There’s plenty to loathe about winter: the cold, the snow, the miserable grayness that seems to last for weeks. But there’s also a lot to love, like crackling fires, sledding and warm mugs of hot chocolate.
As a kid, I looked forward to making hot cocoa with Swiss Miss mix. You know, the packets full of sugary powder and pea-sized dehydrated marshmallows that dissolved on contact with milk warmed in the microwave. But recently, I got hooked on the good stuff — real liquid chocolate spiced with cinnamon or ancho chili and topped with freshly whipped cream or homemade marshmallows.
Here are five local hot chocolate creations to keep you warm.
Chili spice hot chocolate at André’s Confiserie Suisse
Last year, André’s Confiserie Suisse, 5018 Main St., expanded its hot chocolate offerings with three new flavors: ginger spice, a dark chocolate option called Grand Cru, and chili spice. Each variety, including the original recipe that dates back nearly 60 years, is made by melting grated Swiss chocolate in hot milk (or almond milk, if you prefer), then topping the silky mixture with real whipped cream and a glossy zig-zag of chocolate syrup.
Andre’s chili spice hot chocolate ($4) was inspired by its Aztec truffle, which gets its spicy kick from cinnamon and chili powder.
“Anything with warmth complements chocolate,” says Shelly Nemeth, Andre’s chocolate production manager. With each sip of chili spice hot chocolate, you taste creamy milk, silky chocolate and cinnamon-tinged heat that lingers on the back of your tongue and warms your throat.
Mexican hot chocolate at Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates
Over the summer, Wichita’s Cocoa Dolce Artisan Chocolates opened a second location at 5601 W. 135th St., Suite 2220, in Overland Park’s Prairiefire development. Cocoa Dolce serves seven varieties of hot chocolate, including a sugar-free Belgian option and white chocolate peppermint. Store manager Katie Baxt’s favorite is the Mexican hot chocolate ($6), made with dark chocolate, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.
Like all of Cocoa Dolce’s hot chocolates, the Mexican version comes in a huge (nearly 20-ounce) mug in a colorful wooden tray. Shavings of Callebaut Belgian chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles cling to a super-soft marshmallow floating on the drink’s dark surface.
Drinking Cocoa Dolce’s Mexican hot chocolate is a rich sensory experience: You cup the warm, hefty mug in both hands, inhale the cinnamon and watch the chocolate shavings melt into the froth. The taste is the best part: rich and spicy, yet smooth.
Hot sipping chocolate at Garza’s Goodies
Garza’s Goodies, 322 W. 85th St., calls its hot chocolate “sipping chocolate” for a reason.
“You don’t chug it like cocoa,” says owner Richard Garza, because it’s nearly as rich as pure, melted chocolate. “One customer says it tastes like a liquid brownie.”
That’s an accurate description: The hot sipping chocolate at Garza’s Goodies tastes like a molten truffle and has a pudding-like consistency that could make a die-hard chocoholic melt.
To make a batch, Richard’s wife, Heather Garza, scalds milk on a stovetop, then slowly adds in bits of chocolate. She can make any of the shop’s truffle flavors into a sipping chocolate, but my favorite is the Aztec, which tastes like orange, cinnamon and cayenne chili pepper.
Garza’s Goodies sipping chocolate costs $3.85 for a small or $6.85 for a large. If you’re like me and can’t finish a full cup, stash it in the fridge. Later, you can revive the sipping chocolate by mixing in warm milk.
Venezuelan Spice drinking chocolate at Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate
When I stopped by Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate on a recent Thursday morning, the tiny shop at 1819 McGee St. was bursting with people buying armfuls of chocolate boxes wrapped in red bows. One of those people was longtime customer Lester Martin, who caught me eyeing the liquid chocolate menu.
Christopher Elbow offers 10 flavors of liquid chocolate. Among them: coconut curry, ginger caramel, orange citrus and Chinese five spice. I was deciding between peanut butter and roasted hazelnut when Martin told me, “Get the Venezuelan spice with vanilla marshmallows. It’s the best.”
He said this with so much authority that I followed his advice. I’m glad I did: The intoxicating elixir costs $4 and is perfect for dark-chocolate lovers.
The bitterness of the chocolate is tempered by the sweet, pillowy marshmallows that float above the foam like glaciers. Extra marshmallows are 50 cents each. The cinnamon, ancho, and chipotle chili in the Venezuelan spice drinking chocolate don’t scream for attention — they’re there to amplify the chocolate and make the drink taste that much warmer. A mix to take home costs $16 per tin.
Abuelita chocolate chip cookie at the Bite
One of Carlos Mortera’s favorite childhood treats was Nestle Abuelita, a Mexican chocolate drink with lots of cinnamon flavor. The drink is the inspiration behind the Abuelita chocolate chip cookies ($1.95) that Mortera serves at the Bite, his sandwich shop at 23 E. Third St. in the City Market.
The cookies are made with dark chocolate, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a pinch of ancho chili, which gives them just a little more heat than the drink.