Do-It-Yourself Hot Chocolate Bar

With a familiar chill joining the excitement in the air this time of year, there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Its unmistakable aroma conjures images of holidays past and its flavor ushers in a tantalizing refuge from the frosty environs just outside.

The only thing better than sipping a cup of cocoa may be sharing it with others. Author, food writer and New Hampshire resident Hillary Davis has put together a recipe for building a do-it-yourself hot chocolate bar. Follow these steps to craft a sweet treat that’ll have your guests raving as they indulge in the welcoming warmth of your home. Also, allow us to recommend that her latest book, “French Desserts,” makes a wonderful gift for the home cook on your list.

Do-It-Yourself Hot Chocolate Bar

Makes 14 cups

Hillary Davis lived for a time in the hills of southern France, where she crafted this recipe. During the winter months, she’d set up this hot chocolate bar on the wide stone ledge next to her fireplace. The fire would be crackling and copper pots gleaming as they hung above the dancing flames. As guests finished dinner and wandered into the living room, they would find this spread waiting for them. They could fill their cups, then savor the warmth of the fire and the flavor of hot chocolate and Grand Marnier.

Special Equipment
Food processor
5-quart or larger French oven


3 (3 ½ ounces) bars bittersweet chocolate
1 small organic orange
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3⁄4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons sugar
3 heaping tablespoons instant espresso powder
13 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
4 heaping tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
1 cup Grand Marnier


Whipped cream
Large chunk of white chocolate
Bottle of Grand Marnier
Cinnamon sticks


Coarsely break up chocolate. Zest and juice the orange.


Toss broken chocolate, orange zest, cinnamon, brown sugar, sugar and espresso powder into the food processor and pulse until chocolate is broken down. Then process until everything is finely chopped.

In the French oven, pour in the milk, vanilla extract, almond extract and orange juice and cook over medium heat until it just begins to simmer. Scrape in the contents from the food processor, add the cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and whisk for about 3-5 minutes, until melted and thoroughly combined.

Whisk in the Grand Marnier. Taste, and add sugar or more Grand Marnier, if desired. Keep warm on the back burner on very low heat.


Set up the hot chocolate bar: Place a ladle to the side of the French oven. Have heatproof mugs arranged on the countertop. Next, place a bowl of whipped cream, a microplane with the chunk of white chocolate so guests can grate some on top of the whipped cream, an opened bottle of Grand Marnier for those who might like an extra splash in the bottom of their mug, a jar or bowl of marshmallows, and cinnamon sticks for stirring the drinks.

Ideas and Suggestions

Omit the Grand Marnier for an equally delicious alcohol-free version. For the holidays, serve with a bowl of candy canes for stirrers. Substitute peppermint schnapps and fresh mint leaves, spiced rum, Frangelico or Kahlúa for the Grand Marnier.

Categories: Holiday Guide Food