Here’s how to turn a gloomy, rain-drenched day into a cozy, belly-warming delight in one simple step: a cup of hot chocolate. This being Portland, you can do much better than your standard grocery store hot cocoa packets—instead, head to one of these cafés for a thoughtfully made drink, whether from single-origin pure chocolate or flavored with rose or cardamom. Don’t forget the homemade marshmallows.
From the time you set foot in the small but cozy cabin-like space, 1927 S’mores makes it impossible not to get into the holiday spirit. Much like their decor, they’re bringing the festive energy to their menu, including hot cocoa made from Portland-based Woodblock Chocolate. After choosing between regular or peppermint-flavored cocoa, pick a few (or none) of the six toppings which include whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, toffee, crushed candy cane, sprinkles, and mini vanilla marshmallows made in their bakery. Can’t decide? We suggest the peppermint hot cocoa made with oat milk and topped with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, crushed candy cane, and mallows—torched, of course! The result? Rich, with the sweetness reined in just enough to let the toppings sing. 1126 SW Alder St —Dalila Brent
Somehow, three years into its life as a singular chocolate shop, Cloudforest's hot cocoa remains something of a secret. Let's fix that right here, right now. This is your stairway to heaven, a kind of liquid chocolate truffle that shoots right to the brain and strengthens your joy bones. Expect 4-5 options, pure dark to rose to cardamon, built around the exquisite dark Ecuadorian chocolate handmade by owner Sebastian Cisneros. The add-on marshmallow—a mondo hand-cut square, torched to order—is like a wild iceberg that melts before your eyes into a half-inch of creamy, toasty, meringue-like fluff. It's the best extra $1.50 you can spend. 727 SE Morrison St —Karen Brooks
The snug, unfussy SE Hawthorne cafe offers the exact opposite of Swiss Miss powder in a cup. Their hot chocolate is made by melting down whole bars of Belgian dark and milk chocolate, doctored only with a splash of vanilla and a sprinkle of salt. Drinking this decadence feels like falling into the chocolate river at the Wonka Factory. If you really want to treat yourself, get a housemade chocolate chip cookie on the side, which is soft at the center and crisp at the edges, just as it should be. 1740 SE Hawthorne Blvd —Julia Silverman
Everything about Ranger is decidedly hip and tasteful—the minimalist space with its sleek wood accents, the signature avocado toast. Their hot chocolate—sweet, creamy, with delicately leafy latte art—is no exception. Ranger’s own chocolate syrup is the base for this one, and though the balance tips too far towards sugar for this reviewer’s taste, the fine chocolate speckle and the warm cocoa bass notes make up for it. 118 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd —Fiona McCann
This Pearl District restaurant—and PoMo's 2021 Restaurant of the Year—might be gaining fame for its multi-course tasting menu dinners, but at breakfast, sometimes it’s best to bring things back to the basics with simple yet exceptionally well-made champurrado and pan dulce. The milky drink is thickened with masa for a satisfying, porridge-like consistency with just a hint of sweetness and cocoa. Pair it with the chocolate-raspberry concha, inspired by sister cafe La Perlita’s True Mexican Mocha, for an extra-chocolatey kick. 721 NW 9th Ave #175 —Katherine Chew Hamilton
The first thing chocolate connoisseurs might notice upon stumbling into Roste is the hulking Ozturkbay custom-built cacao roaster that greets them at the front door. Roste, an old English spelling of the word “roast,” has been serving up single-origin chocolate (in its many, many forms) in the Pearl since 2020, priding itself on sourcing only the best beans from around the world and roasting them to velvety perfection. From its bicerin (an Italian beverage of espresso, drinking chocolate, and milk) to its baked goods, everything is made in-house, and the chocolate is all the better for it: rich, complex, and delightful. As the cold weather consumes the season, we’re about due for some proper hot chocolate. At Roste, you’ll find that and then some. You can’t go wrong with their classic hot chocolate, but our favorite is their Mexican Chocolate. Decked out with your choice of one of its rotating chocolate varietals, milk, and spices, the Mexican Chocolate is creamy yet sharp, spicy yet sweet, but a treat all the way through. 475 NW 14th Ave —Gabriel Granillo
At the corner of NE Martin Luther King and Russell Street is the recently opened Soul Lift cafe, which offers cacao ceremonies and artisanal drinking chocolate—all of which are vegan, gluten-free, and free of refined sugars. I ordered their snickerdoodle cookie-inspired 35% dark chocolate drink. It starts with ceremonial cacao paste that’s made with whole Guatemalan cacao beans, lightly roasted over a wood fire. Coconut sugar, coconut milk powder, vanilla, and cinnamon all come together to create a drink that’s rich, thick, and filled to the brim with flavor. 2601 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd —Cami Hughes