New York City has been blanketed with snow. Arctic winds whip down city blocks. Slush puddles greet you at street corners. The distance between a subway stop and your destination seems like a long, arduous hike, rather than a hop, skip and a jump.
It is the savvy restauranteur or barkeep who knows how to play to the season, offering a warm haven from the blustery, bitter cold.
This past weekend, I found refuge on Smith Street at the tapas bar Sample. A chalkboard sign beckoned me within with these words:
Boozy Mexican Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate would've been enticement enough. But, throw in images of palm trees and beaches, as well as liquor, and I'm "in." And once "in," seated at the bar, I noticed an octogonal box of Nestle's Mexican Chocolate Abuelita (pictured above), the same-said dark chocolate, cinnamon and sugar tablets given to me by my friend Erica, who learned to love the stuff back in California, growing up in her food-obsessed Mexican-American childhood home. I glanced further down the bar to see if the barteneder had a traditional molinillo wooden whisk about, specifically designed for whipping up Mexican Hot Chocolate. No such luck.
Luck turned when it came to the booze. Ordinarily, the "boozy" in Sample's Boozy Mexican Hot Chocolate comes in the form of Scotch, but that didn't make my heart go a flutter. With twinkle in her eye, the bartender captured my heart with her suggestion - Cointreau. Chocolate and orange. What could be bad?
One whiff of the warm, creamy, drink and visions of Orange Milano Cookies were dancing in my head. Between the heady aroma, the rich chocolate and hit of intoxicating citrus, I had left winter behind.
Next time, I think Creme de Menthe is in order. Mint Milano Cookies. Get it?