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In Love With the Cocoa

the Search for the Best Hot Chocolate in D.C.

By Sofia Crutchfield | 2/24/16 11:11am | Updated 2/24/16 11:11am
Jaclyn Merica / American Word Magazine

February is coming to a close, but winter is stubbornly clinging to the air in D.C. The age-old cure for stinging cheeks, dripping noses and other forms of the winter blues is none other than that liquid gold, hot chocolate. So put on your scarf and get out there to enjoy the District’s best.

When chocolate cravings strike, Max Brenner is the antidote. Located just a five-minute walk from the Bethesda Metro, classic SNL character Stefan might have something to say about chocolate-themed restaurant, because it has everything. “Choctails,” milkshakes, fondue, chocolate pizza—but let’s cut to the chase. At Max Brenner, you customize your hot chocolate by choosing white, milk or dark, and possibly by selecting one of their deviations from the classic, such as Italian Thick, Mexican Spicy or Salted Caramel. The date-night ambiance is cozy, but you’ll find the place packed with families and groups of friends.

Pitango Gelato might seem like a summer destination, but don’t be fooled. Inspired by traditions from the Italian Alps, Pitango is a hot chocolate purist. Try their straight-up hot Italian sipping chocolate, or experience the decadence mixed with other treats—blended with steamed milk for a typical American-style hot chocolate, served half-and-half with espresso for a kick, or drenching a scoop of gelato. Any way you choose it, prepare to be mesmerized. Pitango has two downtown locations, one in Penn Quarter and one in Capitol Hill.

For a unique hot chocolate experience, try Pleasant Pops. Although mostly known for their popsicles, Pleasant Pops also has a line of “hot pops,” a solid hot chocolate on a stick that is stirred in hot milk to make your drink right before your eyes. Try their different varieties, milk chocolate, vegan dark and Mexican chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon, at their locations in Adams Morgan and near McPherson Square.

Not into the idea of luxury hot chocolate but want a step up from a Swiss Miss packet? Dunkin Donuts serves up the classic in its signature Styrofoam. Other flavors include s’mores, mint and a life-changing salted caramel.

No matter how you do hot chocolate, the important thing is to always revel in the moment—the creamy, indulgent, warm moment. Make like a groundhog and get excited for spring, but don’t forget to stop and enjoy the little pleasures of the chilliest season.