5 Must-Try Cups of Hot Cocoa Across the Country

Pastry chefs and chocolatiers are turning cups of hot chocolate into mind-blowing, and addictive, masterpieces.
By: Guest Blogger
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You’d be hard-pressed to find a Chicagoan who didn’t think “hot chocolate” was synonymous with Mindy Segal. Tops on Mindy’s hot chocolate menu: Dark (a 72 percent French chocolate), Black & Tan (one-third hot fudge and the other two-thirds medium-intensity chocolate with a touch of caramel) and the coffee-spiked Half & Half (espresso and dark chocolate), all served with a signature marshmallow. Adults can always add a shot of booze — rum and whiskey are recommended — or choose from other hot, spiked winter specialties. Hot chocolate happy hour, anyone?

Photo by: Genevieve Burruss

Genevieve Burruss

By Kiri Tannenbaum

Like many seemingly simple foods and drinks, hot chocolate has seen an upgrade. Pastry chefs and learned chocolatiers have carefully selected cacao beans from small farms around the equator, making these cups of cocoa mind-blowing, and addictive, masterpieces.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Chicagoan who didn’t think “hot chocolate” was synonymous with Mindy Segal. Tops on Mindy’s hot chocolate menu: Dark (a 72 percent French chocolate), Black & Tan (one-third hot fudge and the other two-thirds medium-intensity chocolate with a touch of caramel) and the coffee-spiked Half & Half (espresso and dark chocolate), all served with a signature marshmallow. For adults there’s a list of boozy variations like the Hot Buttered Rum — butterscotch hot chocolate and rum topped with Frangelico-infused whipped cream and freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg. Hot chocolate happy hour, anyone?

Photo by Genevieve Burruss
Los Angeles: ChocoVivo

ChocoVivo respects chocolate just as the Mayans and Aztecs did 2,000 years ago. Their cacao nibs are ground on lava stones, and all of their beans are from growers they know personally. The Mayan Tradition hot chocolate brings together carefully sourced cacao nibs, unrefined cane sugar, whole California almonds, Ceylon cinnamon sticks and three types of dried chiles — pasilla negro, guajillo and chipotle. Another option: building your own. Begin by picking your style (thick or traditional hot, iced or frozen), then choose the flavor (65 to 100 percent cacao or coffee and vanilla) and the liquid (filtered water, organic creamery milk, housemade hazelnut milk or rice milk).

Photo by Alicia Cho
New York City: Jacques Torres

With eight locations in New York, it’s easy to get your hot chocolate fix from Jacques Torres. The only difficult part is deciding which one to choose. Classic is a rich blend of 60 to 70 percent dark chocolate slowly tempered with hot milk. Wicked is exactly that — a spicy mix of allspice, cinnamon, ancho chile and smoked ground chipotle chile for kick. If it’s a tie, then try their newest version, the Snowball: Either Classic or Wicked gets a scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream, which is adorned with a dollop of whipped cream, creating that playful symbol of winter.

Photo courtesy of Jacques Torres

Photo by: Molly DeCoudreaux Photography ©Molly DeCoudreaux 2015

Molly DeCoudreaux Photography, Molly DeCoudreaux 2015

San Francisco: Dandelion

Mild San Francisco winters are perhaps the reason Dandelion’s Frozen Hot Chocolate is the most-popular item on the menu. European drinking chocolate, syrup and ice are blended until smooth, to a consistency that Executive Pastry Chef Lisa Vega describes as milk shake-like. It’s finished with her cocoa nib-infused whipped cream, which results in a thick, chocolatey drink that’s pure decadence. All of Dandelion’s chocolate is made on-site, so you can be sure every bit of the bean travels no more than 20 feet until it’s in your cup.

Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux
Springfield, Mo.: Askinosie

O, The Oprah Magazine probably said it best when it honored company founder and CEO Shawn Askinosie as one of "15 Guys Who Are Saving the World.” Askinosie’s chocolate production is philanthropically driven; all beans are sourced directly from farmers in the Philippines, Tanzania, Ecuador and Honduras. Their single-origin beans can be savored in Askinosie’s two hot chocolate offerings: the Natural Cocoa Powder, an American-style beverage; and the Sipping Chocolate, for those who prefer a seriously rich way to warm up.

Photo courtesy of Askinosie
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