The ultimate winter classic: finding Burlington’s best hot chocolate

Where to go (and where to avoid) for your hot chocolate fix this winter.

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Ben and Jerry’s hot chocolate set against Church St. background Photo: Julia Keeton

I have never been an avid coffee drinker. Though I have tried many times over the years to enjoy the beverage, I still can not taste it without gagging. In the winter, I instead turn to another hot drink: hot chocolate.

It may seem simple, but do not be deceived. The temperature of an ideal hot chocolate must be hot, but not scalding. The ratio of chocolate to milk/cream must be balanced. Hot chocolate should be rich and creamy and it should warm you to your core.

In order to find the ultimate hot chocolate, I put five versions of the drink from different Burlington stores to the test.

Ben and Jerry’s

Ben and Jerry’s hot chocolate Photo: Julia Keeton
Hot chocolate menu at Ben and Jerry’s Photo: Julia Keeton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben and Jerry’s is not the first place that comes to mind when I think of hot chocolate. But as a lover of their chocolate ice cream, I had to see how their take on the winter classic compared. I was pleasantly surprised. Keeping with their brand, they incorporate ice cream into the drink, which makes for a rich, creamy, and customizable beverage. They recommend four flavors to choose from, but if you are feeling adventurous, you could theoretically request any of their 50+ ice cream flavors. I went for the classic option of Chocolate Therapy. This flavor increased the chocolate potency of the drink, but made it very thick. The texture and taste was closer to a sweet and creamy milkshake than a hot chocolate.

Price: $4.68

Temperature: 6/10

Ratio of milk/cream to chocolate: 7/10

Overall chocolate flavor: 8/10

New Moon Cafe

New Moon Cafe’s hot chocolate from above Photo: Julia Keeton

The name “New Moon” beautifully matches the black and grey decor of this cafe. Considering this theme, I expected their hot chocolate to be dark and smooth, the type of drink you would sip on a balcony at night, looking out at a city skyline. Instead, I received a close to lukewarm cup of milk and cream, with barely a hint of chocolate. Although the swirl of whipped cream is prettily arranged, there is too much of it. Upon first sip, all you taste is the whipped cream, milk, and a strange bitterness that only loosely resembles chocolate. Compared to the Ben and Jerry’s drink, New Moon’s hot chocolate was light and airy. Though in creating that texture, they seem to have sacrificed the chocolate part of hot chocolate. I do not recommend this hot chocolate for a cold winter’s night. 

Price: $4.00

Temperature: 4/10

Ratio of milk/cream to chocolate: 4/10

Overall Chocolate flavor: 5/10

Leunig’s Petit Bijou

view of Leunig’s Petit Bijou stand Photo: Julia Keeton
Leunig’s Petit Bijou hot chocolate Photo: Julia Keeton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leunig’s Petit Bistro is one of the more charming Church St. hot chocolate spots that I visited. It’s a wonderful place to warm up after a day of Christmas shopping in the cold. The initial sips I took of their hot chocolate were delicious. The balance between the cream and chocolate was just right, each enhancing the other. But this balance was fleeting as the whipped cream merely sat on the surface of the drink and did not mix with it. After my first few sips, the whipped cream was gone and the creamy texture along with it. I was left with a thinner consistency that, while refreshing after the bogged-down Ben and Jerry’s drink, did not quite meet my hot chocolate standards. Nevertheless, the drink remained extremely flavorful, which is ultimately the most important variable in a hot chocolate. Its subtly dark-chocolate taste was strong, rich, and refined and the hot, but not scalding temperature, perfectly suited the cold weather. 

Price: $3.89

Temperature: 10/10

Ratio of cream/milk to chocolate: 8/10

Overall Chocolate flavor: 9/10

Penny Cluse (Lucky Next Door)

The entrance to Lucky Next Door Photo: Julia Keeton

There isn’t much to say about this hot chocolate. None of the elements that I love about the beverage were there. For something advertised as “hot chocolate,” there seemed to be no chocolate in this drink. It tasted like extremely sweet, lukewarm milk. To tell the truth, I could barely swallow it. Penny Cluse is generally highly regarded for breakfast and lunch, but I do not recommend their hot chocolate.

Price: $2.50

Temperature: 3/10

Ratio of milk/cream to chocolate: 1/10

Overall chocolate: 1/10

Lake Champlain Chocolates

Lake Champlain Chocolate’ hot chocolate from above Photo: Julia Keeton

Entering Lake Champlain Chocolates, I had very high expectations. Even so, these expectations were surpassed! Aligning with its reputation, the local chocolate store really has mastered the art of the hot chocolate. The flavor in Lake Champlain Chocolates’ drink is unparalleled. It tasted like pure, creamy melted chocolate. The ratio of cream and milk to chocolate was just enough to enhance the drink, without overpowering the chocolate flavor. The fresh whipped cream was delicious and added another layer of texture and richness to the beverage. 

Price: $3.75

Temperature: 9/10

Ratio of cream/milk to chocolate: 10/10

Overall chocolate flavor: 10/10

Lake Champlain Chocolates hot chocolate mixes for sale Photo: Julia Keeton

Lake Champlain Chocolates also offers something that they call “drinking chocolate,” which is slightly more expensive at $4.00 and is offered in three different flavors: Old World 54% Dark, Peppermint 54%, and 72% Dark. I was intrigued to see how this differed from their regular hot chocolate, so I ordered a small peppermint. The rich flavor was the first thing I noticed about the drink. Whereas the classic hot chocolate was mixed with milk and whipped cream, this drink is basically just pure melted chocolate. For me, this is exactly what I was looking for and it is my favorite of the two.