Hot Chocolate at Baker and Banker
Baker and Banker's hot chocolate ($3) is the ideal accompaniment to one of their decadent treats like the softball sized Pecan Sticky Buns. That's because there is a high milk to chocolate ratio, resulting in a creamy, almost refreshingly chocolaty drink. Though it's not watery by any means, it's a good choice of hot chocolate for those who want to drink their sweets and eat them too.
Spiced Hot Chocolate at Tcho
TCHO is serious about chocolate and all parts of the chocolate-making process. They go beyond fair trade practices to educate farmers and ensure transparency as the chocolate goes from bean to bar. But do good intentions translate to good hot chocolate? Here it certainly does. Each cup ($3) is intensely chocolaty, with a thick "this feels like a melted candy bar" richness. The cinnamon flavor is prominent and helps relieve the otherwise overpowering richness of the chocolate. This is a cup that's definitely meant to be drunk on its own, marshmallow free.
Hot Chocolate at XOX Truffles
There is something wonderful about ordering a hot chocolate ($3) at XOX Truffles and watching your drink come together. First the chocolate syrup is poured into your cup, then the milk is frothed, then the milk is mixed into the cup by hand, using an adorably small wire whisk. The result is a very light and frothy hot chocolate, but one that still has a strong, complex chocolate flavor. As a bonus, each cocoa comes with a free truffle of your choice. (Trust me, choose Spicy Cayenne Tequila).
Hot Chocolate at Réveille Coffee Company
If you're lucky enough to stumble onto the Reveille Coffee Company truck, stop immediately. The truck is dedicated to high quality coffee, and their hot chocolate ($3.50) follows suit. It's more bitter than most hot chocolates and it has an extra creamy, thick pour of milk that would make Blue Bottle baristas proud. This combination of deep flavor and well steamed milk makes it the perfect option for coffee lovers who want a break from lattes.
Réveille Coffee Company: For locations call 415-789-6258 or follow @reveillecoffee on Twitter; reveillecoffee.com
European Drinking Chocolate at Boulette's Larder
If you're looking for a traditional European hot chocolate, head over to Boulette's Larder. To start, they keep their hot chocolate simmering away in a copper double boiler, waiting to be ladled out into dainty cups. The hot chocolate ($5) is the thickest I've found—you actually need to lick your teeth clean between every sip. But the chocolate is perfect: a balance of sweet and bitter, incredibly rich but not cloying or sludgy. The only problem I have is that they don't sell churros for dunking.
Hazelnut Hot Chocolate at Christopher Elbow
Christopher Elbow's artisanal chocolates are available in chocolate shops around the city, but there is one good reason to head down to Hayes Valley to visit his signature shop: the substantial menu of "liquid chocolate." The hot chocolate comes in flavors ranging from Chinese 5 Spice to Passion Fruit to 85% Dark Chocolate, and while most are good, I'd recommend trying the Hazelnut Hot Chocolate ($4.50). The chocolate is extra dark, with a pleasant bitterness that is rounded out by the richness of the hazelnut. Unlike many flavored hot chocolates, this isn't overly sweet or artificial tasting. Fans of Nutella will definitely approve.
Hot Chocolate at Arlequin Cafe
I took one sip of this hot chocolate and said to myself, "Mmm. Brownies." A second sip confirmed that this cocoa ($2.75) tastes uncannily like brownie batter. The secret to the warm and fudgy flavor might be in the heavy pour of syrup—I saw that almost one quarter of my cup was filled with chocolate syrup, much more than other pours I've seen. Don't think I'm complaining—after watery or frustratingly weak hot chocolate, it's nice to get one that's sweet, rich, and tastes like cocoa.
Hot Chocolate at Leonidas Chocolate
There are times when you want hot chocolate that doesn't fall into the current trend toward grown-up cups that are bitter or spiced. Sometimes you want good old milky cocoa, not saccharine, but comforting. Leonidas sells this hot chocolate ($2.85) that's just the ticket. Their cocoa is made with actual chocolate chips and has a strong but not sharp chocolate flavor. It's a good hot chocolate for the young at heart.