18 of the best hot chocolate destinations around the country
rich cocoa elixirs that turn your cold weather blues into cozy comfort
Published Oct 20, 2016 5:00 AM
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Whether you love coffee and tea or not, hot chocolate likely has a special place in your heart. Drinking it brings back memories of snow days from school, sitting by the fire with a cup warming your hand, warding off the chill from your outdoor adventures. Lucky for all of us, hot chocolate has gone way beyond watery, super sugary store-bought versions and has entered the world of handcrafted, artisanal beverages. At these 17 spots around the country, you can try flavors that will surprise you as well as the traditional favorites (and they are often accompanied by house-made marshmallows!). If your city or town doesn’t have representatives on this list, fear not: with a little poking around, we’re certain you will find a hot chocolate confection nearby.
L.A. Burdick Boston’s blustery winters are no joke. A trip to L.A. Burdick will make the frosty temps seem less of a burden and more of an excuse to sip on some of the chocolate shop’s drinking chocolates. Sinfully rich, they are the perfect afternoon pick-me-up when accompanied by a Luxembourger (a Swiss-style macaron) or one of the adorable chocolate mice that have become one of the shop’s signature. L.A. Burdick has locations in Boston, Cambridge, NYC, and Walpole, New Hampshire.
French Broad Chocolates To make your chocolate-loving life more difficult, French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, North Carolina offers two irresistible types of drinking chocolate: chocolate bar-based and ganache-based. The ganache-based “liquid truffle” is a thick, dense European style treat that is almost too rich (and too delicious) not to share. With seven flavors including maple smoked salt and rose cardamom pistachio, this dessert drink makes repeat visits a must.
Max Brenner If Willy Wonka opened a restaurant, Max Brenner would be it. You can choose milk, dark, or white chocolate for any of Max Brenner’s hot chocolate options, which include a thick Italian version with vanilla cream, a peanut butter version, and a spicy Mexican version with red chili, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. If you’re not in the mood for hot chocolate, give any of the other decadent dishes a try (fondue-we’re looking at you!). Max Brenner has locations in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia
Bar Bombon For the vegan or dairy averse hot-chocolate crowd, you can’t go wrong with Bar Bombon’s Mexican hot chocolate, flavored with chili powder. The rich, fragrant, and just-spicy-enough beverage can be made using almond or soy milk. It’s the perfect end to a hearty meal of Bar Bombon’s bold Latin flavors. Get it to-go and sip while people watching in Rittenhouse Square or shopping on Walnut Street.
Demitasse Creating the perfect balance in hot chocolate between bitter and sweet is a tough job, but the self-described “coffee geeks” at Demitasse have met the challenge. With locations across Los Angeles, it’s a fun option for meeting coffee-obsessed friends and catching up over lavender “liquid hot chocolate.” Perhaps the lavender will relax you, even as the chocolate revs you up?
Lake Champlain Visitors to Vermont can imbibe hot chocolate from any of Lake Champlain Chocolates’ retail locations…or you can bring home a canister for at home sipping. Whether you pick an organic fair trade version, traditional holiday peppermint, or velvety rich Old World Drinking chocolate, you’ll be ready to hit the slopes again in no time.
Marie Belle Choose from European style (mixed with water) or American style (mixed with milk): you can’t go wrong with the hot chocolate from this storied cacao bar. A little goes a long way for these irresistible indulgences so don’t be surprised at the size of the cup. You’ll be in chocolate bliss in no time.
Craftsmen and Wolves Vahlrona sipping chocolate comes served with a seasonal marshmallow (think chocolate spearmint) at two San Francisco locations. Drink this chocolate magic slowly while pondering the insane pastry offerings, such as salted caramel apple kouign amman or a matcha snickerdoodle with candied ginger and white chocolate.
Ghirardelli We don’t care that it’s touristy. Ghirardelli’s hot chocolate, which comes in sea salt caramel, classic, and decadent drinking chocolate, is a San Francisco tourist stop that we won’t even try to resist. Just tell yourself you’re “doing it for the kids”, even if you just mean the kid in you.
Chocolaterian Chocolaterian says imbibing their hot chocolate is like drinking a truffle. No complaints here! If that’s not enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, give local specialties Monona bars (made from caramel, peanut butter , Rice Krispies, and milk chcocolate) or badger bait (a brownie “finger” with chocolate buttercream and topped with chcocolate ganache) a try. Another Madison chocolate favorite Gail Ambrosius’s is close enough that you could stage a taste test between versions.
Chocolopolis Chocolopolis has its own drinking chocolate menu at its Seattle shop, offering signature dark or milk versions, infused options like peanut butter dark or a seasonal speciality, as well as premium drinking chocolates from Valrhona and Cluizel. There’s even a lighter children’s hot chocolate version so tots can still sip away without as much cacao intensity. Or you can always purchase any bar into the store and staff will make it into a cup of drinking chocolate.
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate Between the name and the fact that owner Mindy Segal was awarded “Outstanding Pastry Chef” in 2012 by the James Beard Foundation, we figured the goods at Chicago’s Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, a dessert bar and restaurant, would hit the spot. And yes, there are nine decadent ways to indulge including the black and tan (a mix of hot fudge and medium hot chocolate), the old fashioned (milk chocolate with touch of dark, bit of caramel, and milk chocolate cocoa nib ganache) or the crazy delicious-sounding chai. House-made marshmallows sweeten the deal even further.
Xoco The hot chocolate from Rick Bayless’s XOCO is the real deal. The only bean-to-cup program in Chi-town, XOCO makes its own chocolate in house, roasting, grinding, and forming the chocolate paste into bars, which are then melted with milk or water when you order. We’re craving the accompanying full, heady flavors of chile and allspice in the Aztec, and we’ll be ordering some hot churros to dunk.
Cacao and Cardamom Choose your own hot chocolate adventure at this Houston gem: sipping or drinking, European, American or Mexican, even various percentages of chocolate from 85% Colombian to 64% Madagascar Gianduja. Then choose your milk base with the unusual option of macadamia nut milk as a choice. After all these decisions, you should probably pick up one of Cacao and Cardamom’s East-meets-West inspired chocolates, such as lychee basil, guava tamarind, or five spice praline.
Co Co. Sala Chocolate is woven (and sprinkled and dusted) throughout this innovative Was ington DC restaurant’s menu. Make sure you save room for some dark, white, milk, peanut butter, or salted caramel hot chocolate. In the summer, get it frozen!
The Chocolate Room Classic, dark, and spiced options are all available at The Chocolate Room. Need even more caffeine? Try the café torino, a cup of bittersweet house blend dark hot chocolate and a shot of espresso topped with a dollop of foam. Bring a package home or as a sweet hostess gift).
Alma Alma’s hot chocolates have been dubbed “elixirs” and we can’t think of a better mood booster. Crafted from 68% “Wild” Bolivian chocolate, Alma’s made-to-order hot chocolate relies on actual melted chocolate instead of chocolate syrup. Latest hot chocolate creation? One blended with a local tea maker’s blend, which makes the drink taste like it’s been tippled with Amaro liquor.
Cao Artisan Chocolate Chocolate treasures can be hidden in unexpected places. With a nod to old-school and Old World chocolate drinking traditions, Cao Artisan Chocolate in Lynchburg, Virginia offers a thick European sipping chocolate as well as a warming hot chocolate topped with house-made whipped cream. Fun flavors such as lavender add to the experience.