Brown Sugar Hot Chocolate


  • 16 ounces whole milk
  • 1/2 fresh vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, 72% cacao
  • 3 ounces dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt

What it is: A rich, dunkable hot chocolate that doubles as a base for cocktails.

Brioche beignets have been on the menu at Presidio Social Club for more than a decade, and for at least half that time, they’ve been paired with 2.5-ounce shots of hot chocolate for dipping. The current version, made with brown sugar and bittersweet chocolate, also acts as the foundation for a hot mint chocolate cocktail, which is spiked with Branca Menta, an amaro made with mint syrup.

Inspiration: Pastry Chef Rene Cruz modified the old hot chocolate recipe (based on Mexican hot chocolate) to make it more versatile. Thickness is achieved by infusing the milk with vanilla and then, while off the heat, nearly equal parts dark chocolate and brown sugar are blended in.

Sweetness Index: “I use brown sugar to get more of that molasses richness,” Cruz says. “The brown sugar helps it not go overly sweet.”

Loyalty Factor: The restaurant regularly goes through 2 to 3 gallons a day. To keep up, Cruz heats it up in batches and holds it in a thermos.


Warm milk and vanilla in a sauce pan over low heat but do not boil. Add chocolate, sugar and salt to melt. Remove vanilla bean if used. Use immersion blender to make extra smooth. Strain through fine sieve and serve.

Recipe by Pastry Chef Rene Cruz
Presidio Social Club, San Francisco