December 13th is National Cocoa Day and ‘tis the season to sip on hot chocolate and warm up over winter! But these aren’t your average cups of cocoa. Some of Chicago’s restaurants and bakeries take the velvety smooth drink to new levels and now refer to it as “drinking chocolate.” Instead of using traditional cocoa powder, some of the trendiest places use whole bean chocolate.
Whether it’s hot or haute, here are some of the hottest hot chocolate options in Chicago:
Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Bucktown serves more than just its insanely good namesake drink, made in 10 varieties with ingredients like Belgian white chocolate, dark oat milk, or a splash of cognac. The drink is a pre-cursor to anything on the always-changing, trendy menu created by owner Mindy Segal, a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef (1747 N. Damen Ave.).
Because of their fun, over-the-top hot chocolate presentations, BomboBar in Old Town fills many social feeds. Snap pics of hot chocolate piled high with donuts or cookies that hang around the straw or off the cup. Fruity Pebbles, hot caramel, and more top it off (1529 N. Wells St. with a West Loop window service location at 832 W. Randolph).
Head to the Lincoln Park location for Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s swoon-worthy hot chocolate, a destination drink available to-go or to consume in-store with their high-quality chocolates. The white-hot chocolate is divine, as is their rich and creamy hot chocolate made with Tahitian vanilla. Get a gift: The store sells beautifully packaged advent calendars with little drawers and “constellation” chocolates featuring horoscope signs (951 W. Armitage Ave.).
The primo destination for Mexican chocolate drinks is Rick Bayless’s Xoco in River North. Cocoa beans shipped directly from Tabasco are roasted in-house, made into smooth paste and bars, and used in their desserts as well as their “bean-to-cup” coffee and Mexican drinking chocolates, some of which have added kick thanks to spices like cinnamon and allspice (449 N. Clark St.).
Who needs to wait for Girl Scout cookies when there’s peppermint mocha drinking chocolate at Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square? Get a gift: Shop their retail space for bags of giant cinnamon-sugar marshmallows and limited-edition, gourmet truffles during the holidays in flavors like chocolate candy caramel, fruitcake and cranberry (2745 W. Armitage).
Creative hot chocolate, like a Velvety Venezuelan version that’s dark and fruity but has a silky finish, is among the offerings at Cocoa & Co. Get a gift: The store sells creative chocolate gifts, like the 8 Days of Hanukkah basket with kosher, craft chocolates, plus drinking chocolate, bonbons, confections and bars. The themed Tasting Party Kits (like the women in chocolate about famous female chocolatiers) include craft bars plus a private web portal to download information about the theme and tips for tasting tabletop presentations.