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How To Win at Hot Chocolate

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The art of making hot chocolate is one that I do not take lightly. You may be out for lunch, or at a friend’s house and foolishly accept a cup of chocolately joy. “What’s the worst that could happen” you think, “Hot chocolate’s hot chocolate I’ll be happy with what ever I get” and then it comes to you; this watery brown mess of artificial sugar that was, you guessed it, made only on water. The shame, the horror. Hot chocolate made on water.

I am something of a hot chocolate snob. I was raised with hot chocolate of a very high standard from a very young age and have spent years experimenting and testing out various cocoa beverages around the globe.  All hot chocolates are different and people have different tastes, but there are a few things you should try and a few things you should absolutely never do.

I feel the first is obvious, don’t make water based hot chocolate. This is only acceptable if you are a fan of dark chocolate to begin with. A bock of 100% good quality cocoa grated into boiling water with a hint of chili powder can be amazing, but this is not the sweet chocolaty beverage most people associate with hot chocolate but it is still amazing. In conclusion, water based hot chocolates shouldn’t only be done with good quality and un-sweet ingredients.

The ratios when making hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder is close to impossible to get correct so I eventually caved and resorted to using ready mix hot chocolates to avoid having to add sugar, sometimes it feels like cheating but then I taste that sweet beautiful drink and I know its not in vain. Green & Blacks do a really nice hot chocolate range (the orange one is yummy!) but Cadburys is your standard faithful drinking chocolate mix. Try and stay away from the ridiculously gimmicky ones (Of course there’s no shame in trying that new Wisp hot chocolate!) they tend to taste overly artificial.

I find the best is one-third water, one-third milk and one-third cream, this way it’s nice and creamy without being too sickening. If making for loads of people you’re best doing it the only fashioned way (on a stove) but sometimes you may have to resort to using a microwave because… well… it’s easier (even if it may give you a tail and other mutations), either way, you watch that bad boy like a hawk! NOTHING is worse than having your hot chocolate explode and having to wash the crevices of the microwave (ok… maybe a few things are worse but it’s still pretty nasty).

Experiment with your own secret ingredients (Mine’s hazelnut syrup), maybe mint? Vanilla? GO CRAZY! And, if you want something extra special, melt a square of your favorite chocolate bar in at the end. Simply delicious.

Hot Chocolate is probably one of the more complex of the hot beverages. Yes, tea and coffee follow certain rules, but they are task drinks that can be easily done if the basic instructions are followed (e.g. never ever microwave tea) but hot chocolate is different, making hot chocolate isn’t a skill, it’s an art form. Never make hot chocolate if you are not in the correct state of mind, love and care need to go in to each cup. Take your time making and drinking it and understand the care that must go in when others are making it more you and be patient.

So go out and experiment yourself! Come up with your own secret touches to making mouth-watering amazing drinks. Have you’re friends pupils dilate as they taste all the love you put into their drink, after all, the only way to really win at hot chocolate is to really care.

How to Win at Drinking

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Anyone who drinks has had at least one of those nights. You know what type of night I’m discussing here; the one where you drink too fast and too much, the one where you wake up in all your clothes with the feeling of scratchy vomit tickling the back of your throat, the one where you have that disgusting after-taste of smoke in your mouth (When you don’t smoke). Yes we’ve all been there and if you haven’t; give it time. Who knows though, maybe you can be one of those rare individuals who manages to go their entire life drinking while at the same time managing to never have a night where you throw your shame out the window like it’s a moldy banana at the bottom of your bag.

Perhaps it’s where I live why these nights are so common amongst the youth. I live in Ireland. People drink. A lot. Is it good? Probably not, but every country has it’s flaws, I’d rather live in a country that goes a bit over board on the celebratory drinking than one that decides to drug up anyone for any reason (*Cough* America *Cough*)

The concept of winning at drinking is really quite simple. Don’t make a complete fool of yourself, don’t get yourself in any harmful situation, don’t end up depressed and start crying to that person who rejected your advances (or something along those lines…), don’t throw up and most importantly – avoid having that hangover.

Of course these things are a lot easier said than done. I guess the only real way to win at drinking is to be able to go out and have a good night without the whooshing side effects that alcohol contributes. In fact I’d be all in favor for that! Go out, don’t drink, but have fun! Personally I’m not much of a drinker, when I do I have fun, and when I don’t I also have fun. Have I sometimes gone a tad overboard? Of course I have, I’ve been a teenager in the Irish city centre. Living in Ireland means the advice of abstinence goes down as well as a glass of UCT milk.

