Top Cincinnati Hot Chocolate Hotspots

Since we aren’t elitist, we went to a handful of eateries that offer hot chocolate as a menu item, trying both powdered and melted versions to find the best.

click to enlarge Dojo Gelato
Dojo Gelato

In many cities across the U.S. (and just about everywhere in Europe), the idea of melting a chocolate bar into water or milk to create a drinkable delight is hardly new. The original Mayan version of hot chocolate, which was actually served cold, featured ground cocoa, water and additions like chili pepper. In Cincinnati, however, chocolate powder seems to be the name of the game. If you’re an elitist, therein lies the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa — the latter is made with powdered cocoa.

Since we aren’t elitist, we went to a handful of eateries that offer hot chocolate as a menu item, trying both powdered and melted versions to find the best. Some places deserve mention due to their less-than-ordinary approach to the powdery base. Others are bringing the European version here, hopefully paving the way for more cups like it.

Aroma’s Java and Gelato:

If you travel far-ish into the West Side, you will find the only place in Cincinnati that has an entire menu devoted to hot chocolate. Aroma’s creates their own powder and adds in extras like peanut butter, peppermint, marshmallow or strawberry syrup to make something that tastes like dessert in a cup. Their special mix — made from powdered sugar, cocoa powder and white sugar — is what sets them apart from the plebeian Ghirardelli-serving spots. 6407 Bridgetown Road, Bridgetown, aromasgelato.com.

Dojo Gelato:

According to the bandana-wearing man behind the counter, Dojo’s version of hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate and Italian secrets. Constantly churning in a heated glass contraption, Dojo’s Italian drinking chocolate tastes like a melted chocolate bar: thick, strong and topped with absurdly delicious whipped cream. Dojo’s chocolate is sweet, particularly with whipped cream on top, and its pudding-like texture warrants a spoon. Bravissimo. 137 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-328-9000, dojogelato.com.

Maverick Chocolate:

Every group has a member who turns up their nose at milk chocolate, claiming it “isn’t real” as they munch on their 82 percent dark cacao squares. For those people, Maverick’s hot chocolate is the holy grail. The Findlay Market chocolatiers provide their patrons with drinking chocolate made from their melted small-batch bean-to-bar chocolate, churning it on a similar contraption to that of Dojo’s. The result is bitter and topped with fresh, unsweetened whipped cream. It is heaven-sent to those who prefer their hot chocolate dark and strong. 129 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0561, maverickchocolate.com.

Sleepy Bee:

Sleepy Bee takes the powdered hot chocolate and dehydrated marshmallows of childhood and transforms them into something a tad more grown up. Using milk from Snowville Creamery and cocoa powder made especially for them by local roaster Coffee Break, Sleepy Bee doesn’t go as far as melting a chocolate bar, but the result is frothy and delicious. They also allow sweet-toothed patrons to add one of chef Francis Kroner’s hefty homemade honey marshmallows. With each sip, that sticky marshmallow film we all love covers your lips. 3098 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-533-2339, sleepybeecafe.com.

HONORABLE MENTION

1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab:

Though they use a simple combination of Monin dark chocolate syrup and milk, the hot chocolate is hardly an afterthought. The beautiful latte art is enough to bring you back. 1215 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/1215winecoffee.

Carabello Coffee:

The philanthropic roaster and craft coffee shop is known for their commitment to exceptional fair trade and organic coffee, but they also do an artful hot chocolate. 107 E. Ninth St., Newport, Ky., carabellocoffee.com.

Coffee Emporium:

Their Aztec hot chocolate involves a cocoa powder blended with cayenne peppers. It’s spicy, interesting and, like Christmas, it only comes around once a year. 110 E. Central Parkway, Downtown, coffee-emporium.com.

Collective Espresso:

This expanding (a Northside location is opening soon) hip espresso bar does cortados, pour-overs, Deeper Roots Coffee and hot chocolate with Hartzler Dairy milk. 207 Woodward St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/collectiveespressootr.

Reality Tuesday:

Restaurant Serendipity 3 in New York is famous for inventing frozen hot chocolate; Reality Tuesday makes it their own. 1518 Dixie Highway, Park Hills, Ky., facebook.com/realitytuesdaycafe. ©

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