Accented with hazelnut, this is a great choice for milk chocolate lovers.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
When New Hampshire chocolate guru Larry Burdick opened his first Boston-area L.A. Burdick shop in 1999, he brought a new type of hot chocolate to the city. No foil packets of cocoa powder here. This was thick, rich chocolate ganache thinned with just a bit of steamed milk. With a nod to its decadence, Burdick’s called it “Drinking Chocolate.”
Today, you can find intensely rich hot chocolate in many Boston venues. It varies in intensity (sweet milk chocolate versus richer dark blends) and consistency (from that of steamed milk to pudding). The following are a list of our favorites, just in time for a fresh wave of cold winter weather.
WHERE TO FIND BOSTON’S BEST HOT CHOCOLATE
It’s not just tradition that keeps this at the top of my list of Boston’s best hot chocolate. There is simply no better hot chocolate—excuse me, drinking chocolate—than Burdick’s.
Why? The dark chocolate blend is almost as thick as pudding, but with flavors more intense. This one-two-three punch of chocolate is not for the faint of heart. For a milder blend, go with the milk or white chocolate, or the multiple single source varieties (Bolivia, Grenada, Brazil, etc.). And you can buy finely shaved chocolate in bags—a product that recently won a Yankee Editor’s Choice Food Award—and mix it up yourself.
The cozy cafe areas in both the Harvard Square and Back Bay shops invite a mid-day meditation, though limited seating means that your thoughts may be be interrupted by impatient stares from thirsty table-seekers. Drink your cocoa straight, or pair it with assorted cakes and dainties from the pastry or candy cases.
Back Bay. 220 Clarendon Street, Boston. 617-303-0113; burdickchocolate.com
Harvard Square. 52 Brattle Street, Cambridge. 617-491-4340; burdickchocolate.com
For hot cocoa with an Italian accent, head to the ground-floor Lavazza cafe within Mario Batali’s massive new food emporium in the Prudential Center. It’s made from a powder mix, but it contains generous amounts of cornstarch, the same thickener used in chocolate pudding mix, so the experience of drinking a cup of this wonderfully silky cocoa runs halfway between sipping and chewing.
It’s dessert in a cup, albeit less complex than Burdick’s blend, which is made with real chocolate rather than cocoa powder. Still, in an afternoon of sipping multiple hot chocolates all over the city, this is the one cup I actually finished. [Note: Caffe Vittoria in Boston’s North End serves an equally thick Italian cioccolato caldo].Prudential Center. 800 Boylston Street, Boston. 617-807-7300; eataly.com
Where Burdick’s and Lavazza’s flavors take a darker profile, this hazelnut-scented cocoa with a dollop of salted caramel is light, frothy, and sweet. Topped with whipped cream and marshmallow, it’s worth a trek out to Somerville’s Davis Square.
Joanne Chang’s mini-chain of bakery/cafes around Boston all boast a hot chocolate that combines chocolate ganache (a blend of chocolate and cream) with steamed milk, chile powder, and a bit of cayenne. That last bit is a nod to hot chocolate’s Central American origins (a tradition that can even be found in early American recipes for hot chocolate), but it doesn’t overwhelm you with spice. The effect is more subtle and warming.
Multiple locations; flourbakery.com
Sofra Bakery & Cafe
The genius of Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick’s bakery/cafe on the Cambridge/Watertown line lies in the kitchen’s ability to combine Middle Eastern flavors with French and American accents. Hence the addition of tahini (sesame paste), a popular ingredient in sweets like halva and cookies, to the caramel that sweetens this frothy hot chocolate. If you like peanuts or hazelnuts with chocolate, be sure to give this nutty variation a try.
Now, I can’t mention chocolate in Boston without giving a shout-out the folks at Taza Chocolate in Somerville. Their stone-ground chocolate, which comes in multiple flavors, makes wonderful drinking chocolate, which they sell at their stall within the Boston Public Market in both hot and cold forms.
Finally, if you’re a fan of chocolate and history, don’t miss the Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop exhibit at the Old North Church. It takes you through the history of chocolate in the U.S. (did you know there were chocolate houses here in 1700?), shows you how chocolate was made before the invention of tempering machines, and lets you taste a sample of an 18th century chocolate blend. I visited the site and wrote about it here.
What’s your pick for Boston’s best hot chocolate?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.