With the snow that’s still festering on the ground about to be augmented by another deposit from the heavens, it seems an ideal time to consider the merits of hot chocolate. The cups available in New York are as varied as the city’s inhabitants, running the gamut from thin, watery gruel that has its genesis in a packet to cups made with a nod to Europe,
their thick, molten contents seemingly the product of only melted chocolate bars and doubling as a meal replacement. And then there’s the ample middle ground, populated by cups that are neither thick nor thin, but milky, frothy, and bearing hints of either cocoa powder, actual chocolate, or both. Where your sympathies — and appetites — lie can be measured by your desire to consume dessert in liquid form: while some argue that joy can be found only in a beverage that thickens into pudding if refrigerated overnight, others liken it to radioactive sludge, and prefer the more modest comforts of a cup that won’t result in a diabetic coma.
And then there are all of the accoutrements: the 3-inch-thick protrusions of whipped cream, the dessicated mini-marshmallows, the homemade, pneumatic marshmallows, the protective seal of melted marshmallows (something that the Shake Shack does), the dustings of cocoa powder, the chocolate cookie crumblings, the chic little shards of semi-sweet chocolate. There’s varying degrees of sweet, from the bitter dark to the diabolically (and diabetically) saccharine, and myriad flavorings, from the cinnamon of Mexican hot chocolate and the hot chili of so-called Aztec cups, to flavored syrups and the multitude of flavors used by the City Bakery during its annual Hot Chocolate Festival.
Clearly, hot chocolate is a wily, complex thing. So we’ve endeavored to sample widely from across the spectrum to come up with the 10 cups that embody what we most love about the drink, which is to say something warm, comforting, texturally well-balanced, and tasting of actual chocolate. Undoubtedly, there are some we missed, so feel free to say so in the comments section and we’ll add them to our Readers’ Suggestions page.
Next: Runners-up to Our 10 Best Hot Chocolates
La Maison du Chocolat (very dark, unsweetened, and unnecessarily priced at $8), 30 Rockefeller Center, 212-265-9404; Cocoa Bar (thick-thin middle ground, moderately sweet), 21 Clinton Street, 212-77-7417; Joe the Art of Coffee (milky, frothy, moderately sweet), 141 Waverly Place, 212-924-6750; Tacos Nuevo Mexico (Mexican hot chocolate, milky, frothy), 491 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-832-0050; Tarallucci e Vino (unsweetened, dark, milky), 163 First Avenue, 212-388-1190; Otto (technically gianduja, a sweet, creamy chocolate-hazelnut drink), 1 Fifth Avenue, 212-995-9559; Shake Shack (sweet, moderately thick), Madison Square Park, 212-889-6600; Chocolate Bar (moderately thick, semi-sweet) 19 Eighth Avenue, 212-366-1541
Next: Numbers 10 through 6
10. Stumptown (light, frothy, milky, uses Mast Bros. syrup), 18 West 29th Street, 212-679-2222
9. Jacques Torres (thick, rich, semi-sweet), 350 Hudson Street, 212-414-2462
8. MarieBelle (thick, rich, semi-sweet), 484 Broome Street, 212-925-6999
7. The Chocolate Room (thick, rich, semi-sweet, spiked with chili oil upon request), 86 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, 718-783-2900
6. City Bakery (legendarily thick, semi-sweet, adorned with equally famous homemade marshmallows), 3 West 18th Street, 212-366-1414
Next: The Five Best
5. Almondine (milky, not too thick, made with Valrhona chocolate), 85 Water Street, Dumbo, 718-797-5026
4. Van Leeuwen (thick, semi-sweet, made with Michel Cluizel chocolate), various locations, 718-701-1630
3. DessertTruck Works (thick, semi-sweet, and exceptionally smooth), 6 Clinton Street (no phone)
2. Grom Gelato (technically, gianduja; not too thick, tastes like melted Nutella), 233 Bleecker Street, 212-206-1738
1. The Village Tart (thick, creamy, somewhat sweet, made with Valrhona chocolate, adorned with bits of crushed up chocolate cookie), 86 Kenmare Street, 212-226-4980
Next: Readers’ suggestions