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.