Happy National Hot Chocolate Day
Did you know that 31st January is National Hot Chocolate Day? That sounds like the perfect excuse for a chocolatey treat this weekend. On my travels, I’ve discovered some fabulous hot chocolate drinks and recipes. While some of them I’ve written about before, I’ve brought my favourite together here in one place, just for you. I originally published this post on 31st January 2014 but I’ve discovered many more fabulous hot chocolates since then. So let me take you on an updated tour around the world one hot chocolate at a time.
Where to find the best hot chocolate in the world?
Hot Chocolate, Belfast, Nothern Ireland
Walk down the stairs into Co Couture, a basement shop on Chichester Street in Belfast, open the door and inhale. An invisible wall of chocolate will smack you in the face as you enter the world of one of the finest chocolatiers I’ve ever met. I was exploring the city on The Belfast Food Tour, during my first trip to Northern Ireland back in 2017 and this is how I met a wonderful lady, Deidre McCanny.
Deidre was once a high-powered businesswoman who, like so many of us, sought happiness in chocolate.
Unlike most of us though, she turned her passion into a thriving business. As she told us all about chocolate, how it is made, how it should be tasted, what to look out for, she was an absolute joy to watch and listen to, as her passion for chocolate shone out. One tip that I’ll be following from now on thanks to this Belfast Food Tour is to check the label of chocolates before buying them. The shorter the ingredients list, the better the taste and the better it is for you.
We talked chocolate. We tasted chocolate. We drank chocolate. And it was good. So good in fact that I brought, not one but two bags of hot chocolate home with me, as well as a couple of bars of exquisite Madagascar chocolate. For any chocoholic, a visit to Belfast would not be complete without popping by CoCouture.
Warme Chocolademelk, Brussels, Belgium
Known for its nightlife, restaurants and surrealism, the Sablon district of Brussels is many people’s favourite part of the city but I had one thing on my mind… hot chocolate! Not just any old hot chocolate but a Wittamer hot chocolate. I visiting g with my husband back in 2013. I’d been told by a couple of different sources that this was the very best in town. I knew it was in the Place du Grand Sablon and had a bright pink awning, making it easy to find. As I stared in through the shop window my heart did a somersault as my eyes beheld the exquisite cakes and pastries on display.
We found our way upstairs to the charming café with its beamed ceilings, dramatic chandelier and oodles of character. Sitting down by the window, I soon had to sit on my hands to stop myself photographing other people’s orders. With eyes popping I watched a couple, each with a delicious looking ice-cream creation decorated with an over-sized macaron, pick up a white jug and slowly pour melted chocolate all over their dessert. Oh my!
Having ordered our drinks, we waited patiently (ish!) and soaked up the atmosphere. A sense of serenity filled the air as everyone in the room indulged themselves in their favourite Wittamer treat. Then in front of us appeared our drinks, each with a couple of Wittamer chocolates and a large dollop of Chantilly cream. They tasted as good as they looked and were worth every cent of the 6.50€ they cost (each!). I wonder how much they cost now?!
Hot Chocolate, Toronto, Canada
I’ve visited Canada several times now, most recently for a fabulous two weeks staying with my husband’s relatives in Ontario. We spent the last couple of days exploring Toronto – a fabulous city with many exciting vibrant districts.
One of my favourite areas of Toronto though has to be the pedestrianised Distillery District. Once the location of the largest whiskey distillery in the world, its cobbled streets and 19th-century red brick buildings are now home to some of the best pubs, restaurants, independent quirky shops and galleries in the city. And this is where we found SOMA Chocolatemaker. We had a superb hot chocolate at this artisan chocolate factory.
You might also enjoy this Chocolate Tour I discovered in Austria
Cioccolata calda, Venice, Italy
Back in 2016, I spent a wonderful solo weekend in Venice, exploring the alleyways, bridges and islands. On my last day, I rose early to do some photography before breakfast. I was hoping it might be sunny and that not many people would be about, but a thick blanket of fog lay over the city. Even so, Venice was achingly beautiful and the mists added to the drama of my photos I took.
There was one thing, in particular, I wanted to treat myself to before I left – a cup of hot chocolate at Caffè Florian. Dating back to 1720, this beautiful cafe on St Mark’s Square is said to be the oldest cafe in the world. It may be a little pricey but it is really quite lovely and serves the most exquisite cakes and pastries. But I was here for the chocolate, a delicious, almost too thick to pour chocolate heaven in a cup. If you are seeking utter indulgence then this is the place to come, and the perfect way to end a truly outstanding weekend.
Read more about my visit to Venice
Hot Chocolate, Swanage, England
In 2017, I spent a lovely weekend with my husband in Swanage in Dorset. As we drove into town the sun was shining. Pretty stone cottages lined the streets. Beyond the houses, rolling green hills gave way to the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, formed hundreds of millions of years ago – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, popular with fossil hunters.
