Winter might finally have arrived in Denver, so make sure you spend that chilly day keeping warm by the fire. Coffee is awesome, but don’t forget about hot chocolate. Skip the Swiss Miss and score the real deal at one of these awesome restaurants, dessert shops or cafés that serve gourmet hot chocolate or boozy chocolate drinks that will satisfy your sweet tooth and melt your wintered heart.
Lucile’s Creole Café
Where: 275 South Logan St., Denver
Order: homemade hot chocolate or Raspberry Kiss
Cost: $3.80, $8.59
The Lowdown: This breakfast and brunch place serves authentic Cajun and Creole food, but did you know they also make their own hot chocolate? With real Belgian chocolate, the homemade hot chocolate at Lucile’s is light with steamed milk and whipped cream, with notes of cinnamon and other spices that remain a secret. There is a kid’s version too that’s smaller with a slightly cooler temperature. If you’re looking for more of a pick-me-up, the Raspberry Kiss at Lucile’s features the famous hot chocolate with Bailey’s and raspberry reduction, and it’s mouthwatering bliss.
Where: 2504 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Order: white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate Elixir
The Lowdown: If you’ve ever passed this restaurant on East Colfax and wondered what it was, now’s the time to stop inside the Chocolate Lab. Nearly everything on the menu — from pulled pork to ravioli — actually contains chocolate, so it’s no surprise the hot chocolate is extra amazing. The Chocolate Lab originally started as a chocolate shop, and if you order the white chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate Elixir, you’ll get to taste the restaurant’s signature chocolate that melts into the steamed milk and is topped with light whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Chocolate lovers rejoice — you have found your new favorite drink.
D Bar Denver
Where: 494 E. 19th Ave., Denver
Order: hot chocolate or S’more Please Dessertini
Cost: $5, $11
The Lowdown: If you want dessert in the Mile High City, D Bar Denver is your best bet. With sweet pastries, cakes and cocktails on the menu, this upscale shop downtown is one of our favorite places for happy hour and indulging in dessert. The hot chocolate at D Bar features a toasted marshmallow on top with vanilla Chantilly and chocolate crunchy pearls on the side. Smooth and simple, the hot chocolate is neat with a designer touch you’ll only find at D Bar. If you’re looking for a boozy spin on the traditional drink, the S’more Please Dessertini is one of a kind. With vanilla vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, Drambuie, toasted marshmallow on top and a graham cracker crusted rim, this dessert cocktail features the same sweetness of your favorite camping snack without the gooey mess.
Leela European Café
Where: 820 15th St., Denver
Order: Bellagio Sipping Chocolate
The Lowdown: On the menu, Leela’s calls its Bellagio Sipping Chocolate the best hot chocolate in Denver, and it’s definitely a serious contender for the title. This 24-hour bar and café downtown is quite spacious and cozy with a fireplace and couches and serves a traditional hot chocolate with Ghirardelli chocolate syrup, whipped cream, steamed milk and chocolate powder mix. If you’re looking for a sweet drink, this warm mug is filled with chocolaty goodness.
Snooze an A.M. Eatery
Where: 700 North Colorado Blvd., Suite A, Denver (other locations available)
Order: hot chocolate
The Lowdown: As one of Colorado’s favorite brunch restaurants, it’s no surprise that Snooze makes a mean hot chocolate. With milk from a local dairy in Bellvue, Colorado, Snooze emphasizes farm-to-table freshness with its hot chocolate that’s topped with cinnamon, homemade whipped cream and chocolate sauce. If you’re not too full from pancakes, this drink will definitely hit the spot.
Where: 3040 Blake St., 151, Denver
Order: Hot Cocoa To Go or Hot Cocoa and Ice Cream Sandwich Flight
Cost: $4.50, $11
The Lowdown: Colorful desserts, fruit pops and gourmet ice cream sandwiches for catering and delivery are handmade at peteybird, but this sweet parlor in RiNo also serves artisan hot cocoa. Made from scratch in a variety of flavors, the hot cocoa at peteybird can be created to go by choosing between four flavors and six toppings, or you can sample all the handcrafted cocoas in a flight with ice cream sandwiches. Your sweet tooth will be satisfied, plus it makes for a pretty photo-op.
The Inventing Room Dessert Shop
Where: 4433 West 29th Ave. #101, Denver
Order: Frozen Hot Chocolate
The Lowdown: Not far from Sloan’s Lake, The Inventing Room Dessert Shop might only serve cold snacks and desserts, but we promise the Frozen Hot Chocolate should be on your list anyway. With ice cream, candies and other sweet treats on the menu, The Inventing Room might seem like an ordinary dessert shop, but its main ingredient in every item is actually liquid nitrogen. The Frozen Hot Chocolate is created with chocolate syrup, ice cream, chocolate powder and milk and chilled with liquid nitrogen for a satisfying taste that will tickle your taste buds. It even has frozen whipped cream and chocolate syrup on top.
The Market at Larimer Square
Where: 1445 Larimer St., Denver
Order: hot chocolate
The Lowdown: The Market at Larimer Square has been serving baked goods and coffee since 1983 in downtown Denver, and has only changed a little bit. Locally loved by its customers, this deli, bakery and coffee shop is home to some of the fluffiest pastries, tasty deli meats, and other classic menu items. If you want old-fashioned quality, the hot chocolate at The Market is traditional, sweet and pretty affordable. Made with Ghirardelli chocolate syrup, chocolate powder, steamed milk and topped with whipped cream, this warm chocolaty drink is perfect on cold mornings next to a pastry.
The Chocolate Therapist
Where: 2560 West Main St., Littleton
Order: Mexican Spice, Truffle or Extraordinary Sipping Hot Cocoa
Cost: 8 oz. $2.35, 12 oz. $2.95, 16 oz. $3.25, 20 oz. $3.75
The Lowdown: Chocolate is the best therapy, and this coffee and chocolate shop in Littleton wants you to feel better after a long day. Three hot cocoa flavors will fill your soul at The Chocolate Therapist, and you can even buy a pack if you want to mix it at home. The Mexican Spice hot cocoa features notes of cinnamon, vanilla and almond. The Truffle features milk chocolate and offers a classic hot chocolate taste, and the Extraordinary Sipping is made with rich dark chocolate for a decadent taste. No matter what flavor you choose to try, you’ll definitely be returning.
Unless noted, all photography by Emma Pion-Berlin.