Vosges Haut-Chocolat La Parisienne Couture Cocoa
Chocolatier Katrina Markoff has won over fans with exotic truffle combos (curry-coconut, ginger-wasabi) and this signature "haut" chocolate. The mix calls for milk and cream, making for an extra-rich drink with "almost pudding-like texture." Between moans and sighs, panelists said it "smells extra-chocolaty," and noted that it's so thick "it clings to the mug." A few sips will more than satisfy.
($25 for a pound, vosgeschocolate.com)
BEST WITH MILK
Fran's Chocolates Premium Hot Chocolate
Of the 24 hot chocolates we sampled that call for milk, Fran's "tastes the most like melted chocolate," according to the judges. Founder Fran Bigelow, who launched her company (best known for chocolate-covered caramels) in 1982, developed this concoction herself. "It's nearly as rich as ganache," one taster gushed, suggesting that we pour it over a slice of cake.
($12.50 for 9 ounces, franschocolates.com)
BEST WITH WATER
Land O'Lakes Cocoa Classics
Supreme Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix We figured a company known for its butter would sell hot chocolate that calls for dairy. Not this one. Once we tried it, we understood: The mix is so rich it needs nothing more than hot water. It tastes "frothier" than competing instant cocoas. And the price is right, too.
(60 cents for a 1.25- ounce packet, available at grocery stores)
MarieBelle Aztec Spicy Hot Chocolate
Tasters immediately picked up on notes of nutmeg and cinnamon; the heat came on the back end. Company founder Maribel Lieberman, originally from Honduras, blends spices and chipotle chiles with ground Columbian cocoa beans. The result is an "unusually, deliciously thick" drink that "actually delivers the heat."
($17 for 10 ounces, mariebelle.com)
The Famous Pacific Dessert Company Chocolate Mint
Gourmet Hot Cocoa
The best mint hot chocolates are subtle -- no one wants to drink an overly minty concoction. Company owner Jack Praino played with his recipe for five months, trying more than 90 versions before settling on the winning recipe, which includes Dutch-process cocoa powder. Tasters described it as more "mellow" and "natural tasting" than the competition.
($14 for four 8-ounce boxes, thefamouspacificdessert.com)
Ron & Frank's Peanut Butter Cup Hot Chocolate
We tasted hot chocolate flavored with amaretto, caramel, raspberry and more, but the most delicious blend was a riff on that classic candy-aisle combo: peanut butter and chocolate. One whiff and nearly everyone guessed "Reese's?" Not quite: Owner Ron Morrone mixes up the secret formula in a small kitchen in Cheswick, Pennsylvania. The drink is "deliciously salty and sweet -- like a chocolate-covered pretzel." ($8 for a pound, ronandfranks.com)
Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in December 2006.