Gourmet Hot Chocolate

I love hot chocolate.  Like, really love it. I also love flavored steamed milk.  I buy it in the middle of the summer and the Starbucks employees ask me if I’m aware they sell iced drinks.  I don’t drink coffee so I guess this is my vice.  One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is host a hot chocolate bar.  Sometimes we’ll invite another family over, sometimes we’ll host an adult get together, and sometimes I kick my husband and kiddos out of the house for a few hours and have a girls night in.  Today I’m going to show you how to step it up a notch and put something together that’s super trendy and super gourmet!  And you don’t need to throw a party to enjoy these, it’s a fun after dinner treat for the family, or just a cup for one on a chilly day.

I put together these flavor combinations with normal ingredients you can find in your own cupboards and at the grocery store.  I’m not listing ingredient amounts because it’s really a to-taste thing.  If you’re setting up spread for a get together, try putting all of these combos in little stations where people can put the add-ins in themselves.  I use little espresso sized cups so people can grab several tastes without feeling an overload!  First I’ll show you my creations, and then I’ll give you my hot chocolate tips.  Here we go…

Holiday Spice:  White hot chocolate, pumpkin pie spice,
gingerbread marshmallows, cinnamon sprinkle. Optional: cinnamon oil or cinnamon syrup
I’m a sucker for raspberry and chocolate together so this was a natural choice.  This is great with both white or dark hot chocolate.
Raspberry Truffle: A couple chunks of dark chocolate on the bottom of the mug, hot chocolate or white hot chocolate, raspberry syrup or oil, whipped cream, raspberry drizzle, chocolate sprinkles.  For the raspberry drizzle either puree fresh raspberries or mix a little raspberry jam with warm water until smooth.
Possibly my favorite (and the least ingredients!)
Chocolate Hazelnut: Hot whole milk, Nutella, chocolate whipped cream, chocolate shavings.
Yes, I’m putting chunks of fudge in my hot chocolate.
Caramel Fudge:  A chunk of fudge on the bottom of the mug, hot chocolate, caramel syrup, marshmallows, caramel sauce drizzle.
Can’t go wrong with this classic.  If I’m at a coffee shop ordering hot chocolate, 9 times out of 10 I’ll go with something like this!
Peppermint Stick:  White or Chocolate hot chocolate, peppermint oil, extract, or syrup, pink peppermint whipped cream, crushed candy canes.
Tips: When setting up a hot chocolate bar I think of the following things:
Pour it: This is your base.  I like to have a hot chocolate, a white chocolate and plain milk.  I always use whole milk because it has such great flavor and a creamy texture.  If you’re concerned about calories, c’mon we’re dunking straight-up fudge in this stuff.  Since you’re going to have lots of sweet things to add to your drink, I strongly recommend you take the time to make your own hot chocolate (as opposed to using a pre-made mix).  That way you can control the sugar and keep it low so it’s not overly sweet with the add-ins.
Flavor it: Think of things you can both stir in and melt in.  Extracts and oils work great but keep a tiny spoon or dropper so people don’t add too much.  You can find a large assortment of flavored syrups in the coffee isle of the grocery store.  Also there are fantastic coffee creamers available during the holidays in all sorts of great flavors like gingerbread, peppermint, hazelnut, french vanilla, etc.  In addition to the normal flavors think of solid chocolate, peanut butter, nutella, etc.  Search through your pantry and fridge and be creative!
Top it:  Whip your own cream and you can add flavors and or colors.  Try cocoa powder for a chocolate whipped cream, or peppermint extract and pink food coloring for a candy cane twist.   Use spices, shavings, crushed candy or candy bars to add an extra touch.  Ice cream syrups like caramel and chocolate, or berry toppings are easy and show-stopping!
Stir it:  With all of these add-ins you’ll need something to stir with!  Try dipping spoons in caramel or chocolate and rolling in crushed candycanes or toffee and then let them harden.  Or use candy canes or cinnamon sticks for extra flavor.
You’ll notice in my pictures I have tiny cups!  That’s one of my best tips.  Use espresso cups (available for pretty reasonable prices, my set was under $10!) so people can try a few different flavors and enjoy the richness of a small serving.
Related Recipes
Hot Chocolate: I love Hershey’s classic recipe.  Use whole milk and decrease the sugar just a bit to allow for add-ins.
White Hot Chocolate: Melt 1 C white chocolate chips with 6 C whole milk and 1 tsp vanilla.
Chocolate Whipped Cream: add in a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
Peppermint whipped cream: add in peppermint extract to taste and pink food coloring
Fudge: Here’s an easy recipe that has all of the ingredients of a good hot chocolate (just skip the nuts!)  Or for a less sweet option, just make super thick ganache.  Try this recipe and cut the cream down to about 1/4 cup.  You can make it with dark, bittersweet, semi sweet or milk chocolate.  Place in a small dish in the fridge to harden and then cut into cubes.
Marshmallows: Make your own and flavor with any extract your heart desires!
This just might be one of my most favorite posts ever- hope you enjoyed it!  If you’ve got a flavor combo in that head of yours, leave a comment below and share!

Here’s a video segment of these recipes, along with my s’mores hot chocolate, on Studio 5 tv.

Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I make my own (have to being dairy-free). I make mine with 1 1/2 cups coconut milk heated just under a boil. I use dutch cocoa with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Pour the milk into the cocoa (or combine it all on the stove) in a mug. Garnish with a homemade marshmallow and enjoy. It tastes just like a mounds candy bar…delicious!

