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The Lake Champlain Chocolates blog, where you’ll discover the latest news from the factory, tutorials, and all things chocolate!


Ultimate Hot Chocolate Bar Ideas & Toppings

Do-it-yourself hot chocolate bar party

There’s nothing more satisfying than a mug of gourmet hot chocolate on a cold, winter day. Take your winter beverages to a whole new level with a DIY hot chocolate bar!  Follow our easy tips to create the ultimate hot chocolate bar at your next birthday party, family ski trip, or winter celebration.  Guests will love being able to choose from a variety of flavors and toppings to craft their personalized mug of hot chocolate.

We love hot chocolate.  To us, it’s a daily pick-me-up, a relaxing reward after a day out on the slopes, and an indulgent drink to share over laughs with friends.  Whether it’s a refreshing peppermint hot chocolatemocha-infused drinking chocolate, or simply a cup of the classic Traditional — an extraordinary cup of hot chocolate is something to celebrate.  

A do-it-yourself hot chocolate bar is the perfect addition to any celebration — this simple idea can be easily adapted to fit any occasion and scale to any party size. In January we went all-out to create the ultimate hot cocoa bar for an event at our flagship store in Vermont. We’d like to share a few ideas and tips we learned so that you can host an unforgettable hot chocolate party!

hot chocolate bar drink creations

12 Tips and Ideas for Creating a DIY Hot Chocolate Bar

hot chocolate flavors

Select the right hot chocolate flavors

The most essential ingredient to any hot cocoa bar is the hot chocolate, of course.  Your chocolatey drink will be at the center of your dessert bar, so choose your flavor(s) wisely.  This decision depends in large part on your guests. Classic hot chocolate is great for any party. This kid-friendly flavor offers the best canvas for any concoction. If you are entertaining a more adventurous crowd, try mixing things up by offering some alternative flavors like Spicy Aztec or Mocha.

drinking chocolate options for your next hot chocolate bar

Feature drinking chocolate

Treat your guests to the ultimate experience, by including drinking chocolate made from solid chocolate (instead of powder).  Rich, full-bodied drinking chocolate can be made in a variety of flavors using finely-chopped chocolate chips, chocolate bars, or even truffles.

pitchers of milk and dairy-free almond milk for your hot chocolate bar

Don’t forget the dairy-free milk

It’s important to take into consideration any dietary restrictions your guests may have.  In order to make the best hot chocolate, we recommend using only the freshest local milk. (Monument Farms, a fourth generation, family-owned dairy in Weybridge, Vermont, has been our go-to source for milk for over 30 years!) That being said, since our hot chocolate mixes do not contain milk powder, they can be made using almond, soy, oat, or coconut milk for a great vegan hot chocolate bar!

gourmet hot chocolate dispenser

Make your hot chocolate ahead of time

If you are serving just one kind of hot cocoa, prepare it ahead of time. That way you don’t have to fuss with making it during the party and can spend more time with your guests. This countertop hot chocolate dispenser is great for making and keeping a large batch hot for extended periods of time. (It’s the one we use here for company celebrations and hot chocolate tasting events.) Simply add a gallon of milk and a tin of organic hot chocolate, about 2 hours before your event, turn it on and let it do its thing.  Voila, your gourmet, soul-soothing drink is served! If you don’t want to invest in this awe-inspiring dispenser, a simple crock pot and ladle will do the trick of keeping your pre-made hot cocoa warm and ready to enjoy.

everything you need to make your own hot chocolate

Hot chocolate made to order

If you plan to offer a variety of flavor options, it’s best to make the hot chocolate to order.  The areoccino is the ideal tool for making a cup at home. Simply provide the milk and the hot chocolate ingredients and guests can whip up their own beverage at the touch of a button. Before you begin, be sure to check out our tips for making the perfect hot chocolate.

handcrafted hot chocolate mugs by Simon Pearce

Choosing the Right Cups

The right cups are an essential aspect of any hot chocolate bar. Cups that are too small make it hard for guests to add toppings, while cups that are too large allow the hot cocoa to get cold before it is consumed.  We are in love with these 12-oz mugs from Simon Pearce. Not only are they beautiful and made right here in Vermont, but our Digital Marketing Manager swears the glass Ascutney mug made her hot chocolate taste just that much more delicious.

whipped cream or marshmallows for hot chocolate

The great debate: marshmallows or whipped cream

No cup of hot chocolate is complete without whipped cream or marshmallows, or both!  While these light and fluffy gourmet vanilla marshmallows are truly out-of-this-world, a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream is great for layering on plenty of other delicious toppings.  Since some people may have a strong preference for one or the other, we suggest offering both.

delicious sauces to top your hot chocolate drinks

Make it saucy

After you add the whipped cream or marshmallow it’s time to get fancy with your hot chocolate bar toppings. We recommend offering a couple of sauce options.  A little drizzle of gourmet chocolate sauce adds some extra chocolate oomph to your drink, while this rich salted caramel sauce adds a delightful salty-sweet flavor to any hot beverage.

cacao vodka spiked hot chocolate

Spike your hot chocolate

Who said hot chocolate was just for kids?! Enhance your hot chocolate bar with spirits. When it comes to cocktails, it’s all about creativity.  While you can’t go wrong with Irish cream, coffee liqueur or peppermint schnapps, there are a number of other tasty hot chocolate cocktails you can make, like this orange hot chocolate or this cardamom whiskey hot chocolate.

bowls of hot chocolate bar toppings

The best hot chocolate bar toppings

When it comes to toppings, the possibilities are endless. For our hot cocoa bar, we decided to cut up some of our favorite chocolates and offer them as toppings. Extra-small chunks Almond Butter Crunch were the most popular toppings of choice.  Chocolate chips, finely chopped nuts, crushed graham crackers, and candy cane pieces, also make great options! To create the ultimate hot chocolate bar, we think, the more topping the better!

cookies, pretzels, and more for hot chooclate bar drink creations

Add some cookie crunch

Don’t forget to include something for guests to nibble on. Shortbread sticks, chocolate-dipped pretzel rods, and pirouette cookies are great for dipping in hot chocolate. Plus, these delicious treats double as stirring sticks. Yum!

bowls of sprinkles for hot chocolate bar drink creations

The finishing touches

Add a little sprinkle sparkle to finish off your creation! Whether you choose to include chocolate shavings, cinnamon, orange zest, toasted coconut, or colorful sprinkles, no hot chocolate is complete without a little something extra on top.

tasty hot chocolate bar drink creations

Voila! You are now ready to create the ultimate hot chocolate bar at your next party!  Share your favorite hot chocolate bar toppings and photos with us on Facebook or Instagram @LCChocolates. Be sure to include the hashtags #ilovelcc and #hotchocolatebar for a chance to win the I ♥ Hot Chocolate Gift Set!