This winter, what better way to warm up than with a piping mug of hot chocolate? But don't just reach for a packet of Swiss Miss. There are much richer, bolder, more decadent concoctions out there. Here are five delicious indulgences from around the world – and where to find them...
1. Mexico City:Mexican hot chocolate is an update of an ancient Aztec drink that includes chili, cinnamon, anise, and other spices. The beverage is water-based with just a splash of milk and a pinch of sugar, so you can enjoy the chocolate’s dark richness and subtle kick. For an unabashedly kitschy and fun experience, try the 24-hour Churreria el Moro, a hotspot also known for its churros in Mexico City. $5 for one hot chocolate and four churros.
Ghana is one of the world’s leading producers of cacao beans, and the vanilla- and honey-laced version of hot chocolate is a West African specialty. (In cold weather, a splash of spiced rum provides a little extra warmth.) One of the most noted establishments to enjoy this drink is actually in Paris, France. One order of "l’Africain" at Angelina – once patronized by the likes of Proust and Coco Chanel – sets you back almost $10. But when an entire cup of whipped cream is served to cut the thickness, you’re getting your money’s worth.
Creamy, milky hot chocolate in Peru is thickened with oatmeal and sometimes sweetened with condensed milk. (This is also tradition in neighboring Colombia.) It’s become synonymous with Christmas, even if it’s technically summer in South America in December. Sip a steaming cup for just $2 at Cafe Ayllu, a local favorite with a 45-year history that’s practically become a cultural institution in itself. We hear the Almagro Street location is where the cafe's original staff – and restaurant decor – have settled in after some recent shuffling.
Like its Mexican cousin, Spanish hot chocolate goes perfectly with a plate of pillowy churros, which are ideal for dunking. But it takes on a pudding-like consistency and has a super-smooth texture that might tempt you to lick it straight from the spoon. One of the most beloved places to do so? Madrid’s Chocolateria San Gines, a century-old cafe that now sells more than a half-million cups of hot chocolate each year. $5 for one hot chocolate and 6 churros.
5. New York City:
Americans often enjoy their hot chocolate with an extra dollop of whipped cream or with marshmallows. In New York City, no one does this quite like City Bakery, known for its annual month-long Hot Chocolate Festival that features a daily rotation of special flavors. Think "spicy caramel," "black rum and cinnamon," "banana peel," and "ode to the polar bear." Its signature, made-in-house marshmallows are airy as can be, but we recommend asking for them on the side. Each one is nearly as big as the cup of hot chocolate itself. $5 for hot chocolate, additional $2 for marshmallow.