We love drinking hot chocolate all through the winter. There is something so deliciously cosy and decadent about hot chocolate that is very much needed during the cold weather and darker days. To make our hot chocolate shenanigans more exciting we like to create a hot chocolate bar at home where everyone in the family can decorate their own hot chocolate drink however they like.
By providing a range of tasty treats for hot chocolate we get to enjoy something different every day. PLUS, creating a hot chocolate station is a wonderful winter party idea. If you have guests coming to visit this can go down a treat. We just love being able to host and entertain at home, and an interactive food or drink experience adds a whole element of fun to the occasion.
A hot chocolate bar can really feel special for your guests. And you know? We all have different preferences, so you get to give all of your guests the perfect hot chocolate, whether they like loads of whipped cream and sprinkles, or marshmallows and sauce, there is something for everyone.
Your hot chocolate station (we call it both a hot chocolate bar AND hot chocolate station, we just can’t settle on a name yet!) can be as simple or elaborate as you like. As you can see from the photos we share here, we really did go all out in creating a cosy and creative space. Hopefully this will help give your some ideas for what to add your own hot chocolate bar. We do also have more inspiration on the DIY hot chocolate station where we listed all the ideas we had a few months ago.
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1. Equipment for your hot chocolate bar
The first thing to think about how is the practical set up of your hot chocolate bar. Where will you position it? Usually the kitchen or dining room is best. If you have a conservatory that might also be a cosy spot to set it up.
Now you need to decide what the hot chocolate bar will be set up on. Will you have the hot chocolate bar on a worktop, table, trolley, or something else?
Once you have the location and space sorted, you can think about the equipment for the hot chocolate bar. We like to use a slow cooker to make the hot chocolate and to keep it warm. We feel this is probably one of the safest ways to host a hot chocolate party with several people dipping in and out of it. We also provide a ladle to spoon the steaming hot chocolate into our large cups.
For the rest of you hot chocolate bar it is nice to have different levels for the various toppings and treats. We used a few cake stands to hold jars and snacks of varying sizes and types.
We also found some sections of tree rounds which add some rustic charm as well as another level to hold the jars of toppings on.
To hold the toppings it is nice to decant them into glass jars, not only does this look aesthetically pleasing, but can be less messy than a mass of unopened packets strewn across the table. We bough our jars from various discount stores on the high street.
Most importantly, you need a collection of cups or mugs for the hot chocolate. We loved these wide dark grey cups so there is more surface area to fill with marshmallows! It’s also nice to include spoons for your guests so they can scoop up the mountain of treats sinking into their cup of hot chocolate.
And finally, include napkins. We bought some festive-coloured red cotton napkins to roll up into a large jar. It looks cute and adds another element of luxury to the hot chocolate bar.
2. Props to decorate your hot chocolate bar
This is the fun bit! Once you have all your equipment, now you can think about how to make your hot chocolate bar pretty! We went to our local florist wholesaler to buy armfuls of evergreen foliage with we cut up to fit around the hot chocolate station.
Strings of fairy lights add atmosphere and sparkly to the hot chocolate set up. You can weave these amongst the jars and mugs. Ideally you might want to choose battery-operated fairy lights so that you don’t have to worry about hooking up to many plugs into the mains.
We also found some delightful garlands of fir cones and artificial holly strung together with lights. We bought a few more packets of fir cones which we dotted around the table to add texture and interest.
For extra decorative flourish we wrapped some of the jars with red twine and wrote the types of toppings on a brown kraft paper label. And on other jars we simply tied some red ribbon into a bow.
The final touch was a couple of candles. We have some large red candles to hand so we positioned those on one edge of set-up. Of course, if you have children around it might be best to either omit the candles or move them out of reach. We trusted that the adults we fine with avoiding reaching over the candles and kept themselves safe. The candles really do help set the cosy mood for the hot chocolate party.
3. Different types of hot chocolate
There are a few ways to make hot chocolate. Most of the time its personal preference to taste, texture, and effort. We like to make hot chocolate with milk and chocolate made up of 75% cocoa solids. Often we will make our hot chocolate with oat milk. This can be made by simply breaking up squares of chocolate into the milk either in a pan on the stove or in a slow cooker.
Another type of hot chocolate uses cocoa or hot chocolate powder. We really like the range of flavours on offer at Whittard including the turkish delight one. Again either stir into warm milk or use hot water.
There are so many brands and types of hot chocolate out there, having a hot chocolate bar could be a good excuse to try them all out!
And final mention, if you want to try something a little different you could maybe offer a malt drink like Ovaltine or Horlicks… experiment and see what they are like with various toppings.
4. Toppings ideas for hot chocolate
Toppings for hot chocolate are where you can get really creative! There are syrups, creams, milks, sweets, chocolates, sprinkles, and more. Get as experimental as you like to not only make your own hot chocolate how you like, but also to offer something fun and tasty for your guests.
Try to have a range of toppings on offer, particularly if you are hosting guests for a hot chocolate party. You want to at least include the classic favourites such as a can of whipped cream and some marshmallows.
And of course, for the adults, you could offer a few alcoholic options as well to make ‘hard’ hot chocolates. We like rum, whisky, amaretto, bailey’s, and tequila, when creating an adult hot chocolate bar.
On our hot chocolate bar we have:
Wafers with Hazelnut Cream Filling
Peppermint Candy Canes
Chocolate Butter Fudge Pieces
Caramel Stroop Waffles
5. How to set up the hot chocolate bar
Start with positioning your slow cooker, if you’re using one, so that the cord can be easily plugged into the wall socket or an extension lead. We put our slow cooker towards the back on one side so it was accessible at one end, but didn’t dominate the look of the hot chocolate as it’s not the prettiest thing.
Next up, arrange your cake stands and food boards with the tallest towards the back of the table and lowest near the front.
Nestle the evergreen foliage around the props followed by the fairy lights and other decorative pieces such as the fir cones and candles.
Decant all the toppings into the jars and decorate with twine, labels and ribbon to your pleasing. Then position these through the hot chocolate station. Now, add the clean cups, spoons, and napkins close to the slow cooker for ease of use.
Finally, take a step back and marvel at your beautiful hot chocolate bar.
6. Top tips for your hot chocolate bar
If you are hosting a hot chocolate party it is good practice to check for any allergies or food intolerances so you can cater accordingly. The most common requests might include veganism, gluten-free, and dairy-free. All of these can be met relatively easily by providing non-dairy hot chocolate options with various plant-based milk and vegan chocolate/powders. Do check all labels and maybe make a list or label your toppings accordingly.
We want to practice safety first with hot drinks, especially around children. So be sure to keep any wires for the slow cooker tucker away and hot of reach. Only use candles if you feel you can light them safely. And offer to pour/ladle the hot chocolate into cups for your guests.
If you buy jars that come with lids you can often store your toppings in them for much longer. This ideal if your hot chocolate station is going to be present feature in your home for a longer period over the winter.
Offer snacks to go along with your hot chocolate drinks. We had a plate of mince pies, cookies, and stroopwaffles as something tasty to nibble on. You can get creative with any kind of homemade baking or a few store bought nibbles.
And of course, take photos of your marvellous hot chocolate bar! If you’ve made the effort to create something wonderful, you’ll be sure to want to remember it again for future Christmas nostalgia.
We hope this guide to making a hot chocolate bar helps and inspires you. We had so much fun creating it and are even thinking of hosting a hot chocolate party for New Year’s Eve!