As a kid, hot chocolate didn’t do much for me. I realize that seems un-Americana. What could be more reminiscent of childhood winters than a steaming hot cup of cocoa, topped with whipped cream and stirred with a peppermint stick? Well, I was the kid who found that whole concoction rather cloying. I preferred my chocolate dark and in bar-form.
About five years ago, I was introduced to the espresso-sized shots of hot drinking chocolate at Cacao Drink Chocolate. Each sip was full of deep, rich chocolate flavor—without the headache-inducing sweetness of the hot chocolate mix from my childhood. A niche-industry was on the rise. According to Cacao Drink Chocolate, in 2006 there were only three small craft chocolate makers in America. Now, there are over 40 and many of the artisan shops that carry their products also serve espresso cups of hot drinking chocolate.
On the coffee and tea aisle, sitting right next to the traditional hot chocolate mix, you’ll also find a proliferation of small craft hot drinking chocolate. Portland’s own Moonstruck chocolate has a sinful Dark Hot Cocoa mix, as well as a Mayan Hot Cocoa mix with hints of cinnamon and almond. Dagoba Organic Chocolate has a Chai Drinking Chocolate. Theo Chocolate has a Chipotle Spice drinking chocolate flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, clove, vanilla bean, Ancho and Chipotle Chiles. These are definitely not the hot chocolate from my formative years.
After a day on the ski slopes, or when the temperature hovers at freezing, my kids enjoy their milky hot chocolate, while I pour myself a mug of dark, hot drinking chocolate—topping it off with whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings. Sometimes I toss in some peppermint Schnapps, for kicks. With each sinful sip, the memory of the cloying hot drink from my childhood fades.