Daily Meal's Exclusive Survey Uncovered The Absolute Best Chain Hot Chocolate

Is there anything more comforting than enjoying a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter's day? Whether you loved grabbing a cup on a snow day home from school or now like to settle in to warm up for the evening as an adult, the sweet drink is beloved for a reason.

Marshmallows and whipped cream are some of the most popular toppings for homemade hot cocoa, but Little Spice Jar suggests experimenting with so much more. The site recommends creating an entire topping bar the next time you make up mugs for a crowd. You can add toffee bits, crushed peppermint, chocolate shavings, cinnamon sticks, and a variety of sauces to your drink to add some extra sweetness.

But if you find yourself craving a cup while you're out and about, a number of places sell cups of hot chocolate for a quick dose of the sweet drink. In an exclusive survey, Daily Meal asked 662 people to choose their favorite chain hot chocolate. The respondents submitted their votes, and one clear winner came out on top.

Voters had a clear favorite

Though the chain is best known for its coffee, Starbucks was the clear winner with a whopping 39.07% of the vote in Daily Meal's exclusive poll. The Starbucks website states that it uses both chocolate- and vanilla-flavored syrups alongside steamed milk in its hot chocolate, before topping it with its signature whipped cream and chocolate sauce drizzle. In second place is another coffee shop — Dunkin's hot chocolate claimed 24.12% of the vote.

Panera and Tim Horton's tied for third place, each with 9.97% of the votes. Panera's website states that its drink starts with a foamed milk base, and bittersweet chocolate syrup is added. The drink is then topped with whipped cream and a sweet caramel sauce. At Tim Horton's, customers can enjoy a classic hot chocolate or a frozen version of the drink.

Though McDonald's may be convenient to drive through, it might fall flat when it comes to flavor — the fast-food chain only earned 9.81% of the votes. In last place, with 7.07%, was Caribou Coffee, which tops its hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate chips.

The drink carries an interesting history

The sweet hot cocoa that we know today is beloved by children and adults alike these days, but a similar drink was originally created by the Olmecs and the Mayans, according to What's Cooking America. In the Mayan version, cocoa seeds, water, cornmeal, and chili peppers were mixed until foamy, then enjoyed cold, per the Institute of Culinary Education.

The idea of the drink made its way to Europe in the 1500s, along with cocoa beans, and it was first enjoyed hot when it reached Spain, per Hotel Chocolat. King Charles V reportedly cut the chili peppers from the recipe, replacing them with sugar to make it sweet instead of spicy.

The drink was even reportedly used as a treatment for various ailments until the 19th century. Though this doesn't sound like an effective method of treatment, UpThirst notes that some varieties of chocolate may be beneficial for an upset stomach. Dark chocolate might help gas-related stomachaches, while high acidity can be remedied with a milk-based drink.