How to Set Up a DIY Hot Cocoa Bar

As I am writing this, a Polar Vortex is on its way to Chicago. If you didn’t already know, we Chicagoans are T O U G H. I mean, 30 degrees during the winter is a heat wave. But the high for tomorrow is -15 degrees and the news is reporting that you can get frostbite in four minutes or less. So in addition to busting out our wool sweaters and compiling a list of fun screen-free activities to keep my boys busy, I’m also gathering the ingredients for a hot cocoa bar. Because even if people aren’t coming over (I mean, do you remember what I just told you about frost bite?!?!), there’s no reason why you can’t treat yourself and your family to a cup of comfort. Here are my tips for setting up a DIY hot cocoa bar.

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Hot Cocoa Bar Basics

First off, let’s talk basics. What do you need in order to have a smoothly running DIY hot cocoa bar? Mugs (check out these cute terra cotta ones), hot cocoa, and marshmallows. It’s shockingly simple and your only trouble might be determining which hot cocoa mix to use or tracking down a thermos that will keep the milk warm enough to put together your own chocolately concoction. And while I like basic things (avocado toast, for example), I am nothing but basic. So here’s where we are going to kick it up a notch.


The Ultimate Hot Cocoa Recipe

For the longest time, I didn’t like coffee. I know, I know…motherhood led me to realize how I was missing out on all of that caffeinated goodness. So instead of ordering a latte like my friends did, I would order hot chocolate. Through tons of taste tests from cafes all over Chicagoland and beyond, I determined the most important aspects of hot chocolate: its richness, flavor profile, and consistency. Without any further adieu, here is my ultimate hot cocoa recipe:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups whole chocolate milk
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt (yes, you read that right. SALT.)

Combine the different varieties of milk over low heat and then slowly whisk in the other ingredients. Finish it off with a pinch of salt, remove from heat, and serve.

And if you are a parent dealing with a snow day or you just spent three hours freezing your butt off at the sled hill, add a splash of Bailey’s, Rumchata, or Kahula to your concoction. You’ve earned it.

Hot Cocoa Bar Toppings

Now that you know the absolute BEST hot cocoa recipe, let’s talk toppings. As you can tell from my addition of a pinch of salt, I enjoy a sweet/salty combo. So I include savory toppings such as pretzels and crushed nuts within my hot cocoa bar, in addition to more traditional items. Some of my favorite hot cocoa bar toppings:

  • Candy canes
  • Gingerbread cookies
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Caramel sauce
  • Peppermint covered chocolate sticks
  • Coconut flakes
  • Marshmallows
  • Sprinkles
  • Peanut Butter Cups

Honestly, the options are endless. Just be sure to put out little bowls of each (I love these because of their lids) or serve them all on a tiered tray so there isn’t too much of a sticky mess.


Hot Cocoa Bar Tips

Now that you know what ingredients you need, remember that if you want your DIY hot cocoa bar to be as effortless as possible, designate a section of your kitchen or dining room where it can stay. Obviously you won’t leave out milk all day long, even if it is in a thermos, but you can most definitely set it up before you head outside for some winter fun and then when you come back home all you have to do is try to not step in wet puddles on your way to the hot cocoa bar.

Don’t forget to check out all of my other entertaining and recipe ideas.

Stay warm and cheers!
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    • Amanda says

      It’s the perfect set up for lazy weekends. We have some hot cocoa all set up for the Puppy Bowl and will switch it up for the big game later tonight!

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