Like just about everywhere else, New York City is in the grip of a cold spell that’s starting to wear on everyone. And yet, that also means it’s finally time for Grub Street to survey all of the amazing hot chocolate that’s currently out there. This being New York, chocolate-mad chefs, bartenders, baristas, and even bakers are stepping up their game to offer exotic versions — spiked with ingredients like lavender, salted caramel, brownie batter, and, of course, actual booze. Here are a dozen options sure to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. (And, in some cases, a little buzzed.)
The NoMad Bar
Secret Weapon: Fernet Branca
Hot cocktails are part of the NoMad Bar’s brand-new brunch program, and this one includes Fernet Branca, green Chartreuse, salted hot chocolate, and cream. (NB: It’s also available at the hotel’s Library Bar.)
El Rey Coffee Bar & Luncheonette
Secret Weapon: Brownie batter
Chef Gerardo Gonzalez adds the same mix that he uses in El Rey’s pastry, but without the egg and with a sprinkling of sea salt on top. (The mixture also happens to be gluten-free.)
Secret Weapon: Lavender
It’s no surprise that the bakery with the most amazing new chocolate-chip cookie in town also makes a solid hot chocolate. The milk is infused with dried lavender, then strained, steamed, and combined with melted dark chocolate. Plus: Maman also sells prepackaged spoons made of chocolate, which melt beautifully into a mug of warm milk.
Secret Weapon: Cajeta
Sophia Brittan makes a salted-caramel hot chocolate, using traditional chocolate from Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s hand-frothed with a Mexican molinillo whisk and topped with homemade cajeta and sea salt.
Choza Taqueria in Gotham West Market
Secret Weapon: Peppers
Eat a taco while sipping on some Mexican hot chocolate, made with cinnamon, guajillo peppers, vanilla bean, whole milk, and Abuelita Mexican chocolate.
Secret Weapon: Tequila
Over in Dumbo, there’s a boozy Mexican hot chocolate called Chocolate Caliente. It’s a rich drink infused with spicy dried pequin chiles and spiked with añejo tequila.
Secret Weapon: Green Chartreuse gelato
Pastry chef Jared Rubin makes a classic French drink, Green Chaud (which typically includes hot chocolate and green Chartreuse). His version is composed of a shot of super-rich hot chocolate served alongside a few vehicles for dipping: green Chartreuse gelato, vanilla marshmallows, and a chocolate-chip cookie.
Secret Weapon: Salted caramel
This year, Shake Shack’s hot chocolate includes a blend of bittersweet dark chocolates, caramel sauce, sea salt, and milk. It’s exactly what you need after waiting in line, in the freezing cold, just for a perfect burger.
Secret Weapon: Bourbon
You can’t go wrong with bourbon, Mast Brothers chocolate, and salted-caramel ice cream.
Secret Weapon: Condensed chocolate milk
A wise business strategy at this relatively new version of a Malaysian night market: Give customers a hot drink as soon as they arrive. To make this “Pulled Hot Chocolate Tea”: orange-Pekoe tea infused with warm spices, and then drizzled in condensed chocolate milk.
Momofuku Milk Bar
Secret Weapon: Charred marshmallows
You can count on Christina Tosi to make hot chocolate extra rich: She steams classic fudge sauce with organic milk and then blends in charred marshmallows. It’s available at all Milk Bar locations — including the brand-new window on Wooster Street.