of hot chocolate if we ever saw one — and colorfully cute to boot!

ChocolatesUnlimited Large Hot Chocolate Bombs, Set of 4 (starting at $28; etsy.com)

ChocolatesUnlimited Large Hot Chocolate Bombs, Set of 4
PHOTO: Etsy
ChocolatesUnlimited Large Hot Chocolate Bombs, Set of 4

Some things are better left to the experts. If making the hot chocolate bombs seems like too much effort, buy some!

Hershey’s Hot Cocoa (prices vary; instacart.com)

Hershey
PHOTO: Instacart
Hershey's Hot Cocoa

“My family’s favorite hot chocolate mix is good old Hershey’s. I think it’s because it has a classic nostalgic flavor that reminds you of childhood,” shares Marek. We tend to agree.

Lake Champlain Chocolates Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate, 16-Ounce ($15.07; amazon.com)

Lake Champlain Chocolates Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate, 16-Ounce
PHOTO: Amazon
Lake Champlain Chocolates Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate, 16-Ounce

Spicy hot chocolate has a dash of cayenne pepper to add some heat to the mix. It’s the traditional Aztec way of drinking chocolate, and this batch from Lake Champlain Chocolates strikes a perfect balance between sweet and spicy.

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, 10-Pack ($9.98; amazon.com)

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, 10-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon
Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, 10-Pack

This classic hot cocoa mix from San Francisco chocolate giant Ghirardelli is a quick and easy way to experience gourmet hot chocolate at a great value.

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Keurig K-Cup Pods, 22-Count (prices vary; target.com)

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Keurig K-Cup Pods, 22-Count
PHOTO: Target
Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Keurig K-Cup Pods, 22-Count

One of the most recognizable hot chocolates out there, Swiss Miss still makes its famous packets where you can just add water and enjoy. But they also now make K-Cups for your Keurig so you can crank out a cup of hot cocoa just as easily as your morning joe.

Hot chocolate tools and accessories

Oxo Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk ($9.99; amazon.com)

Oxo Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk
PHOTO: Amazon
Oxo Good Grips 11-Inch Balloon Whisk

A whisk is essential for creating a smooth and delicious hot chocolate. This one is extremely popular and well reviewed on Amazon.

Luofasau 6-Hole Silicone Molds, 2-Pack ($8.99, originally $14.99; amazon.com)

Luofasau 6-Hole Silicone Molds, 2-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon
Luofasau 6-Hole Silicone Molds, 2-Pack

These molds are an essential component to making hot chocolate bombs.

Dansk Kobenstyle Saucepan With Trivet Lid, 1-Quart ($84.95; surlatable.com)

Dansk Kobenstyle Saucepan With Trivet Lid, 1-Quart
PHOTO: Sur La Table
Dansk Kobenstyle Saucepan With Trivet Lid, 1-Quart

This is Biddle’s favorite pot (as well as an editor’s favorite) for making hot chocolate. The pour spout is incredibly useful for pouring straight into a mug, and the pot itself is stylish enough to make a great presentation at the table.

ThermoPro TP18 Ultra-Fast Thermocouple Digital Instant Read Thermometer ($19.99; amazon.com)

ThermoPro TP18 Ultra-Fast Thermocouple Digital Instant Read Thermometer
PHOTO: Amazon
ThermoPro TP18 Ultra-Fast Thermocouple Digital Instant Read Thermometer

A thermometer like this one is essential for tempering chocolate because you have to get the chocolate to a specific temperature — not higher or lower — or it simply won’t come out right when making hot chocolate bombs.

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa, 8-Ounce ($9.49; amazon.com)

Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa, 8-Ounce
PHOTO: Amazon
Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa, 8-Ounce

All of our experts agreed that because chocolate is the main ingredient, you shouldn’t skimp on the cocoa powder — which is pure ground chocolate. One reviewer of this cocoa powder raves, “Glad I discovered Rodelle, as it’s improved so many of my favorite chocolate recipes, and can’t wait for cold weather to try hot cocoa with it.”

Callebaut 811 53.8% Dark Semisweet Chocolate Callets, 1-Pound ($15.12; amazon.com)

Callebaut 811 53.8% Dark Semisweet Chocolate Callets, 1-Pound
PHOTO: Amazon
Callebaut 811 53.8% Dark Semisweet Chocolate Callets, 1-Pound

High-quality semisweet chocolate is another staple for making delicious chocolate recipes, including but definitely not limited to hot chocolate. Callebaut is valued for its quality around the world and is worth the splurge. “I prefer Callebaut, but you can also use any high-quality bar chocolate,” advises Marek.

Hedume Ceramic Marshmallow-Shaped Hot Chocolate Mugs, 4-Pack ($25.99; amazon.com)

Hedume Ceramic Marshmallow-Shaped Hot Chocolate Mugs, 4-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon
Hedume Ceramic Marshmallow-Shaped Hot Chocolate Mugs, 4-Pack

A special cup of hot chocolate requires a special cup to put it in. We love these darling marshmallow mugs for their unique designs and reasonable price tag.

NKgallery Knitted Tea or Coffee Mug Cozy ($12.95; etsy.com)

NKgallery Knitted Tea or Coffee Mug Cozy
PHOTO: Etsy
NKgallery Knitted Tea or Coffee Mug Cozy

Keep that hot cocoa hot with one of these cute knitted cozies. Because it tempers the heat that radiates from the mug, it makes any mug a more cozy and less burn-y hand warmer as well.