This time of year, there are few things more sublime than a perfect cup of hot chocolate. But you need to move beyond the pouches and flavored syrups: The best comes from boutique chocolate shops.
We're talking real hot cocoa made with shavings of dark, bittersweet, artisanal chocolate. This way the chocolate is the star--the milk or cream is simply the vehicle.
At Compartes Chocolatier, owner Jonathan Grahm blends various organic chocolates with Tahitian vanilla bean, cinnamon and pepper. The thick, intensely flavored drink ($3) is served in a shot glass with or without whipped cream. Jin Patisserie's rich homemade brew is velvety smooth and served in a teapot ($5.50), so it's generous enough to share.
For variety, check out the Chocolatebox Café's "hot chocolate bars" in La Cañada and Malibu, where an outpost opened last weekend. The baristas steam your choice of milk with imported Belgian chocolate that's infused with flavors like ginger, jasmine, green tea and even hemp--there are more than a dozen to choose from.
The hot chocolates (pictured, $4) range from dark, smooth and subtle (orange or mint) to sweet and light (caramel), but all hit the spot when the temperature drops.
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