Hot chocolate is a surefire remedy for Chicago's winter woes, but what’s even more vivifying? When said drink is spiked with liquor. From mezcal and Fernet to housemade Nocino, our city's stepping it up with an impressive variety of boozy varieties this year.
Leave it to the godmother of hot chocolate, Mindy Segal, to perfect its boozy form at her sweets temple, Mindy’s HotChocolate. The Bucktown icon rotates spirited hot chocolates on and off the menu, with the current offering a Fernet Branca– and Rittenhouse rye–based sipper called The Siren. It features espresso, steamed milk and the restaurant’s medium hot chocolate as the base. (Photo by Genevieve Burruss)
1747 N. Damen Ave.; 773-489-1747
Nocino, a walnut liqueur native to Italy, adds moxie to hot chocolates at sister restaurants The Bristol and Balena. The former is rich with flavors of cinnamon and citrus peel. Balena, meanwhile, compliments their Nocino with Gianduja chocolate, enriched with a mix of whole milk, sugar and egg yolks. (Photo: Balena)
The Bristol: 2152 N. Damen Ave.; 773-862-5555
Balena: 1633 N. Halsted St.; 312-867-3888
At Cindy’s, pastry chef Jove Hubbard curates a trio of boozy hot chocolates that could easily double as full-fledged desserts — especially considering the portion sizes. The Classic contains Madagascar vanilla, Guayaquil chocolate, vanilla marshmallows and Tuaca, an Italian liqueur flavored with citrus and vanilla; the Cinnamon Maple features BLiS maple syrup, Guayaquil chocolate, cayenne, cinnamon, chicory marshmallows and Ancho Reyes chile liqueur; and the Nutella Framboise has Nutella, Guayaquil chocolate, raspberry marshmallows and a splash of St. George raspberry liqueur.
12 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-792-3502
Chile de arbol lends a heady Mexican accent to the adult drink at Bottlefork. The Coca Azteca is a rich and fiery rendition made with Ancho Reyes liqueur, chilies, crème de cacao and milk.
441 N. Clark St.; 312-955-1900
Malted hot chocolate lays the framework for customizable and comforting cocktails at Bar Siena. The handiwork of pastry chef Amy Arnold, it features Cacao Barry cocoa, powdered milk, malt powder, sugar, housemade marshmallow fluff and crushed malted milk balls. And if that weren't decadent enough, guests can spike their cocoa with any alcohol of their choosing for an additional $5.
832 W. Randolph St.; 312-492-7775
Tequila is the tipple of choice at Dove’s Luncheonette, where the “Hot Chocolate Con un Punzón” is right at home among Tex-Mex fare. The chocolate in and of itself contains cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and a garnish of grated Saigon cinnamon — so it packs a hefty punch. Even more so when you opt to add vanilla-infused Calle 23 Blanco tequila. (Photo by Sandy Noto)
1545 N. Damen Ave.; 773-645-4060
Another agave-based option for hot chocolate is the Young at Heart being served at Sable Kitchen & Bar. Courtesy of bartender Patrick Natola, this variation uses Vida Mezcal instead of tequila, which makes perfect sense considering mezcal’s innate smokiness lends a campfire s’mores-type essence. It’s rounded out with Tempus Fugit Spirits crème de cacao, vanilla syrup, Bitter Truth chocolate bitters, Aztec chocolate bitters and allspice-infused whipped cream.
505 N. State St.; 312-755-9704
Cognac, lavender and pear converge at Elixir for a unique flavor profile. Dubbed “Sexual Chocolate,” the Andersonville bar serves their alluring version with Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, Himalayan lavender, Pur Likor Williams pear, chocolate and cream.
1500 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-654-1751
Uncommon Ground keeps it local for their rendition of booze-infused hot chocolate. The liquor of choice? Fireside Orange Liqueur from North Shore Distillery in Lake Bluff, Illinois. The orange and chocolate work together wonderfully, with the tangy citrus cutting through the heaviness of the cocoa. It’s served in bowls with whipped cream and grated Mexican chocolate.
3800 N. Clark St.; 773-929-3680
1401 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-9801
Few spirits are more harmonious with chocolate than Irish Cream. Kanela Breakfast Club combines the two, along with vodka and espresso, in their Polar Espresso drink. This intoxicating cocoa is available at all Kanela locations in Chicago.
1408 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-661-1010
3231 N. Clark St.; 773-248-1622
1552 N. Wells St.; 312-255-1206
502 E. Illinois St.; 312-380-0071
Not only does hot chocolate at Southport Grocery & Cafe come with the option to add Bulleit bourbon, but there’s the added benefit of bacon. This particularly boozy version comes with a fluffy marshmallow coated in bacon crumbles, which melt down into the cocoa adding a pleasant smoky component to complement the bourbon. Assuming you don’t inhale the marshmallow first.
3552 N. Southport Ave.; 773-665-0100
If hot chocolate got a passport and got drunk in Mexico, it would taste like the Tijuana Mocha at Staytion Market & Bar inside the revamped Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel. Made with Patrón Cafe, that intoxicating tequila-coffee hybrid, along with Mandarine Napoleon, Frangelico and an egg white for fluffiness, this is quite the exotic interpretation.
1 W. Upper Wacker Dr.; 312-372-7200
Caraway liqueur may not seem like the most obvious accent for hot chocolate, but it works wonderfully in all its aromatic, earthy glory at Bread & Wine, where the aromatic Eastern European spirit known as Kümmel is used in hot chocolate. It’s added to a mixture of milk chocolate, sugar, water and cocoa powder along with Green Chartreuse, sage simple syrup and roasted sage meringue.
3734 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-866-5266