Hershey’s chocolate was illegal in my childhood home. My father raised me and my siblings on $10 chocolate bars from bougie boutiques. Even when the 2008 recession meant my family needed to cut back financially, my father refused to give up his chocolate.
For me, the best form of chocolate is hot chocolate, don’t try me. You can drink it on the go, it’s not messy and it feels like a hug. When I was little my parents took me to New York and we got hot chocolate at La Maison du Chocolat in Rockefeller Center, my dad’s favorite chocolate place in the world. It was like drinking pudding.
Though I moved to New York in 2019, and could drink all the hot chocolate I wanted, La Maison du Chocolat stopped making drinks for the first few months of the pandemic. How could I survive without my cocoa? Though they’ve started making hot chocolate again, I had to expand my view. But I didn’t want any boring hot chocolate. Just because you can mix milk and cocoa powder doesn’t mean you should; and if you mix cocoa powder with water, that’s a crime. I rated these New York cocoas based on their richness, thickness and overall taste.
Dominique Ansel Bakery – Soho
Blossoming Hot Chocolate $7.50
Dominique Ansel’s is objectively the most Instagram-worthy hot chocolate. They place a flower marshmallow on top that you can watch blossom. As for the chocolate itself, it has a fruity undertone, which is how you know it’s the real deal. Chocolate comes from fruit, so the purer the chocolate, the more fruitiness you’ll taste. The one major drawback of Dominique Ansel is also what makes it special: the flower. In the center of the marshmallow are three sugar beads. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Once the marshmallow dissolves a bit, you’ll have to chew the sugar beads. Maybe those you love boba will enjoy it, but not me.
Taste: 4/5 Chef’s Kisses
Aesthetic: 5/5 Insta Hearts ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Innocent Yesterday – Upper East Side
Hot Chocolate $6
This hot chocolate achieves the proper level of thickness and richness. Its consistency is more like a syrup than a pudding. And its major taste problem comes from being overly sweet. But as a vegan hot chocolate it is far above average. A new bakery, Innocent Yesterday has always had outdoor seating in their blue box on the street corner, decked out in hanging lights. The inside has a more rustic feel with a painted over brick wall and kitschy knickknacks.
Aesthetic: 5/5 Insta Hearts ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Bar Pisellino – West Village
Hot Chocolate $7.50
The aesthetic is divine. Your cocoa comes with a square flat marshmallow on top and you sip it out of a Pisellino-branded teacup. The restaurant feels like a Parisian cafe transplanted into the West Village. Despite the Instagram-ability of this place, it’s not worth the price. The cocoa is watered down with milk. It’s good cocoa, but it lacks the thick richness of its competitors. There’s also too much foam on top, so it takes a few sips before you can even taste chocolate.
Taste: 2.5/5 Chef’s Kisses
Mille-Feuille Bakery – Upper West Side
Hot Chocolate $4.36
This isn’t a bad hot chocolate, but it is the cheapest one on this list for a reason. Though the recipe uses melted dark chocolate chips, the overall taste is far too milky. The chocolate chips also don’t melt all the way so a quick look inside your cup will show flakes of chocolate. But the store is absolutely adorable. The outside, though currently covered by scaffolding, feels like walk through Paris. Whereas the inside features white countertops and a pink neon sign.
Squish Marshmallows – East Village (Formerly)
Marshmallow Hot Chocolate $6
Squish captures the richness of chocolate I’m looking for. It’s a bit on the sweet side for a dark chocolate but I don’t mind it. However, it is a bit watered down – it lacks the thickness I crave. Squish is also known for their marshmallows; it is a marshmallow store after all. They have six flavors; I chose chocolate (go hard or go home). The marshmallow in and of itself was good, but it detracted from the overall experience of the cocoa. This physical location of Squish has closed down in the past few months but you can order hot chocolate-making kits on their website.
La Maison du Chocolat – Midtown
I am legally obligated by the desire to not get disowned by my father to give La Maison du Chocolat a perfect score. But that’s too easy. After the start of quarantine, they released their hot chocolate recipe online, so I tried to make it myself. I did not follow the directions exactly because I have no idea how to measure grams in my apartment. Also, who the hell knows where to get “½ bean of vanilla from Madagascar” in New York? I just used vanilla extract.
It is the right thickness; it feels like I’m eating the center of a chocolate soufflé while ignoring the cake. It’s slightly less sweet than when they make it in the store, but that’s not inherently a problem. As for aesthetic, I drank it from the zebra mug my mom bought me when I was twelve and going through a zebra phase.
Aesthetic: 1/5 Insta Hearts ❤️