Some like it hot

Dec. 17, 2009, 7:51 a.m. | By Lily Alexander | 14 years, 6 months ago

When the Spanish conquerors defeated the Aztec Empire nearly 500 years ago, they brought back crops, spices and diseases to Europe. But it's less well-known that they also brought back a delicacy that continues to this day: hot chocolate. First made by the Aztec and Mayan peoples by grinding cacao beans into paste, steaming hot chocolate beverages now come in as many different types as there are drinkers. Whether with a shot of espresso, infused with hazelnut or topped with mounds of whipped cream and sprinkles, hot chocolate is delicious by any name. As the D.C. winter comes upon us, catching many in shorts and t-shirts by surprise, a trip to get some hot chocolate is the key to stay toasty and satisfy your chocolate cravings.

Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections (ACKC)

ACKC in D.C. has an eclectic feel along with hot chocolates named after famous divas. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

If you thought hot chocolate only came in the "Swiss Miss" variety, the scores of different hot chocolate beverages offered at Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections (ACKC) will prove you wrong. Located in the hip U Street neighborhood, this eclectic cocoa bar boasts 12 different types of hot chocolate, each named after a famous diva. Each drink is as different as the grand dames of stage and screen for which they are named. The Marilyn Monroe is a sweet, white chocolate delight with a touch of crème de menthe flavoring, topped off with a layer of whipped cream and crumbled Oreo cookies. The Joan Crawford is the perfect antidote for a coffee addict's craving: a semi-sweet chocolate with a shot of espresso, covered with whipped cream and sprinkles. The Joan will keep you wired and satisfy your sweet tooth if you find yourself in cram mode for a huge test the next day. But the options don't stop at hot drinks: Each of the beverages can be converted to "Diva Divine" ice cream desserts or milkshakes. Each "diva" drink comes in two sizes, the 12 oz. and 14 oz., sold at $4.25 and $4.95 respectively.

ACKC's Liz Taylor consists of semi-sweet chocolate with lavender whipped cream and pistachios. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

The eclectic décor of ACKC, with bright red walls, a gold-painted ceiling and colorful mosaics adorning every inch of the walls, complement the fun variety of the hot chocolates. The line to purchase your beverages is aptly marked by a sign that says: "Chocoholics: Line forms here for fix."

The dark hot chocolate at ACKC is known as Audrey Hepburn. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

ACKC is located at 1529 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. It is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Mayorga Coffee Factory

Mayorga sets the cozy mood with warm décor. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

Fortunately, you don't need to venture into D.C. for your hot chocolate fix. Mayorga Coffee in Silver Spring claims to deliver the "authentic coffee experience," but behind the coffee shop façade is some great, undiscovered hot chocolate. Served in a big, inviting mug, Mayorga's hot chocolate is made with European dark chocolate, with optional whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. Mayorga's traditional drink is the perfect, uncomplicated choice for a relaxing evening out with friends or family. Dark chocolate lovers will not be able to put the mug down, but caution: It's hot, and too big a gulp might burn your tongue.

Mayorga's large hot chocolate is topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

The soft lighting, comfy couches and homey décor create a cozy atmosphere, and on the weekends there is even live music by local artists to accompany you on your hot chocolate experience.

Mayorga is located at 8040 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. It is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Mr. Yogato

A Mr. Yogato stamp on your head gets you 10 percent off your bill. Re-enacting the "Thriller" dance gets you 20 percent off. Suggesting a topping that is then adopted by the restaurant gets you a five percent discount for life. The games at Mr. Yogato never stop.

Mr. Yogato's quirky personality makes it a fun place to go year-round, with "hot chocolatos” in the winter and frozen yogurt in the summer. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

This quirky frozen yogurt place in Dupont Circle is all about being goofy. And now, Mr. Yogato no longer just serves their famous frozen yogurt: "hot chocolatos" were recently added to the menu. These beverages allow as much creative leeway as the frozen yogurts. After starting with a choice of three Ghirardelli cocoas - milk chocolate, classic white or creamy caramel - you can pick from an almost endless combination of flavors, such as hazelnut, gingerbread and almond mocha, and toppings, including marshmallows, Teddy Grahams and pumpkin spice. Each flavor is an added $0.50 to the basic $3 for hot chocolate. But the antics don't stop there - for another $0.50 you can transform your hot chocolate into a "Tim-Tam-Slam," in which you drink your hot chocolate through an Australian chocolate wafer, or a "Leggo my Eggo," adding mini Eggo waffles into the mixture. Games such as Boggle, Scattergories and Connect Four can be found on tables, as well as an old Nintendo, if you are in need of additional fun and games. For the intrepid hot chocolate drinker, the possibilities are practically endless.

Mr. Yogato is located at 1515 17th St. NW, Washington, D.C. It is open from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and noon to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Churreria Madrid

For those who dare to try the same traditional hot chocolate drink that the Spanish conquistadors enjoyed so long ago, Churreria Madrid in Washington, D.C., is your destination. The Spanish tapas bar in the heart of Adams Morgan features traditional Spanish cuisine, including the typical Spanish breakfast drink. This hot chocolate blend diverges from the sweet milk chocolate beverage served in the U.S. - it's a thick, rich, non-milky substance that is ideal for dipping piping hot churros, long twists of fried dough coated in sugar and cinnamon. The delectable, bittersweet treat will barely make a dent in your wallet - one dozen churros cost a mere $3.

While chomping on churros, you'll find that the two televisions mounted over the bar provide sufficient visual entertainment. Contestant shows and soccer games air via satellite from Spain, creating an atmosphere akin to true Spanish tapas bars. On the wall, a huge set of steer horns greets costumers as they walk in, and a Spanish flag swings gently in the back of the restaurant. If you prefer to satisfy your chocolate craving in a quieter setting, the upstairs dining room may be the place for you.

Churreria Madrid is located at 2505 Champlain St. NW, Washington, D.C. It is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.

The best ways to spice up your pre-packaged hot chocolate:

The Rita Hayworth at ACKC is semi-sweet chocolate infused with clove, orange and caramel and topped with whipped cream and caramel syrup. Photo courtesy of Erica Horne.

1. Hook a small candy cane over the edge of your mug. The minty flavor will add a holiday touch to your warm beverage.
2. Stir your hot chocolate with a cinnamon stick. It serves not only as a utensil, but also as a flavorful touch.
3. Spoon in a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. The ice cream will cool down the drink to the perfect drinking temperature as well as create a delectable combination of chocolate and vanilla.
4. Zest orange peel, and sprinkle it on top to give your hot chocolate a citrus tang.
5. Add a squirt of coffee flavoring syrup for an extra kick in your hot chocolate.
6. Crush up Oreos and dust the top of your drink with cookie.
7. Scoop in some peanut butter for a Reese's-esque flavor.
8. Top it off with whipped cream and sprinkles.

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Lily Alexander. Loves El Salvador, James Franco, "Freaks and Geeks" (best show EVER), Mint chip ice cream, softball and field hockey. She is OBSESSED with gmail and adores "Dirty Dancing Havana Nights" (and aspires to dance with Diego Luna). More »

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