Out of all the drinking chocolates on the market, the Guittard Chocolate Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate is the best option for chocolate lovers thanks to its flavor, hint of sweetness, and a smooth and thick mouthfeel. But if you’re looking for something with a kick, the Nomad Chocolate Organic Ancient Maya Drinking Chocolate includes spices like cayenne pepper, clove, ginger, and more and also doesn’t cost too much.
Drinking chocolate, hot chocolate, and hot cocoa often get used interchangeably, but technically are not the same. All three check the boxes in terms of a warm beverage you think of while sipping by the fire in winter, but there is one that is more decadent than the others.
Drinking chocolate (also called "sipping chocolate") refers to chocolate that's been slowly melted and then mixed with milk, cream, or water. Hot chocolate and hot cocoa are made with less cocoa bean fat than drinking chocolate, which contains a lot, if not all, of the cocoa butter inside the beans. Drinking chocolates run the gamut from sweet to gently bitter and from a rich, dense texture to a light, barely-there mouthfeel.
What anyone likes in terms of a drinking chocolate is highly subjective and intensely personal. There are, however, several ways to put any drinking chocolate to a critical test. The flavor profile, the source, and percentage of the cocoa beans, the processing method, and more all play a part in choosing the one for you. We’ve put together this collection of drinking chocolates, covering many bases and different ideas of what a drinking chocolate can be.
Best Overall: Guittard Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate
What do buyers say? 84 percent of 400+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Guittard has been around for 150 years and is well-known among chocolate lovers. Like true drinking chocolate, the cocoa powder in this selection is made the old-fashioned way with a Dutch press, keeping more of the fat in and thus producing a rich and flavorful mixture of chocolate, vanilla, and sugar.
While you can use it for baking brownies, cakes, cookies, and other desserts, mixing 4 tablespoons into a saucepan of 1 cup of milk of your choice creates thick drinking chocolate after a few minutes of constant whisking over low to medium heat. Add more powder or less milk for more of a pudding consistency, if desired. Add less powder and more milk for a less-intense beverage to sip. One 10-ounce contains a total of seven servings—enough for a week’s worth of chilly days or nights.
Size: 10 ounces per bottle | Serving Size: 4 tablespoons | Chocolate Type: 53 percent cacao
Price at time of publish: $11
Best Spiced: Nomad Chocolate Organic Ancient Maya Drinking Chocolate
Anyone familiar with chocolate knows that not every variety is sweet. The higher the percentage, the more bitter the chocolate as less sugar is used. This drinking chocolate powder is made with 49 percent cacao—meaning that while there is a little bit of sweetness, doesn't taste like a milk chocolate candy bar. But for some that isn’t enough, and that’s where the chili comes in.
In addition to the first two ingredients are spices like cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger that give this non-dairy drinking chocolate a kick not found in traditional mixes. Directions say to heat up about 0.25-cup of milk and add 2 tablespoons of the Ancient Maya chocolate powder, stirring until combined. It can be served hot for extra warmth or even cold for a more refreshing brew.
Price at time of publish: $14
Size: 7.1 ounces per tin | Serving Size: 2 tablespoons | Chocolate Type: 49 percent cacao
Best Variety Collection: Williams Sonoma Fall Hot Chocolate Stacker
The inspiration for Williams Sonoma's special seasonal blend comes from Angelina Paris, a café known for its famous hot chocolate. This set has three different flavors: Classic, Pumpkin Spice, and Salted Caramel—perfect for fall gatherings on cool nights throughout September, October, and November. Each set comes with one tin of each, which yields about 4 cups of drinking chocolate. It makes a great gift, as the red, orange, and black tins stack on top of each other, but is a cabinet staple allowing you to skip the cafe line and make a warm cup right at home.
Made from specialty semisweet chocolate from Guittard, the flavor profile of each blend is rich and sweet. To prepare, stir the chocolates into warm milk (maybe top with marshmallows like these festive pumpkins) and enjoy.
Price at time of publish: $35 for single
Size: 6 ounces per tin | Serving Size: 5 tablespoons | Chocolate Type: classic, pumpkin spice, and salted caramel
Best for Entertaining: Popbar Hot Chocolate Sticks
Before hot chocolate bombs were popular, meltable chocolate on a stick was the trendy way to make a dessert drink. And for large crowds, drinking chocolate sticks will always be a great way to entertain, and this collection offers three different flavors in one package: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white (vanilla) chocolate.
