12 best hot chocolates
We've found the richest, creamiest hot chocolates – some are even vegan and sugar-free
The most delicious hot chocolate needs to be savoured. Your hands should feel its warmth as it seeps through the mug. Your nose must breathe in its rich cocoa aroma and your tastebuds will want to savour its smooth molten chocolatey deliciousness.
But not all hot chocolates are equal. Some are not worthy of this tasting ceremony.
We’ve rounded up some of the best hot chocolate drinks around. Only the creamiest tastiest cups of liquid heaven feature here. So that no one feels left out, we’ve included some yummy vegan and dairy-free options too. And, surprisingly, a couple of sugar-free versions have made the list, too.
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Chulucanas Hot Chocolate, 200g: £5.99, Willie’s Cacao
The purest, finest chocolate
Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s mission in life is to produce the finest, purest chocolate. His Chulucanas Hot Chocolate powder is made from two ingredients: Peruvian single estate 50 per cent dark chocolate powder and Barbados raw cane sugar, that is it.
As advised, we made this with full-fat milk. We also tried it with semi-skimmed, but the full-fat gives it that extra creamy kick. It’s only just over a fiver, too.
For vegans, this powder is just as tasty with oat milk and with almond milk, although in both cases it isn’t quite as creamy. With almond milk, the nutty flavour does come through, but that’s no bad thing.
Chocolat Chaud, 1l: £6.95, Paul
Just pour and heat
This is as close as you will get to an authentic chocolat chaud served up in a Parisian tearoom and it tastes the same as the rich molten chocolate drink that you can order at any cafe in the Paul patisserie chain.
This ready-made, pour-and-heat drink comes in a 1 litre carton, which is enough for about four mugs. It works out at about £1.75 a serving, so it’s not a budget buy, but it is a rich, creamy almost instant chocolate treat.
Before opening, you can store it in your kitchen cupboard so it’s always on stand-by.
Raw Organic Cacao Hot Choc, 100g: £4, Green Goddess
Vegan, organic and gluten-free
Vegan, organic and gluten-free, this chocolate drink is high in iron and magnesium, and made from just three ingredients: raw Peruvian cacao powder, natural sweetener coconut blossom and nutrient-rich South American sweet fruit lacuna.
Sticking with its vegan theme, we tried it with oat and unsweetened almond milk. We weren't sure what to expect of this healthy-screaming drink, but with both types of milk it was surprisingly creamy. It has a lovely cocoa aroma and a rich chocolatey taste.
It’s not as sweet as sugary alternatives, but it’s a good, wholesome treat.
Ruby Hot Chocolate, 150g: £12.95, Fortnum & Mason
Ruby chocolate, a pink-hued milk chocolate with a distinct berry flavour, is a great innovation. The instructions suggest drinking this blend in a smaller quantity that standard hot chocolate – think teacup rather than mug.
Following the recipe, we heaped three tablespoons of the powder into a teacup, gradually added a little hot milk to create a paste then slowly stirred in more milk. The result: a delicate rose-coloured creamy liquid with a strawberry aroma that tantalises the tastebuds with its sweet berrylike flavour.
A pricey delight for hot chocoholics that like to splash out and experiment.
Orange Drinking Chocolate, 170g: £5.99, Cartwright & Butler
Cute packaging and dairy-free
Cartwright & Butler makes a selection of drinking chocolate all packaged in these cute mason-style jars. The only downside to these polished pearls of dark orange-flavoured chocolate, is that they are tasty enough to eat by the handful, which means they risk never making it into your mug of milk.
Contain yourself, however. Stir these pearls into a mug of cows’ milk and the result is a velvety lava that will have all chocolate orange fans hooked.
As this drinking chocolate is dairy-free, we tried it with milk alternatives, too. Despite the almond milk being unsweetened, the result was still extremely sweet, but it was just as creamy and tasty with oat milk as it was with cow’s milk.
Cadbury Hot Chocolate in an Instant, 400g: £2.50, Tesco
Budget buy and popular with children
If you’re looking for a good, cheap, store-cupboard staple for your kitchen or office that can be made up in an instant by mixing four heaped teaspoons into a mug of hot water then this is it.
Although it contains cows’ milk, it’s not quite as rich and creamy as a hot chocolate made up with milk or milk alternatives, and it’s sweeter than some of the more luxury alternatives. This makes it particularly popular with children. This is a great budget-buy with a long shelf life.
Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate Drink, 300g: £3.65, Waitrose
Organic and dairy-free
Whisk four teaspoons of this finely ground, organic, dairy-free hot chocolate powder into hot milk and it will change the colour of the milk almost instantly into a deep chocolate brown
This hot chocolate isn't too rich and is slightly less creamy than others. We tried it with cows’ milk, oat milk and almond milk and it was delicious with all three. At £3.65, it’s reasonably priced, too.
Chocolat Charbonnel The Original Chocolate Drink, 300g: £8, Charbonnel et Walker
Rich, dark chocolate taste
The classic white, blue and gold tin that encompasses this drinking chocolate powder will smarten up any larder, although to reduce waste it would be preferable if the powder wasn’t in a plastic bag.
The recipe for this chocolate drink was created in 1875, when the chocolate flakes were mixed with hot water. It’s good in it original form, but for a creamier taste, mix the powder to a paste with boiling water and then stir in hot milk.
These chocolate flakes do contain cow’s milk, so it’s not one for vegans or those on a dairy-free diet. Despite this, the drink has a rich dark chocolate taste. Dark chocolate fans will adore it, others will prefer it diluted with a swirl of whipped cream.
Lavender, Lemongrass & Vanilla Bean Drinking Chocolate, 150g: £7.95, Coco Chocolatier
Sophisticated white chocolate
It’s rare that you come across white drinking chocolate, but we think that all this needs is the flame of publicity and it could easily catch on.
These are posh white chunky flakes of drinking chocolate infused with lavender, lemongrass and orchid vanilla bean. You need to appreciate this special drink as you would a fine wine, first smelling its perfumed aroma and then savouring its distinctive flavour. It is unusual, but it works.
This is pricey, but it comes in a cute reusable tin, although we do wish the chocolate wasn’t in a plastic bag. It isn't one for vegans as it contains cows’ milk, but it makes the perfect gift for a chocolate connoisseur.
Classic Hot Chocolate, 250g: £9, Hotel Chocolat
Whisk this on the hob
Hotel Chocolat’s Classic Hot Chocolate involves a three-stage cooking method, which demonstrates that you are making something special.
You must heat the milk until it’s steaming, but not boiling, remove from the heat to stir in the six heaped teaspoons per cup, return to the hob and whisk until all the chocolate has dissolved.
The result is an indulgent, velvety hot chocolate. It’s just as delicious, although a little less creamy with almond and oat milk, so vegans can enjoy it too. It is pricey though and opening the cardboard tube and dipping your spoon into the bag within is a bit of an unnecessary faff.
100% Colombian Sugar-Free Hot Chocolate Drops, 200g: £6.95, Chococo
Pure chocolate and sugar-free
This is for hardcore chocoholics as the only ingredient is Columbian dark chocolate. To make you place four of the chocolate drops into a saucepan with a dash of milk. Once the buttons have melted you add a mugful of cows’ or plant milk, which ever your preference and continue to heat as you stir. You can have it neat, as the Mayans are thought to have enjoyed it.
The bitterness makes it more akin to a strong espresso than hot chocolate, it’s an acquired taste that works for some. Or you can add sugar. We admit to being wimps. We tried it with cows’ milk, almond milk and oat milk. In each case we had to add a couple of spoons of sugar to enjoy it, but it was quite scrumptious with each milk once sweetened up.
Gnaw Chocolate Liqueur Hot Choc Shot Bundle: £8.50 for three choc shots, Not on the High Street
These are for non-vegan grown-ups as they contain cows’ milk and alcohol. This bundle features three hot chocolate shots that come with a pipette of Coffee Liqueur, Amaretto or Irish Cream, you can choose which of these you want in your selection.
Dip your chocolate stick into a steaming hot mug of milk and stir till it’s completely melted – which takes while – then squeeze in your chosen liquor shot.
At just over £2.80 each, these very sweet hot toddies aren’t cheap, but they are tasty and they are a great way to round off a fun evening.
The Verdict: Best hot chocolates
The purity of Willie’s Cacao Chulucanas Hot Chocolate is what makes this drink stand out. It is easy to make, has a heady cocoa aroma, is creamy without being too rich, and is not overly sweet. It also works well with both cows’ milk and vegan alternatives.
Hotel Chocolat’s Classic Hot Chocolate comes a close second, although it is a little pricey.
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