 If you want to get drunk, here are some tips to get drunk, the right way, where you still do fun silly things, but nothing to completely tear down people’s moral opinions of you. Where it’s still a slight hazy blur, but you remember (and didn’t throw up or pass out! WIN) and most importantly where you get absolutely locked but have the most minimalistic hangover possible.

 Inconceivable! You say (because you may have recently watched ‘The Princess Bride’) but there are ways, a few tricks I have learnt over the years and some that have been passed down by relatives.

 We’ll start from the beginning (which I hear is a very good place to start), before you even begin drinking. This is a phase many people over look, or do automatically without even realizing it. You’ve got to psyche yourself out for the night. Alcohol will intense whatever mood you’re in, if you go out kind of “meh, we’ll see where the night goes” you’ll end up in danger of being that depressed drunk (nay fun). Instead, no matter where you’re going, get your mind super pumped “I’m going to go out! And I’m going to get drunk! Not too drunk though, good drunk and I’m going to have so much fun!” you most likely will have a fantastic evening; I know personally this has never failed for me. Also, pro-tip, think of all the stupid things you could do (e.g., desperately talking to your ex, slapping and yelling at that girl you hate, kissing someone you shouldn’t etc etc), I mean all of them. Mentally preparing yourself isn’t just about getting yourself in a good mood and excited for the evening, its about understanding what social situation you are entering and what you should not do, before you start drinking say to yourself all the thing’s you are NOT going to do, with emphasis on the word not.

 Oh, and eat, I’m sick of people refusing to eat much before they go out because they won’t have to spend as much to get tipsy. Yeah you’ll get drunk quicker, but you are also more likely to get ill. Eat your carbohydrates like, don’t be a dope.

 So, now what? You’re pumped up, you smell like some luscious Arabian princess/prince and you have just the right amount of gel in your hair. You’re ready to go out. But drinks! From experimentation in the past you should be aware what alcohol agrees with your more than others so I’m not going to go in on the details about all that, I’m not going to tell your what to drink, but I do have two rules for you.

 One, don’t drink beer and cider. I learnt this the hard way and then the concept of a snakebite (half beer half cider with some black current on top) was explained to me, and it all made sense. These two drinks ferment in your stomach getting you drunker throughout the night without you even being aware of it. Some people can handle the snakebite, and it’s a good way to be a cheap date, but in my opinion just have beer and cider as far away from each other as possible on a night out.

 And two, beer and whiskey, pretty risky. Whiskey and beer never fear. A little rhyme my mother said to me with basic principals; start off with the drinks with the highest alcohol content and end with the weaker ones. After you already have alcohol in your system, you are not as able to determine the amount of alcohol consumed contrasted with tolerance. Wean down, don’t wean up. Trust me on this.

 Water, water water water water! Water is your best friend on a night out, don’t neglect water, water wants to love you, water cares about you, alcohol is just a cheap one night stand compared to water, but water understands, water cares, water will forgive you and be right there to fix the wounds that alcohol has caused on your poor dehydrated body. For every unit of alcohol consumed force (no matter what, force) yourself to drink at least a pint of water. “But won’t that make me have to pee a lot?” Yes. Most definitely, but I feel you’d find a few dozen trips to the bathroom is the much better option than hours of crippling pain the following day. Every time I have not done this are all the times I have ended up with a hangover. Also, in the morning, before you do anything else, the first thing you should do is consume as much water as humanly possible.

 Don’t get too drunk. Just have fun. Find out what type of drunk you are; if you are an aggressive/depressive/plain awful drunk then don’t drink. There are a good few people who just shouldn’t drink, you need to find out if you are one of these people early on and well… don’t drink. Sometimes to win at drinking is to acknowledge that you can’t win, and you beat alcohol by avoiding it, by not letting it beat you.

So, to paraphrase this as much as possible: Know your limits and drink water like it’s oxygen and you’re in a fish tank.

Ahhhhh, let’s just sit here for a moment and think about how much we all love H2O shall we? I don’t think people drink enough water these days as it is. Even if you’re not drinking alcohol you should try and boost your water intake. Basically, water’s great.