Cozy Up with Portland's Best Hot Chocolate

Unfiltered passion, really good chocolate, no apologies. Get ready to rethink the fireside drink with these five haute mugs.

By Karen Brooks December 1, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

Thai-spiced hot chocolate from Alma

For the Purists 

Courier Coffee Roasters

In this supremely eccentric coffee shop, a posse of disarmingly friendly, bike-riding baristas sweat the details of Portland’s defining hot chocolate. Some swirl, others stir. Head honcho Joel Domreis frets about “the turbulence of the milk.” The preoccupations pay off, as the combination of preheated cups, made-to-order rigor, and piercing Grand Cru Felchlin chocolate morph into a drink that balances ingredients like a Tom Wolfe sentence—each sip is light but deep, with only a back note of sweetness.

Most Creative Menu

Alma Chocolate

Alma anticipates your various chocolaty needs with multifaceted drink options. You can wallow in a shot of pure melted chocolate, revel in warm spices, add a nutty blaze of homemade hazelnut paste, or chomp through a chunky, cinnamon-fuming sea of chocolate and chopped almonds. In Alma’s world, even jasmine tea meditates in a mug of drinking chocolate. The sweet shop’s Thai Coconut Cup is the life-changer: it bundles the spicy glow of Pok Pok’s wings with the joy of a candy bar in a steamy paradise of coconut milk, dark Bolivian chocolate, milk chocolate ganache, chile kick, lime, and ginger insanity. 

Pure, Lip-Tingling Luxury

Xico’s Habanero Caramel Drinking Chocolate

On the road to engineering the year’s most wickedly delicious sip, Xico pastry chef Mindy Keith recruited an unlikely cast of ingredients: smoked chocolate from Woodblock’s R&D lab, local hot peppers pummeled into ear-warming glory, and caramel sauce cooked to the razor’s edge of darkness. They all meet in a heady cup of chocolate craft, impressively nuanced, and more intense than Christian Bale. Each sip is a bilevel experience—warm heat below, a cool drift of cream barely whipped to a sensuous lather on top. The whole thing is a contradictory pleasure, rustic and high-minded, hot and cold; a deep satisfaction. Find the recipe, including the mezcal-spiked version, right here

Best Argument to Sip Your Dessert

Cacao’s Drinking Chocolate Pour-Over (with Salt & Straw Olive Oil Ice Cream)

At last, a drink that embodies the Portland food dream: ice cream revered like the Buddha, small-batch candied cocoa nibs, and drinking chocolate that pierces the deepest pleasure centers. It’s your own private buffet of decadence, as imagined only by a first-rate chocolate shop. Pour Cacao’s churned chocolate all over Salt & Straw’s suave olive oil ice cream, then pile on the “Craque”—glazed clusters of cocoa nibs from playful Portland chocolatier Cocanu. The sensation is fantastically rich, bitter, and crackling all at once. Or spoon a little ice cream into your demitasse and alternate sips with munches of Craque, like a happier version of happy hour’s booze and peanuts. 

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