Courtesy of Four Seasons
Courtesy of Four Seasons
Thick, rich, and velvety or sweetly spicy with hints of cinnamon and cloves, a cup of exquisitely made hot cocoa is the perfect antidote to winter’s gray skies and cold temperatures. Hot cocoa — or chocolat chaud as the French call it — tastes delicious served in a homey mug or a delicate porcelain cup with a saucer.
If your only encounter with hot cocoa has been the kind made with an artificial-tasting powder and hot water, that disappointing watery drink bears no resemblance to the real thing, which is a decadent experience few can resist. The best hot cocoa is only made with the best chocolate and should always be made with chocolate that contains at least 64 percent cacao, otherwise you won’t taste the deep, layered flavors.
In my opinion, the ultimate experience requires a trek to Angelina in Paris for a demitasse of this Beaux-Art teahouse’s fairy tale version. Since it’s unlikely you’ll be heading off to Paris just for hot cocoa, I’ve tracked down four places in the District that I think serve the best.
As a chef, pastry chef, restaurateur, and TV celebrity, David Guas is a wizard at the sweet stuff, and a visit to Bayou Bakery is like being in a homey Southern kitchen filled with the scent of baked cookies, caramel, and roasted nuts. On any winter day, you can find couples, families, and groups of friends slowly sipping warm cups of hot cocoa and nibbling on famous desserts. His decadent, bittersweet Bayou Hot Cocoa is made with Valrhona chocolate (64 percent cacao), milk from Trickling Springs Creamery, Madagascar vanilla, and sea salt, and garnished with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.
Not all hot cocoa is created equal, and sometimes you want an adult version with a kick. If that’s the case, head to Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Hotel for the Baja Hot Chocolate. The boozy version from head bartender Torrence Swain is made with Patrón XO Incendio, in-house cocoa, Arbol chile, Criollo chocolate, and house-made dulce de leche cream — it’s sure to heat things up.
Almost no one eats more chocolate than the Belgians, so it’s no surprise they have a fondness for chocolat chaud, which you can find at Brasserie Beck during the winter months. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s Belgian Hot Cocoa is prepared with Belgian dark chocolate and cocoa powder (65 percent cacao), vanilla bean, milk, and sugar, topped with freshly whipped cream, cocoa powder, and served with the cookie of the day.
A list of the best hot cocoa in D.C. wouldn’t be complete without Peregrine Espresso (it has topped The Daily Meal’s best-of lists before, though). The espresso uses a naturally sweet crema that never needs added sugar, the service is always excellent, and the hot chocolate is made exclusively with world-renowned Omanhene dark milk chocolate from Ghana. The Omanhene beans have higher amounts of cacao, giving the finished chocolate an intense flavor. Order your drink with a choice of whole milk, skim, or soy; no matter, it gets a nice latte froth on top. And if you have the kids in tow, don’t worry; Peregrine sells a lower-temperature hot cocoa for them that won’t burn their tongues.