There may be no better time of year to indulge in a rich cup of hot chocolate than during the colder months, which for Atlanta often means rain-chilled days and clouds dominating the forecast. For some people, a mug of hot cocoa is simply a pick-me-up to satisfy a sweet tooth, while others find comfort in a warm cup of hot drinking chocolate.
The history behind hot chocolate as we know it today is a long and winding tale, one which likely began in Mexico and Central America well over 3,000 years ago. It’s believed drinking chocolate or xocōlātl originated with the Mayans who ground cocoa seeds into a thick paste and mixed it with water, cornmeal, and ingredients like chili peppers. The drink continued to evolve through the centuries in the Americas, with the addition of vanilla and other spices flavoring the mixture. Then, through the invasion and eventual colonization of Central and South America by Spain in the 15th century, the conquistador Hernán Cortés would bring drinking chocolate to Europe, where it was further adapted and hints of sweetness were added to cut its bitterness. This led to the invention of cocoa powder by the Dutch in the 19th century, and later the chocolate candy bar in England. Now variations on hot chocolate are found all over the world.
Today, hot chocolate frequently consists of shaved or melted chocolate or cocoa powder heated with milk and sometimes topped with marshmallows, sprinkles of cinnamon, or chocolate shavings.
Check out these seven spots around Atlanta serving stellar versions of hot chocolate.
Saints and Council — Midtown
Saints and Council at Colony Square isn’t shy when it comes to its hot chocolate selections, which include Cookies and Cream mixed with both milk and white chocolates topped with whipped cream and crumbled Oreos and the Consulate — a hot salted milk chocolate with whipped cream garnished with chocolate shavings. The most decadent chocolate drink on the menu, however, is the Peanut Butter Cup. It comes with milk chocolate sweetened with cream, a peanut butter-infused whipped cream, and chunks of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Grab a seat inside by the fireplace or outside on the patio by the fire pit. Some tables outside even come with heated seats.
This bean-to-bar micro chocolate factory inside Krog Street Market sells single-origin dark chocolate bars made from carefully sourced cacao, as well as chocolate bars with names like Kissed Mermaids using Costa Rican cacao, coconut milk, and vanilla bean-infused sea salt. During the cold months in Atlanta, it’s hard to beat a rich cup of hot sipping chocolate topped with fluffy marshmallows from Xocolatl. During the summer, the shop even offers frozen sipping chocolate.
The celebrated Asheville, North Carolina, chocolate shop opened a location at Ponce City Market in 2022. And it sells more than just bonbons, salted caramel brownies, and chocolate bars. The shop also serves its popular hot sipping chocolate. The rich and decadent drinking chocolate here is made with steamed organic milk and creamy French Broad chocolate and is definitely meant to be sipped and savored.
yAAAs! Cookies — Glenwood Park
While it might be known best for its cookies (try the chocolate pecan and snickerdoodles), this Glenwood Park shop just down the street from 3 Parks Wine also serves some seriously good hot chocolate. Milk chocolate chips are melted down and mixed with two-percent milk and vanilla bean. The drink is then topped with whipped cream, caramel, and almond pieces.
Cafexito Mexican Coffee Shop — Capitol View
If you haven’t checked out this congenial coffee shop on Sylvan Road in Capitol View, make it a point to do so soon. Owned by Kristel Valencia, it’s hard to resist ordering a horchata latte or the cajeta latte made with goat milk caramel. But on a chilly day in Atlanta, the Mexican hot chocolate at Cafexito is the move. A semi-sweet variation on hot chocolate, the drink is made with bittersweet chocolate and milk mixed with hints of warm cinnamon spice and chili powder.
Cafe Intermezzo — Alpharetta, Dunwoody, Midtown
A perennial date night spot, especially for decadent desserts paired with coffee, wine, or a nightcap in the evenings, Cafe Intermezzo is also a great place to indulge in a creamy cup of hot chocolate. It’s basically a dessert here. There are five variations on the drink found on the menu, including traditional cups of hot chocolate mixed with steamed milk, cream, and rich Dutch chocolate topped with shaved chocolate and semi-sweet cups of Mexican hot chocolate.
Dil Bahar Cafe — Norcross
This Pakistani bakery and cafe in Norcross is a true family affair where the owners are handling the cooking, greeting and seating folks, and even occasionally serenading guests during lunch and dinner. Dil Bahar Cafe features a great variety of Karachi-style chaat, as well as other dishes like Masala fries, chicken rolls, and savory, deep-fried kachori served with sabzi (mixed vegetables). Make sure to get dessert, including the shahi tukray (bread pudding) or falooda paired with a hot cup of chai. The cafe also serves hot chocolate during the colder months topped with halal marshmallows and whipped cream.