The idea is that each person "makes their own hot chocolate" with their own hot chocolate stick by adding it to a mug of hot milk and stirring until it melts. It’s a lot of fun, no matter how old you are. The flavor profile is sweet, and the texture is medium. The individual packaging also makes this a budget-friendly great gift idea or a great beverage option for holiday parties.
Price at time of publish: $25 for 1.55 ounce (pack of 6)
Size: 9.3 ounces per pack of 6 | Serving Size: 1.55 ounces each | Chocolate Type: milk, dark, and white (vanilla)
It’s fun to experiment with different flavors to personalize your drinking chocolate and truly make it your own. It’s also easy; look in your cupboards to see what you might already have that could add that extra touch that takes it above and beyond. Consider pure or artificial extracts like vanilla, almond, coconut, or strawberry. Amaretto, Kahlúa, or Luxardo Maraschino are great liqueurs to add, or you can try cinnamon, cayenne, and five-spice powder for a little kick. Keep an open mind and consider what flavors you think you’ll enjoy. Whatever you choose, use sparingly, tasting until you get the desired flavor.
Best Individual Packets: Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
The world-renowned San Francisco-based chocolate factory Ghirardelli’s "double chocolate" products like the brownie mix and cake mix are deservedly well-regarded, and the drinking chocolate version is no different. The packets offer a new way to enjoy the Ghirardelli flavor besides in square or bar form. Made with sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla, the mix is sweet and chocolatey. For more of a thick consistency, use less milk with each packet.
And these individual packets are practical as well as delicious. They're easy to store in a cupboard when the urge strikes or to pack and bring on the go to work or on a camping trip. As a bonus, they're easy on the budget, too.
Price at time of publish: $10
Size: 8.5 ounces per pack of 10 | Serving Size: 1 packet | Chocolate Type: Double chocolate
Best Pods: Maud's Loco Hot Cocoa
If there’s no milk and a saucepan or microwave around, there’s still a way to get a creamy cup of drinking chocolate. Keurig machines are often readily available these days, and they can handle making more than just coffee thanks to a "Hot Cocoa" or "Other" setting.
These pods do the trick—although Maud’s is more of a "hot cocoa" rather than a drinking chocolate. The Keurig process can’t manage to whisk in actual chocolate bits to the cup but it still offers a delicious chocolate flavor with medium sweetness and a light texture (and you can add any additional chocolate after brewing). If you're looking for convenience and affordability, this is a good option at under $1 per pod.
Price at time of publish: $15 for dark hot chocolate, 18 count
Size: 9.54 ounces per box of 18 | Serving Size: 1 pod | Chocolate Type: Dark chocolate
Best Artisan: Potomac Duarte Dominican Republic Single-Origin Drinking Chocolate
This award-winning artisan bean-to-bar craft drinking chocolate is rich and delicate with a slightly bracing mouthfeel. Made from single-origin beans from the Duarte region of the Dominican Republic and crafted in a small shop in Virginia, this process- and flavor-driven product is made with two single ingredients—organic cacao and sugar.
With this level of craftsmanship comes a bit of a higher price. Each 85-gram bag is made to savor and comes with roughly three servings of drinking chocolate. At 70 percent cacao, it is also a lot darker than other options out there. Keep that in mind when making a cup—luckily any additional sweeteners or spices can be added in as you mix or enjoy the slight bitterness.
Price at time of publish: $24
Size: 3 ounces per pack | Serving Size: 4 tablespoons | Chocolate Type: 70 percent
When you purchase a drinking chocolate, there are usually directions on how to prepare it. They must be well-blended so that chocolate doesn’t sit on the bottom of the cup or clump up throughout the drink. If your usual methods aren’t working, you might want to try whisking the drinking chocolate, stirring the bottom edges of the mug, cup, or pot. These Norpro Mini Whips can help, or if you like a frothy drink, try the Norpro Cordless Mini Mixer.
Best Not-Too-Sweet: Franzese Hot Chocolate Mix
Quite rich but not overly sweet, Franzese is a well-balanced specialty drinking chocolate that replicates a true European cup of hot chocolate. The company says it uses only non-GMO ingredients and the focus on carefully sourced ingredients is apparent in the flavor and texture, which lands somewhere between thicker than many store-bought hot chocolates and thick, Italian-style drinking chocolate.