We were eager to make the most of the sunshine and headed straight out for a walk along the sandy beach. Swanage is the most easterly town on the Jurassic Coast, and it’s been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. When we visited in February it had a sleepy, quiet atmosphere that we rather loved. With the seagulls swooping above us, we passed the occasional dog walker and fossil hunter. The white cliffs of the Isle of Wight could be seen across the water.
For the perfect treat after a walk along the seafront at Swanage try a warming cup of delicious hot chocolate from Chococo. This fabulous chocolate shop is tucked away in a side alley so is easily missed, but it is well worth seeking out – their colourful little cafe serves the most tempting treats. Their hot chocolate is superb, whether you opt for the thick Spanish style hot chocolate that you can almost stand a spoon in or their house chocolate made with 70% Madagascan chocolate, you won’t be disappointed.
Ciccolata Calda, Sardinia, Italy
With its rustic stone buildings, hardly any traffic and a backdrop of granite mountains, walking around the pretty Sardinian village of San Pantaleo, is like stepping back in time and it was here that I made a very important discovery. I visited this charming village during a work trip with my colleague, Louise, back in 2014.
It was coming to the end of another hot day and before we headed off to find our next hotel, we decided to have a quick coffee. I walked into a bar and ordered two shakaratas – Italian coffee with ice, shaken like a cocktail – the perfect caffeine fix in hot weather.
Sitting down at an outside table, we waited for our drinks while enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. Now shakaratas are normally served in a glass so I was surprised to see our drinks arrived in a cup and saucer. This wasn’t cold coffee it was hot and looked more like chocolate. It was then that I took my first ever sip of ciccolata calda which can only be described as heaven in a cup! The thickest, creamiest hot chocolate drink you’ll ever find. It’s so thick you can stand a spoon in it! Next to this, all other hot chocolates fade into insignificance (even the Belgium hot chocolate, though delicious, could not compete). While a late afternoon in September is still very warm to me, to Sardinians it’s a little chilly, I’m told, so in my terrible accent shakarata was heard as ciccolata and I have never been so glad to have been misunderstood!
The inhabitants are particularly proud of their roots and keenly protect their traditions. In the area, expert artisans carry on the ancient arts of ceramics, wood and iron, exporting their products all over the world. A few contemporary Sardinian artists and designers have also been attracted here, adding an interesting modern twist to this lovely Sardinian village.
San Pantaleo was the prettiest village I saw in Sardinia. Dating back to 800AD, it is well worth a visit. As well as a few cafes and restaurants, there’s a couple of shops, one or two hotels and a pretty little church. Every Thursday there is a wonderful market in the village square in front of the church.
How to make the best hot chocolate
So which of these delectable hot chocolates was my favourite? It has to be Ciccolata Calda from Sardinia. The recipe for this scrumptiously thick hot chocolate is below but if you prefer a not too thick hot chocolate, organic Green & Blacks is one of the best off the shelve cocoa powders, readily available across the UK. Used as instructed it’s a little bland but up the number of teaspoons and you’ll get a creamier, more chocolatey drink. Taste the Difference Hot Chocolate from Sainsbury’s is also very good.
For vegans, I’d recommend The Cosy Chocolate Company’s Original Plain Chocolate can be made with or without milk and still tastes great without it.
Ciccolata Calda Recipe | Thick hot chocolate recipe from Sardinia
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate 70% or higher
- 375ml whole milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornflour
- Break the chocolate into pieces, heat with a splash of milk over a low heat and stir until melted.
- Slowly add the remaining milk, while stirring so that it is thoroughly mixed.
- Whisk in cornstarch.
- Continue heating while stirring until it has thickened up so that it coats the back of the spoon.
What alcohol goes with hot chocolate?
Here are a few ideas on how to pimp your hot chocolate from mini marshmallows and cream to your favourite liqueur.
Orange hot chocolate
Add a little of the orange liqueur Cointreau and serve with a wedge of Chocolate orange on the side to dunk. Just be careful not to melt the chocolate on the side of the cup or glass.
Mint hot chocolate
Pop a shot of Creme de Menthe in your hot chocolate and decorate with a spring of mint.
Add a measure of Drambuie, the golden Scotch whisky liqueur infused with a secret blend of heather honey, herbs and spices. Top off with a swirl of whipped cream and sprinkle with a little cinnamon on top.
Baileys hot chocolate
My favourite, however, is a hot chocolate with Baileys, a large dollop of cream, topped off with a few chocolate flakes. No, not the chocolate bars, I mean a few flakes of chocolate, although now you come to mention it…..
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