Here's where to get your hands on the best hot chocolate — and how to inspire your own signature drink that will keep customers coming back for more this season.

The Best Hot Chocolate: A Recipe for Signature Menu Item Success

Customer Experience Brand & Image

Here’s where to get your hands on the best hot chocolate — and inspiration for creating a signature drink that will keep customers coming back for more.

If your recipe earns your hotel or restaurant a spot on a list of places to get the best hot chocolate, your business may become a destination for local residents and travelers alike as foodies from all over come to see what all the fuss is about. Reviving these seasonal favorites can also be a great way to renew customer interest in your establishment and create a sense of urgency to return again since your drinks will likely be offered for a limited time. (Think of the #pumpkineverything mania that’s right around the corner.)

Signature menu items can become a draw — or even become the biggest draw — in bringing in new customers as well as long-time patrons, but creating a signature drink involves more than just coming up with a new recipe. To let the media and public-at-large know your hot chocolate recipe is extraordinary and give them something to talk about, think about giving your menu item:

  • A unique and memorable name
  • An origin story — such as a happy kitchen accident or ancestral hand-me-down
  • Social (viral) proof initiated through influencers, reviews, focus groups and tastings

There are no limits to the options you have for making your hot chocolate recipe unique. From the setting in which the hot chocolate is served to the options for personalization, here are some examples of restaurants and hotels with the best hot chocolates to inspire you.

Historic Hot Chocolate, Morris House Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You can enjoy Morris House Hotel‘s signature rosemary hot cocoa in the same hotel where founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, were known to meet. Built in 1787, the hotel’s M Restaurant is consistently named one of the city’s most romantic dinner destinations.

The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado

This rich, hot beverage will fortify you against even the coldest weather the Rocky Mountains can serve up. Whether you’ve just come off the slopes or you’re headed there, you’re going to want to avail yourself of The Little Nell‘s signature hot chocolate, which boasts Cacao Barry chocolate ganache and whole milk.

El Rey, New York, New York

The most innovative (and curious) seasonal hot chocolates may well come from the kitchen at El Rey, located on New York City’s Lower East Side. Last year’s bone broth hot chocolate was created by renowned ice cream master Nicholas Morgenstern. If you’re not feeling quite so adventurous, you can also enjoy the El Rey’s Brownie Batter Hot Chocolate, which is made of dark cocoa powder, butter and cream.

Frozen Hot Chocolate, ChocoVivo, Los Angeles, California

Because all winters aren’t created equal, ChocoVivo’s signature Frozen Hot Chocolate is the perfect choice for those who find themselves wanting a hot chocolate that’s not actually — well — hot.

Mead’s Corner Coffeehouse, Wichita, Kansas

No seasonal hot drink list would be complete without a pumpkin-spiced something. Mead’s Corner in Wichita, Kansas, reserves its signature pumpkin hot chocolate for the coldest months of the year.

Allium at Four Seasons, Chicago, Illinois

Since Chicago winters can be three times as bad as winters elsewhere, Allium at Four Seasons has not just one, but three seasonal signature hot chocolates available to guests. At Allium, you can choose from traditional or spiked versions of their Mexican Hot Chocolate, Haute Chocolate or Jack Frost.

Holiday Hot Chocolate, The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Ritz-Carlton, known for setting the bar high when it comes to customer service, sets it just as high when it comes to a signature hot chocolate for the hotel chain’s Philadelphia guests. Their Holiday Hot Chocolate (which can be ordered in traditional “Nice” or liquor-spiked “Naughty”) is only served from the first of November through the end of December.

Taking the time to develop a unique hot chocolate recipe might be the best move you ever make. Creating a signature menu item could be your ticket to media coverage and more seasonal sales — especially if you coin something like the hot chocolate version of these over-the-top milkshakes.

Elizabeth Kraus
Elizabeth Kraus

Elizabeth Kraus is a freelance marketing consultant located in the greater Seattle area. Author of 365 Days of Marketing and 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa, she publishes marketing calendars annually for local small business, salons, restaurants, realtors, and others.