You aren't limited with this drinking chocolate mix from Franzese, either. In addition to making the traditional hot beverage, you can add this mix to your coffee or use it as baking cocoa in desserts. One tin has enough for 10 servings, but like other mixes, adding more or less to hot milk changes the thickness to your liking.
Price at time of publish: $22 for original hot chocolate, 1 pack
Size: 8.8 ounces per tin | Serving Size: 1.67 tablespoons | Chocolate Type: Italian
For a thick, flavorful, and decadent cup of drinking chocolate, the Guittard Chocolate Grand Cacao Drinking Chocolate is a great option that won’t cost a lot, either. The mix is traditionally made with a Dutch press and offers the most balanced, slightly sweet warm beverage. For times when a stove is available, the Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix is another great pick that still makes gourmet-tasting drinking chocolate on the go.
What to Look for in a Drinking Chocolate
Drinking chocolates vary a lot in terms of sweetness. Many things affect the sweetness levels: the type and quality of cocoa beans used in the process, the methods of manufacturing, and the amount of sugar or other sweeteners added. Typically a drinking chocolate mix with a higher percentage of cocoa will be less sweet than one with a lower percentage. If it doesn’t specify, take a look at the packaging and nutritional information to see just how much sugar was added. Then you should be able to determine how bitter or sweet an option is. Keep in mind that it is always easy to add sugar, honey, maple syrup, stevia, or another sweetener to drinking chocolate, but it is a lot harder to make a sweet mix more bitter.
Texture or Mouthfeel
Drinking chocolates have different textures, or "mouthfeels," when prepared for drinking, from fairly light to very dense. What you personally like can only be discovered by tasting a variety of different types.
If you have a drinking chocolate mix that is heavier or lighter than you like, the good news is that you can always play with how much you add to a cup. More will make a richer, thicker drinking chocolate while less will result in a more thin, milky drink.
Artisan or Not
Chocolate is a complex food that can be approached as an art form by those who love it, and though there are many excellent products at all price points in the marketplace, the quality can be of a very high level when artisan-made. This will also affect the price depending on where you buy it from.
Many grocery stores and online marketplaces have many options. Be sure to read the labels on the products to find out key information about the drinking chocolate mix—this can oftentimes tell you if it is artisan or not.
There are drinking chocolates to fit any budget. It’s a good idea to check how many cups the package will make and divide that into the price of the product to determine how much each cup will cost and if it suits your budget.
What is drinking chocolate?
In the general use of the term, drinking chocolate is any chocolate-flavored drink, hot or cold. To be a little more specific, some people only refer to hot chocolate drinks as “drinking chocolate" and distinguish them from hot cocoa. All chocolate products are subject to FDA regulations in terms of labeling, however.
There are many chocolate drinks available in the marketplace, all with varying amounts of cocoa powder, and they're often made richer by the inclusion of bits of chocolate into the basic cocoa powder blend. The flavor profile and texture can vary greatly based on what ingredients are used in the mix.
Is there caffeine in drinking chocolate?
There is caffeine in chocolate, so yes, there is caffeine in drinking chocolate—but less than in most coffee or teas.
Is drinking chocolate the same as cocoa powder?
No, drinking chocolate and cocoa powder are not the same, though the terms are often used interchangeably when it comes to the term “hot chocolate." Cocoa powder is an ingredient in drinking chocolate, but most “drinking chocolates” include other ingredients to make the drink richer and more flavorful like sugar, vanilla, and more.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Karen Resta is a writer specializing in food culture and history, cooking, pastries, and restaurants. A former pastry chef, she has traveled to Budapest, Kyiv, and Paris during their Fashion Weeks as a photographer and writer, always finding the best authentic pastries along the way. She keeps up to date in the chocolate world with a network of friends who are chocolatiers and pastry chefs, as well as keeping in touch with people who make chocolate all around the world.
Amanda McDonald is an editor at The Spruce Eats and has over seven years of experience researching, writing, and editing about all things food — from what new products are at the grocery store to chef-approved hacks that keep tricky leftovers fresh for days.
Food and Drug Administration. How GMOs are regulated for food and plant safety in the United States.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Part 163—Cocoa Products.
United States Department of Agriculture. Abridged List Ordered by Nutrient Content in Household Measure: Caffeine.
United States Department of Agriculture. Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened.