How to Create the Ultimate Hot Chocolate Bar

And, host a hot chocolate party this winter

hot chocolate bar candy and cookies

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

A tall mug of rich hot chocolate is easy to love, especially when it comes with all the fixings. As the temperature drops and the winter blues creep in, we find delight in the cheer hot chocolate season brings. That's why one of our favorite winter activities is gathering our people for an old-fashioned hot chocolate party.

If you've never made hot chocolate from scratch, but want to give it a go, we recommend learning how to melt chocolate—it’s a touch trickier when combining it with liquids. However, if you’re aiming for a low-fuss approach, there are plenty of delicious drinking chocolates to choose from.

We'll provide you with the framework to help the ultimate hot chocolate bar for you. We’ll also show you how to get creative with the process, so you can easily put a personal touch on things without breaking the bank.

The Guest List

Hennessy hot cocoa in a mug, garnisheed with nutmeg and chocolate

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

It helps to start with a list of guests who will attend your hot chocolate bash to know not only how many people you are serving but also any specific diets you may need to adjust for. Specifically, allergies, ketogenic diets, and vegan diets may be the most strict to plan around. Luckily, we offer plenty of keto-friendly and vegan-approved hot chocolate recipes to make every stomach happy.

If you are unsure of how best to include your loved ones with special diets, you can always ask them about their favorite ingredients, relative to planning your hot chocolate bar. After all, they're the experts on what they love most!

Equipment & Dishware

Old-Fashioned Hot Chocolate With Variations

The Spruce / Preethi Venkatram

The Main Attraction

A hot chocolate bar doesn’t require that much in the way of special appliances, but there are a few considerations you’ll want to plan for. Most obviously, you will need something to hold a big batch of hot chocolate in and ideally, one that can also keep it warm. This makes a crockpot or slow cooker the perfect option, but you can also set up an electric burner and pot, stirring the hot chocolate occasionally.


Apart from what you’ll use to hold the hot chocolate, it’s good to consider what you’ll use to serve the toppings and/or snacks. You can create a tablescape of the supplies and ingredients or make a giant hot chocolate board. Things to consider:

  • Jars, ramekins, or mise en place bowls
  • Measuring cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons
  • Serving bowls, trays, tiered stands, lazy Susan


As for mugs, you can provide them or even ask your guests to bring their own personal favorite from home. Not only does this make cleanup easier, but it's a great icebreaker to see everyone's mug "personality."


Other add-ons you may want to include are decorations, labels, signs, and more festive items. After all, planning a hot chocolate bar bash is the perfect occasion to express yourself. We like to start with a theme and take things from there. If you’re making it holiday themed, these Christmas table decoration ideas may inspire you. You can also create homemade cards or stickers to label your ingredients, or even make a DIY sign to lay out on the table or elsewhere.

Ingredients & Toppings

crock pot hot chocolate

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

With the guest list and most of the accessories in order, now is a good time to think on hot chocolate recipes as well as which toppings and finger-foods to include. Of course, you can always opt for the old-fashioned hot chocolate recipe, but if you want to switch things up, there are endless hot chocolate twists to try (including frozen hot chocolate). Equally, toppings can be as traditional or creative as you like:

If you want to provide snacks for your guests, make sure they’re not too heavy on the chocolate since you'll have plenty of that in your cup. Learn about which foods pair well with hot chocolate or feel free to outsource this part to your guests.

Make it Boozy

Dark 'n Fluffy Cocktail in glasses

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Of course, this may not be the vibe you’re going for but if it is, boozy hot chocolate is everything you imagine—delicious. Because chocolate is such a strong flavor choose smooth, barrel-aged liquors or high-quality, simple tasting bottles. Try one (or more!) of the following:

  • Brandy
  • Cognac
  • Whisky
  • Bourbon
  • Dark rum
  • Vodka

Many liqueurs play well in a boozy hot chocolate drink as well:

  • Kahlúa
  • Baileys
  • Frangelico Hazelnut
  • Disaronno Amaretto

Set it All Up

Death by Chocolate Cocktail

The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

The feng shui of the event is also good to consider, especially if you have more than a few guests coming. Of course, it all depends on the layout of your home but generally, you’ll want to designate an area where guests can kick-off shoes, hang up jackets, and gather around.

Next, decide where you want to set up your hot chocolate bar. To account for any spills, consider a smooth surface or lay down a sheet that you don’t mind getting dirty. Finally, arranging the servingware and ingredients is all about what appeals to you. That said, it may be helpful to do a trial run to see how you naturally go about building your own hot chocolate to see the placement and flow of your bar.