  2. We’re having a cold day here in May and was so happy to stumble across your picture of Hazelnut hot chocolate on Pinterest…..oh yum! I made it with cinnamon whipped topping instead of chocolate because that’s what I had on hand and it’s delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest!

    ~ Mara

  3. Hi! Discovered your page while I was looking for an easy gourmet recipe for hot chocolate to add to one of our blog stories. We featured the Raspberry Truffle with links all back to you!

    Can’t wait to try all of these yummy drinks!


  4. I came across this site when googling recipes for hot chocolate. I am trying to discover 1 – if there is a store/shop dedicated to hot chocolate like there is for coffee and 2 – are there enough varieties of hot chocolate ‘flavors’ that currently exist so make a shop successful, if one doesn’t already exist? Any thoughts from the author?

  5. Thank you ever so much for this posting. So much inspiration. I think we will be having a new holiday tradition. Yummers.

  6. Love this idea! If I were to do this for a slightly bigger event, say a wedding reception…how would you recommend keeping the hot chocolate at the right temperature?

  7. I love your cute cups that you used! Where did you get them from? I am so going to do a hot chocolate bar this year. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I have a question – I love, love, love hot chocolate and all these recipes look wonderful, does anyone know of a lactose free product I can use instead of milk? Not everything heats up great.

  9. i host a cookie swap for my family and friends every year. im really considering having a hot chocolate bar this year. i know they would all love it.

  10. Wow! Ok, obviously I’m a bit late to the party, but these are amazing! We are definitely doing this next winter! Thanks for all the great ideas!

  11. Not sure if you care, or if anyone is reading these comments anymore but I figured it out (I am the Tiramisu hot chocolate recipe above)! I will offer little coffee flavored chocolates (Thank you Switzerland, and your full isle of chocolate in even the smallest of grocery stores!) to melt into the milk instead of plain dark chocolate.

  12. I am hosting our book club this month and am going to serve a Gourmet Hot Chocolate bar! I LOVE this idea.

    I've been mixing up my own concoctions to go along with your fabulous ones. My favorite that I have come up with is TIRAMISU.

    Whole milk

    DARK chocolate crumbled into it

    (I would love to offer a bowl for a pinch of instant coffee for flavor, but I think some of my guests would be appalled.)

    Rum flavoring

    Marscapone cream
    (I may or may not add that pinch of instant coffee here, somehow I think my guests would be less opposed to 'eating' a teaspoon of flavored cream than drinking it, but we'll see)

    Served with Lady Fingers.

    Does it sound great? Tell me it sounds great… 😉 Any ideas for getting that Tiramisu coffee flavor without offending my guests?

    Thanks for the great idea! My mom in Utah saw you on TV and forwarded your site to me.

    Zurich, CH

  13. OMG I luv luv these ideas.
    I would like to feature them on my site and link back to you.
    Next Monday for our weekly menu round up.
    You can see it at
    I hope that's ok with you if not please let me know?

  14. nursegirl- not rude at all! We just avoid excessive caffeine due to our religious beliefs/lifestyles. Although with the amount of chocolate I consume I may need to cut back there too, haha!

  15. I love your site! I really don't mean to be rude, but I'm curious. Why can you drink hot chocolate but not coffee?

  16. I absolutely ♥ Hot Choc, so must weigh in here.
    Try it with whipped cream that's only been whipped about 1/2 way, so that it is still pourable. Pour slowly over the back of a teaspoon on to your very hot Hot Choc. When you take a sip the cold cream floats on top and hits your palate while at the same time the hot choc hits the tongue.
    Quite an experience.
    Trust me 😉

  17. Oooh, the Nutella one is definitely calling out to me. And I just happen to have two jumbo jars of Nutella on hand. Hot chocolate, here I come! 😉

  18. Yes!! We're hosting a New Year's Eve thing (totally low-key), and I now have my dessert! Have people bring cookies, and provide the hot cocoa bar… in fact, I just ordered the espresso cups set! You rock!

  19. Such a cute and fun idea! I also adore hot chocolate. Thanks for all the great pictures as well! Now I've got a hankerin' for some hot chocolate!

  20. Yummy!! I so love your ideas! Thought I'd share my favoritest hot chocolate adder right now. Hershey's Cinnamon chips. They melt so lusciously and are an awesome mix with hot chocolate, white, milk, or dark. I top that with some spray cream (don't know why but I LOVE it on hot cocoa) and enjoy.

    As far as lactose-intolerant people, have you tried using Almond Milk instead? I've read you can heat it, but haven't tried doing that myself. I'm sure it would make an incredible hot chocolate though, I'd be tempted to do that even though I can have milk!!

  21. Oh my word, to die for. Decisions on what to make for Christmas morning but I think I will make the caramel ones as my daughters LOVE caramel!!! You ladies are awesome!

  22. I recently had a to die for Hot Chocolate many of you may be familiar with. I was given a gift card to Star Bucks and not being a coffee drinker I went in search of Hot Chocolate. They had on the menu a Carmel Salted Hot Chocolate!! Yummy, they best tasting yet!! At home I recreated it by simply putting a drizzle of Caramel (1-2 tsp.) in the Hot Chocolate and sprinkled a little Kosher salt on top of the marshmallows. I crave it daily, just can't get enough!

  23. ok, this is our next girls night activity! A hot cocoa bar and hours of talking with the gals. Thank you so much for the inspiration!! 🙂