'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 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. A made-from-scratch, oversized square marshmallow floats atop each mug. The drink is a good pre-curser to anything on the always-changing, trendy menu created by owner Mindy Segal, a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef (1747 N. Damen Ave., Bucktown).
Because of their fun, over-the-top hot chocolate presentations, BomboBar 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., Old Town, plus 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., Lincoln Park).
The primo destination for Mexican chocolate drinks is Rick Bayless’s Xoco. 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., River North).
Who needs to wait for Girl Scout cookies when there’s peppermint mocha drinking chocolate at Katherine Anne Confections? 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 cane caramel, fruitcake and cranberry (2745 W. Armitage, Logan Square).
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.
Other Good Chocolatey Finds and Holiday Treats
Chicago chocoholics, take note. Here are places to get your fix and have a fun chocolate experience during the holidays.
- The seasonal HotCocoa CaramelCrisp mix at Garrett Popcorn covers their famous Chicago popcorn in Belgian milk and dark chocolate, then mixes it with caramel popcorn but no marshmallows (multiple locations).
- For decadent treats, head to Chocolate at the Pen on Friday and Saturday nights. Holiday-themed treats and decadent two-bite French milk and dark chocolates are among the desserts at the chocolate bar in The Peninsula Chicago. Listen to live music, sip on a chocolate martini and hang out under the 20-foot Christmas tree (108 E. Superior St).
- Get literally wrapped in warm oil and chocolate—said to have anti-aging, health and aromatherapeutic benefits—during the hour-long Chocolate Signature Body Wrap at Chocolate for your Body (1743 S. Halsted, East Pilsen).
- Geja’s makes for a romantic fondue spot where couples cuddle up in curtained booths and dip fruit, pound cake, Rice Krispy bars and other dippable treats into warm pots of Belgian chocolate flamed with orange liqueur. A flamenco guitarist strolls through the restaurant most nights (340 W. Armitage, Lincoln Park).