A well-made mug of hot chocolate, using quality cocoa and cream and often with plenty of marshmallows, is a glorious thing. There's the immediate thrill of sipping your dessert, at once decadent and practical in its liquid form. While milk chocolate may remain everyone's childhood standard, we've since grown just as fond of darker varieties, more complex, often with lovely, agreeably bitter notes.
We're fortunate that here in Los Angeles the weather will get cold enough to enjoy hot chocolate, but not so much that we need to resort to the prepackaged mixes sitting in our cupboards. Here are places to find a stellar mug of hot chocolate.
3. Almond hot chocolate at Spazio Caffé
Hot chocolate comes in enough flavors at the sleek Spazio Caffe to justify an illustrated menu booklet, complete with a flowery introduction on chocolate with brief descriptions of each flavor in both Italian and English. You may be told, regretfully, that not every one is available -- just 15 or so, which will still provide you with plenty of options. The almond version, with a sprinkle of the finely chopped nuts, might remind you of a chocolate amaretto cookie. Perhaps fittingly, the hot chocolates at this Montana Avenue cafe are topped with a cocoa cookie crisp instead of marshmallows. 1511 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 899-6769.
2. Venezuelan hot chocolate at Amara Chocolate & Coffee
Away from the bustle of Colorado Blvd., Amara Chocolate & Coffee still sees a steady stream of customers in need of a sugar fix. The focus here is Venezuelan chocolate, from candy form to liquid. With the mugs of hot chocolate, all built upon a base of more of the Venezuelan chocolate, there's more than a handful of styles to sip from. Each one starts with your choice of dark or milk chocolate. The house Venezuelan hot chocolate is standard, with not much added besides milk. If you're feeling a bit more snackish, we're partial to the sipping chocolate Madrid Style, which comes with a plate of churros. Undiluted with whole milk, the sipping chocolate is thicker, incredibly so, and less sweet. 55 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 744-1765.
See also: Chocolate: Brain Food?
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1. Lemongrass hot chocolate at Cafe Demitasse
On colder evenings in Little Tokyo, it's not uncommon to see hot chocolate -- a blend of E. Guittard cocoa rouge, fresh vanilla bean and sugar -- make up more than half of the orders at Cafe Demitasse. We're already fans of the lavender rendition, but we were pleased to find a seasonal update, courtesy of owner Bobby Roshan, in the form of a lemongrass hot chocolate, available for another month or so. It's a subtle infusion, and nice for those who prefer their lavender in soaps instead of food. The menu will indicate that the lemongrass hot chocolate comes with mini marshmallows -- but you might just find a larger version, nicely bruleed with a handy blowtorch. 135 S. San Pedro St., Downtown; (213) 613-9300.
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