7 local offerings to satisfy your cocoa cravings

Move over, Swiss Miss — local chocolatiers have created elevated renditions of a favorite marshmallowy winter treat.
two girls drinking cold drinking chocolate at CocoVaa

CocoVaa’s owner’s daughter Emayu (right) drinks CocoVaa’s cold drinking chocolate with her friend Kaila (left). (Courtesy of Syovata Edari, photo from 2019)

When the temperatures drop and the snow falls, it’s time to cozy up on the couch with your favorite mug and some hot chocolate. Move over, Swiss Miss — local chocolatiers have created elevated renditions of a favorite marshmallowy winter treat. In case you needed a reminder, Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14, so you can either practice some self-love by treating yourself, or give your cocoa enthusiast a gift you know they’ll enjoy.

six different hot chocolates

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Infused With Spice
Infusion Chocolates creates two drinking chocolates that shine as brightly as its colorful truffles. Infusion has offered drinking chocolate since opening in 2008, but this year’s varieties are Naturale and Mayan. Both are made with a rich, 65% dark chocolate. The Naturale combines chocolate with dark muscovado sugar and Ceylon cinnamon, while the Mayan builds upon it with ancho, chipotle and pasilla chiles. The heat from the chiles will instantly cure the cold weather blues even on the chilliest days. 2503 Monroe St., 233-1600, infusionchocolates.com

Expertly Crafted
Syovata Edari of CocoVaa has won 30 Academy of Chocolate Awards, one of the longest-running fine chocolate competitions. She applies that same excellence to her drinking chocolate, which will be sold starting in February. Her rendition — made with a fine Couverture 72% dark chocolate — is a “tribute to the Parisian cafe as a space where Black American intellects of the 19th and 20th centuries could express their creative geniuses without the oppression of Jim Crow in the U.S.,” Edari says. “People like James Baldwin and Richard Wright used these spaces to ultimately change the world.” Two years ago, Edari’s son experimented with putting drinking chocolate in the fridge and it turned into a CocoVaa favorite. When refrigerated overnight, it turns solid. Later when you whisk it, Edari says it stays thick, transforming into a delectable treat to satisfy any chocolate craving. Whether you drink it hot or cold, it’ll provide a respite from your day. 1815 E. Washington Ave., 888-803-6122, cocovaa.com

Cocoa bomb from Chocolate Caper

Photo by Nikki Hansen

A Crowd-pleaser
At first, The Chocolate Caper in Oregon made a signature hot chocolate to give out for free to holiday shoppers, but it instantly became a hit. Elizabeth Donoghue, who co-owns The Chocolate Caper with her husband Daniel, says its in-store rendition is made by melting praline — a European recipe that combines nut butters into white, milk and dark chocolates — with milk, creating a rich and luxurious flavor. After years of requests for it to be sold, the Donoghues launched the eagerly anticipated magic drinking chocolate orbs in 2020. It’s made by grinding the praline into a fine powder that is encased in a pure chocolate shell, so all you have to do is drop one in the bottom of a mug, pour in hot milk and enjoy. 105 S. Main St., Oregon, 835-9294, chocolatecaper.com

Madison Mainstay
With more than 10 Best of Madison awards (many of the gold variety), Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier is known as a top-notch spot locally. As a chocolate specialist, it’s no surprise Gail Ambrosius delivers when it comes to her hot chocolate. Her variety is made using shaved Colombian dark chocolate, which has a nutty flavor. Those with refined palates will also detect notes of cherry, bitter almond and toasted marshmallow, complementing the marshmallows you’ll inevitably sprinkle on top. 2083 Atwood Ave., 249-3500, gailambrosius.com

Ethically Sourced
Wm. Chocolate sources certified organic ingredients from partners who believe in fair pay and sustainable agriculture. For Drinking Chocolate, the same principles apply. Instead of cocoa powder, founder and chocolate maker Will Marx uses full-fat chocolate, the same cacao used in Wm.’s single-origin bars. This small-batch chocolate operation’s bars are also vegan, soy-free, nut-free and dairy-free, so this is great for your friends who might not traditionally indulge in a chocolate treat. 931 E. Main St., 212-8474, wmchocolate.com

Madison Chocolate Co. and Sholinds

Photo by Nikki Hansen

Plethora of Choices
At Sjölinds Chocolate House in Mount Horeb, you don’t have just one or two options, you have eight flavors of hot chocolate to choose from. In each distinctive container topped with a red bow, you’ll find a chocolate and cocoa powder mixture. Depending on the style, your taste buds will go on a different journey with each. Try the West Indies for a zingy mix of ginger, peanut butter, dark chocolate and allspice. Enjoy the juxtaposition of sweet and spicy by selecting the Mexican variety with honey, cinnamon and hot peppers. If none of those trip your trigger, there’s the more traditional All American Dark and All American Milk, along with specialty Norwegian, German, Italian and French flavors. 150 Lillehammer Lane, Mount Horeb, 437-2462, sjolinds.com

Sweet or Spicy
As a spot known for its award-winning ghost pepper caramel and passion fruit chocolates, you better believe Madison Chocolate Co. knows how to bring the flavor in a spicy hot chocolate. While you can order the spicy or regular hot chocolate in-house along with a gluten-free waffle, you can also have it wrapped up to take home along with some gluten-free baked goods. Madison Chocolate Co. makes its own marshmallows seasonally, so keep your eyes peeled for on social media to upgrade your cocoa game. 729 Glenway St., 286-1154, madisonchocolatecompany.com

Maija Inveiss is an associate editor at Madison Magazine.