HARLEM — With the city digging out of another winter storm, it's a good time to snuggle in a warm spot with a mug of velvety hot chocolate.
Before venturing into the deep freeze, review DNAinfo New York's roundup of the best spots for a hot cup of cocoa, and discover the exciting newcomers who are spicing up the concept of chocolate.
New York is a city with an unusually large number of famous hot chocolate drinks. Some hail from famous chocolatiers, such as Jacques Torres’ “Wicked” hot chocolate and Max Brenner’s steaming beverages, served in his trademarked “hug mug.” Others come from more low key, but beloved neighborhood stalwarts.
Serendipity 3’s famous frozen hot chocolate was only outshone by the cafe’s starring role in the 2001 John Cusack romantic comedy “Serendipity.” Alice’s Tea Cup and its two spinoff cafes, Alice’s Tea Cup Chapter II and Alice's Tea Cup Chapter III serve hot chocolate and Alice’s Loco Cocoa (spiced with cayenne pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg) in their “Alice In Wonderland” storybook setting.
European sophisticates have also brought their own renditions to the city. Italian gelateria Grom offers thick milk and dark chocolate, with hazelnut chips or affogato — served with a scoop of gelato. French exports Maison Kayser, Francois Payard Bakery and Maison du Chocolat offer cocoa that complements their equally indulgent pastries and chocolates.
Brooklyn cafe The Chocolate Room (in Cobble Hill and Park Slope) was the old-school staple for hot chocolate and every iteration of chocolate dessert well before Williamsburg's Mast Brothers came on the scene. Leonidas Belgian Chocolate's brew is a favorite among Financial District office workers.
In Flatiron, City Bakery’s hot chocolate is the stuff of legend, constantly topping best-of lists with its thick frothy chocolate finished with a large, homemade marshmallow.
Otto Enoteca and Bar Jamon in the West Village and Gramercy Park respectively, spoke to DNAinfo about their spicy and hazelnut varieties, too.
These upstarts are giving the established stalwarts a run for their money:
663 Franklin Ave. (between Prospect Place St. Marks Avenue), Brooklyn
In rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights, the 3-month-old cafe Lazy Ibis presents an array of pastries baked on the premises and a hot chocolate that’s to die for.
“I start with a chocolate ganache and we go from there,” executive chef and chief baker Flannery Spring-Robinson said.
She recommended pairing maple whipped cream-topped cocoa with a buttermilk biscuit or honey corn muffins.
1236 Lexington Ave., Manhattan
Over the year that Le Churro has been open on the Upper East Side, the establishment has specialized in churros (a Spanish doughnut-like pastry) and hot chocolate. Aside from milk and dark chocolate, they offer chocolate sea salt, peanut butter, orange and cinnamon and Nutella varieties.
“Our classic hot chocolate is the traditional hot chocolate from Spain — not sweet, a little bit thicker than you may be used to seeing,” said Elena Madariaga, co-owner and a native of Madrid.
75-59 31st Ave., Queens
Cannelle Patisserie, a French bakery inside a nondescript shopping center on 301st Avenue in East Elmhurst, sells a hot chocolate that's steamed to perfection. It's made ahead with chocolate milk and melted rich chocolate then steamed when ordered, creating a decadent drink that's still light and frothy. The drink goes well with any of the bakery's many pastries, from flaky croissants to a slice of chocolate mousse cake.
529 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Nunu Chocolates can be found in stores all over Manhattan, Brooklyn and the rest of the country. At the company’s flagship location near the Atlantic Terminal, you can get chocolate in a cup — often with a little adult flavor.
“Sometimes we sell the hot chocolate with a shot of Amarula, which is a South African liqueur. It’s a creamy liqueur like Bailey’s,” manager Martina Potratz said.
Serengeti Teas & Spices
2292 Frederick Douglass Blvd., Manhattan
Though it's only been open four months, Harlem's Serengeti Teas and Spices houses veteran practitioners of herbal mixology and coffee and cacao roasting. Proprietor Caranda Martin imports cacao beans from Ghana and Liberia.
“We treat chocolate like it’s an elixir,” Martin said. “We don’t use dairy to make our hot chocolate. We use water. The water keeps the consistency fluid. A little pinch of sea salt breaks down the enzymes and the fatty acids in the chocolate, which gives it a really beautiful taste.”
Serengeti’s most popular hot chocolates are its ginger, cardamom and classic varieties. They also serve an ancho chili hot chocolate and a dark hot chocolate.
132 Spring St., Manhattan
1100 Madison Ave., Manhattan
With stores in SoHo and the Upper East Side and product placement in a number of New York City shops, Vosges Haut-Chocolat’s growing fame may be helped along by its frothy drinks, many of which are sold in mixes like those of Jacques Torres and Max Brenner.
“Each couture cocoa potion contains real chocolate shavings, adding richness and depth to the chocolate flavor,” said owner and chocolatier Katrina Markoff. “Aztec Elixir pays homage to the ancients who frothed their cocoa with chilies, vanilla and mais. Lavender and lemon myrtle enhance the Bianca, creating a calming tonic perfect for evenings.”