‘Tis the season, and for beverage professionals, it should be the one in which you have laid out plans for a few winter warmers, especially ones that go beyond coffee and [insert spirit here], the reflexive recommendation someone in the mood for something hot and potent is likely to receive these days.
There are way more options; let’s focus just on what can be done with chocolate. At the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia the annual holiday Hot Chocolate runs until early January (way too soon to end it in my opinion), offered in the historic lobby until 7:00 PM. The Hot Chocolate is made from Callebaut, the Belgian manufacturer of luxury chocolate and will be available straight or “Enhanced,” with either a selection of toppings and candies or spirits.
Similarly in the Washington, D.C. Ritz-Carlton, 5 hot chocolates from around the world are on the menu, including the Cherry Blossom (dark and light milk Madagascan chocolates garnished with sesame and spiked with Clear Creek Cherry Brandy) and the West End Classique (lavender-infused chocolate garnished with whipped cream, orange zest, chocolate crumbles and spiked with Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac).
Resorts and spas have always been big on the hot chocolate indulgence. At Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa in Hamptons, NY, the signature spiked cocoa is served with Corso chocolate, light chocolate, marshmallow, nutmeg, and vanilla-flavored vodka. At the Spur Restaurant & Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, in Jackson Hole, WY, the Faceplant cocktail is infused bourbon, hot chocolate, and cinnamon, topped with whipped cream. And at the Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, PA, house-made hot chocolate, made with vanilla and cinnamon, is finished with Jameson Irish whiskey and Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur.
There are many other non-cocoa based possibilities. Two recent ideas that caught my eye are Newport, RI’s Castle Hill Inn which is featuring a mulled wine (Mulled Over: spiced red wine, cognac, orange) and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas with their Campfire Delight (RumChata, Belvedere Vodka, creme de cacao and toasted marshmallow syrup, double-strained into a rimmed martini glass and garnished with chocolate, graham cracker and flaming marshmallow).
Of course, there are unlimited variations on cocoa/hot chocolate recipes as well as alternatives like cider, wine, tea, coffee and toddies. But there’s a big difference between being willing to serve a version and actively marketing and promoting one, and it’s likely that both regular customers and those new to your place on a chilly winter’s eve would enjoy knowing of a place that goes the extra step at just the right time.