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8 Glasses of Rich Drinking Chocolate

By Sarah Freeman
December 9, 2013

Drinking chocolate is a far cry from the powdery stuff in the back of your pantry that will outlast the apocalypse. The intense, creamy, thick substance has a rich cacao flavor and is meant to be sipped slowly. The concoction dates back to the origins of chocolate itself, when the Aztecs would grow, trade and use cocoa beans as currency. The beans were usually consumed as a beverage. The first time it was sweetened was when the viscous beverage traveled to Europe, but it did not reach its final sugary form until hot chocolate was popularized in America.

Chicago's Erika Stone-Miller, the founder and executive chef of the underground supper club Octagon Mode, is reviving European-style drinking chocolate as the final and most popular course of her dinner. Inspired by trips to her French college roommate’s home that always began with demitasse cups filled with “the most delicious, intense chocolate I had ever tasted,” she turned this luxurious aperitif into an after-dinner signature. Stone-Miller’s European drinking chocolate service is available in two flavors, made in traditional copper pots and served with a side of steamed milk.

Although not common, both Mexican- and European-style drinking chocolate can be found around Chicago, if you know where to look. Stone-Miller and other chefs are turning up their noses to modern hot chocolate in favor of serving the finest chocolate in its purest form. Take a sip of the city's most decadent drinking chocolate, detailed below.

  • Photo by: Nick Murway

    Bar Toma

    Drink as the Italians do with this Venetian-style drinking chocolate. The base is made from 72% dark chocolate from Peru malted into milk and cream with a little bit of sugar. This creates a thicker and more concentrated version of its domestic counterpart. Because of its intense flavor, it is served in an espresso cup or cappuccino size.

    110 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-3110

  • Photo by: Anthony Thalier

    Hot Chocolate

    The restaurant's namesake is the traditional American hot chocolate spiked with a variety of seasonal flavors and liquor, but pastry chef Mindy Segal also offers both a Mexican hot chocolate and a French drinking chocolate. The Mexican hot chocolate is made with two-thirds dark chocolate, one-third milk, fresh cinnamon and cayenne, while the dark French-style is made with 72% French chocolate.

    1747 N. Damen Ave.; 773-489-1747

  • NoMI

    Pastry chef Meg Galus’ bittersweet couverture - a high-quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter - is the base of the hot chocolate that appears in the lounge from noon to 5 PM every day. Guests can opt for theirs to be light and creamy or rich and decadent, with an optional garnish of fresh chocolate shavings or cinnamon sticks.

    800 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-239-4030

  • Sprinkles

    Take that cupcake with a side of extra-thick drinking chocolate, now until March 31. The gourmet cupcake shop's decadent drinking chocolate is made from bittersweet Belgian chocolate and topped with a vanilla bean marshmallow.

    50 E. Walton St.; 312-573-1600

  • Katherine Anne Confections

    You bet this chocolate-making expert knows a thing or two about turning her favorite medium into liquid form. Katherine Duncan’s drinking chocolate comes in an array of flavors - salted caramel, Mexican hot chocolate, white chocolate chai, vanilla black pepper and peppermint - and comes with a choice of two marshmallows. The chocolate is so rich only 7% of patrons finish it in the store - most have to finish the drink at home. Bonus: watch this Zagat video to learn how to make it yourself.

    2745 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-245-1630

  • Octagon Mode

    Take a sip of Erika Stone-Miller’s European drinking chocolate at her underground supper club. Each multicourse, BYO dinner concludes with drinking chocolate served out of the shiny copper pots with twice-baked, octagon-shaped sugar biscuits called “Doublé Huit biscuits.”

    1509 W. Lawrence Ave.

  • XOCO

    The elixir of choice at Rick Bayless’ fast-casual concept is the authentic Mexican drinking chocolate made from cacao beans that are roasted and processed in-house. The chocolate base is mixed with different types of liquid, from almond to chile water, to create different flavors and textures. The richest and most viscous of the bunch is the Mexico City Thick, which is best enjoyed with a side of churros dusted with sugars and flakes of the same chocolate.

    449 N. Clark St.

  • Vosges

    The gourmet chocolate shop offers three varieties of drinking chocolate at its Lincoln Park boutique. The Aztec Elixir Couture Cocoa is inspired by the ancient drink made with crushed cacao beans, chiles, cornmeal and spices, a version believed to hold aphrodisiac powers. La Parisienne Couture Cocoa is a less-spicy version made with Madagascar vanilla bean pieces and dark chocolate. The shop also has a white version spiced with lemon myrtle, lavender flowers and vanilla.

    951 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-296-9866


Places Mentioned

Nomi Restaurant

American • Gold Coast

Food26 Decor27 Service26 Cost$72
Bar Toma

Italian • Gold Coast

Food17 Decor16 Service17 Cost$36

Mexican • River North

Food27 Decor16 Service18 Cost$19
Food24 Decor21 Service21 Cost$33
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