The real difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa

One of the absolute best, and likely most delicious, things about the weather turning cold is hot chocolate. The drink is warm, cozy, and the ultimate winter comfort. Plus, it's the perfect cup to settle in with next to a fire as you warm up your fingers and toes. While you likely grew up drinking mug after mug of this quintessential winter treat, chances are you might not be totally clear on the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. And yes, there really is a difference. 

Though most people use the terms interchangeably, hot cocoa and hot chocolate are not one and the same. Each is made of similar, yet different ingredients, according to The Daily Meal. While both drinks are equally easy to prepare, one is far more indulgent than the other, it would seem, and that's hot chocolate. That incarnation of wintery liquid comfort is sometimes called drinking chocolate. Read on to learn why that name might be more apt (and less confusing).

The difference is all in the ingredients

Hot chocolate, or drinking chocolate if you prefer, is exactly what it sounds like. This is a warm cup of chocolate that has been melted into a hot liquid. Different kinds of chocolate, such as milk, dark, or white, can be used in preparing the drink. There are also several liquids you can choose to use, depending on the level of decadence you're aiming for. Options include water, milk, and even cream. All you have to do is finely chop or shave, possibly grate, the chocolate so it melts very quickly when you add it to the warm liquid. Give it a stir until the chocolate is all melted and combined, then enjoy (via The Kitchn).

Hot cocoa is probably what you grew up drinking more often, if not exclusively. It's made with cocoa powder, sugar, and milk. What you end up with is a sweet drink that isn't quite so dense to drink. That's why packets of products like Swiss Miss are actually hot cocoa, not hot chocolate.

Now that you know the difference between the two, you can shake things up and try one over the other, or even explore to enjoy a new way to indulge this winter.