We’ve all had powdery hot cocoa—watery, only vaguely chocolaty, and occasionally crunchy with undissolved marshmallow clumps. Still, cocoa was—and is—the best thing to stir into a mug on a winter afternoon.
Today’s hot chocolate has come a long way from little packages with gritty marshmallows. From sipping chocolate flavored with secret Caribbean spices to house-roasted cocoa beans and celebrity truffle shops, America’s best hot chocolate has gone gourmet.
Jacques Torres, New York, NY
The eponymous factory/café of the city’s French-born chocolate prodigy serves up velvety bean-to-bar-to-cup creations with cocoa beans ground and refined on site.
mrchocolate.com; from $3.55.
Rick Bayless’s restaurant highlights Mexican street food—his hot chocolate is no exception. Drink it the authentic way, made from freshly ground cacao beans, roasted on the premises.
rickbayless.com; from $2.50.
Recchiuti, San Francisco
Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti lets his acclaimed dark chocolate take center stage in this simple but decadent hot cocoa, served seasonally (with a handmade vanilla bean marshmallow) in his Ferry Building shop.
recchiuti.com; from $4.
The shop’s Aztec Aphrodisiac sipping chocolate derives from a Caribbean secret recipe of six varieties of chiles and spices, and comes topped with a house-made marshmallow.
cacaoatlanta.com; from $5.50.
The Little Nell, Aspen
At this resort, one of the country’s premiere ski destinations, the signature hot chocolate—made with Cacao Barry chocolate ganache and whole milk—is the perfect way to come in out of the cold.
thelittlenell.com; from $6.50.
Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man, Las Vegas
The Brenner outpost offers more than 10 varieties of hot chocolate drinks; don’t miss the decadently rich Suckao—a shot of chocolate that’s the espresso of the cocoa world.
maxbrenner.com; from $5.25.
Compartes Chocolatier, Los Angeles
Chocolatier Jonathan Grahm creates organic, artisanal blends with ingredients such as Tahitian vanilla bean and cinnamon in this historic Brentwood shop (Frank Sinatra was a fan).
compartes.com; from $5.
La Châtelaine Chocolat Co., Bozeman, Montana
French chocolate-maker Wlady Grochowski serves his frothy, Camargue fleur de sel–infused chocolate in café au lait bowls.
chatelainechocolate.com; from $3.
The Cocoa Tree, Nashville
The shop serves 12 playful varieties of hot chocolate, including “confetti,” a white hot chocolate swirled with sprinkles, and s’mores, made with graham crackers and homemade marshmallows.
thecocoatree.com; from $3.29.
ACKC, Washington, D.C.
More than 12 “diva” blends of chocolate are named after famous starlets; try the lavender-infused Liz (Taylor) or the Lucy, made with chipotle peppers and cinnamon—reminiscent of Lucille Ball’s fiery coiffure.
thecocoagallery.com; from $4.25.
L.A. Burdick Chocolate, Walpole, New Hampshire
With three shops on the East Coast, Burdick keeps it simple with buttery milk, white, and dark chocolate varieties, topped with a spice ball made with ground cocoa beans, a bay leaf, and cinnamon.
burdickchocolate.com; from $3.50.