Taste Test: America's Best Hot Chocolate Mix

Brrr! It's cold outside, so we're bundling up, curling up next to the fire, and reaching for our favorite cold-weather beverage — a rich, chocolaty cup of steaming hot chocolate. And the best hot chocolate comes from the best hot chocolate mix. There are plenty of fine-quality hot chocolate mixes on the market, but with so many to choose from, how can we determine which has that rich flavor, smooth and creamy texture, sweet chocolaty smell, and deep, dark color that makes a cup of hot chocolate just right?

Taste Test: America's Best Hot Chocolate Mix (Slideshow)

The Daily Meal set out to find out which hot chocolate mix was the best based on four criteria: flavor, smoothness and creaminess, smell, and color. We used many of the mixes from last year's story Best Hot Chocolate to Buy (and the Worst) that are considered the best and worst to buy based on nutrition and our same tasting criteria. This year's contenders were: America's Choice Milk Chocolate, Dagoba Hot Chocolate, Ghirardelli Chocolate Mocha, Starbucks hot chocolate, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, Nesquik, Nestlé Milk Chocolate, Trader Joe's Peppermint Hot Chocolate, and Whole Foods Organic 365 Hot Cocoa.

Out of these nine, there were hot chocolates that resembled "muddy water" with an "unusual," gay color and some that seemed to carry an "odd chemical flavor." Others tasted as good hot chocolate should, having a thick and creamy, and dark brown consistency with a "marshmallow smell."

Dagoba, Swiss Miss, and Whole Foods Organic 365 were some hot chocolate mix brands that ranked at the very bottom of our list. Others, including Trader Joe's, Ghirardelli, and Nestlé, reminded us of classic hot chocolate. Read on to see which hot chocolate mix ranked best based on flavor, smoothness and creaminess, smell, and color.

Haley WIllard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.