A New Way to Get Your Fix
By James Feustel
Increasing numbers of venues—from high-end restaurants to more casual places, and from gourmet and chain bakeries to specialty chocolate stores—are featuring drinking chocolates on their menus. 

Chef Maricel Presilla of Zafra – Hoboken, NJ
“Age of Discovery” Vanilla-Scented Hot Chocolate

Chef David Guas of Ceiba – Washington, D.C.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Shooter

Matt Lewis of Chocolate Bar – New York City, NY
Malted Hot Chocolate

Chef Karen DeMasco of Craftbar – New York City, NY
Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

Starbucks is debuting a new drinkable chocolate beverage in January, and Au Bon Pain has three different drinking chocolates coming out this winter. They’re completely different than the hot cocoa to which we’re accustomed. Drinking chocolates are made from real chocolate with over 50% chocolate solids, whereas hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder. And don’t be fooled by gourmet lines of powdered hot chocolates: even if they’re made with milk, they don’t count as drinking chocolates; only drinks with real molten chocolate qualify. Just be prepared to pay extra for these warm chocolate beverages.

Thomas John, Rising Star and the new executive chef of Au Bon Pain, says that it’s important to use quality ingredients in drinking chocolates and, ultimately, this is what determines the price of a cup. Alison Nelson of Chocolate Bar in New York City agrees. “Really good chocolate is not inexpensive because you can’t grow cacao all over the world, and dairy and sugar prices have shot up over the last few years.” At Chocolate Bar, the liquid chocolates (as they’re called there) are reasonably priced and the profit margin is similar to their coffee beverages. Customers who try one of their liquid chocolates rarely turn back to hot cocoa.

According to Alison, the reason for the growing trend is simple: chocolate is the next food about which consumers are becoming more educated. It happened with wine and coffee, and now with chocolate as people crave more than a simple Hershey’s bar. They are discovering varietal and artisanal chocolates, and now drinking chocolates.

In addition to being more aware and educated about products, Alison thinks that people are drawn to drinking chocolates because of nostalgia. Hot chocolate is a comfort food, and Alison says, “It reminds people of snowy days or sitting around their grandmother’s table. It may have been Swiss Miss then,” but people are still longing for it. Now they just have better choices.

This isn’t just a cold-weather trend. Alison sees drinking chocolate as only the beginning. Innovative chocolatiers are already looking for new ways to consume liquid chocolate by adding it to other beverages. Soon chocolate beverages will include sodas and martinis, and an entire line of flavored drinking chocolates, much like the flavored coffees we can buy in gourmet coffee shops.

Whether you run a fine dining restaurant or a more casual operation, there are myriad variations of the traditional hot chocolate that you can offer customers. With more bars, café and restaurants putting drinking chocolates on their menus, there is no shortage of ways for people to get their chocoholic fix. Drinking chocolates can also be enjoyed at home with these simple recipes.


Related Links:
  • Jump Start
  • Milk Chocolate Coffee
  • Forum: Best Hot Chocolate in NYC

  •    Published: January 2005