We’re in the thick of winter here in Ohio. And if you’re not one to love the cold, the only way to get through this time of year is to appreciate the little things that bring comfort: warm furry blankets, hearty soups, crackling fires, and of course, a steamy cup of hot chocolate.
Phil and I sought out the best hot chocolate (with a little coffee in the mix) on a cold and windy day in Cincinnati this month. We found more than just hot chocolate, but the cocoa was undoubtedly the spotlight of the day.
We started in Over-The-Rhine, known to Cincinnatians as OTR. Mr. Cincinnati himself was there to greet us at the start of our adventure, tipping his hat in warm welcome.
1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab
Our first stop: 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab, where the wine, whiskey, and coffee selections are impressive. But we were there with one thing in mind. “Hot chocolate, please,” we requested with rosy cheeks and ice-cold fingertips. They offered a regular hot chocolate or a spicy version. We went for the latter, and it didn’t disappoint. Just enough kick to tickle and warm my throat, but still very chocolaty and with soft foam on top. Coffee note: Phil also got a latte, and he declared it the best coffee of the day.
The small latte at 1215 was just enough to tease a hardcore coffee drinker like Phil. With a desperate need for more caffeine, we headed to OTR’s Coffee Emporium next.
Inside and out, Coffee Emporium gives off a relaxed industrial vibe. But it’s also warm and inviting, with ample open space to grab a coffee, take a seat and enjoy. They offered a seasonal white hot chocolate in addition to their original, so I decided to go for something different. It was quite yummy but very sweet, tasting almost like cereal milk. If you like a marshmallowy cup of hot chocolate, you’d like this one. Coffee note: Phil really liked the latte here too, but he regretted not trying their regular brewed coffee, as they are known for their own roasts.
With warm cups in hand, we charged on to our next destination in the city, Washington Park, about a five-minute walk from OTR. We enjoyed the lovely views of the historic neighborhood along the way.
The brisk walk and warm drinks helped keep us warm in the park. And despite the temperatures, we weren’t the only ones out enjoying the blue sky day. Owners with their dogs, joggers with their earbuds, and couples holding hands, all of them bundled in winter gear, peppered throughout the park.
We made our way to the grand lawn in front of the Cincinnati Music Hall, where we studied the building’s beautiful architecture. From there, we caught a glimpse of Findlay Market in the distance, our next stop. After some people (and dog) watching, we headed down a street lined with cute townhomes and the occasional stunning mural leading us to the public market.
I’d never seen Findlay Market so cold. The sidewalks were stained in salt, giving the market an appearance of being frozen solid. And the wind seemed to whip a little more fiercely here, making those string lights dance in Jack Frost’s icy breath.
Even our friend, Mr. Redlegs, appeared chilled with a flash-frozen smile on his face. But the colorful buildings were still alive and well. And there, of course, would be hot chocolate to bring us back to life.
Maverick Chocolate Co.
Out of all the places I’d mapped out for hot chocolate in Cincinnati, Maverick Chocolate Co. was the one that excited me most. Being a chocolate shop, I figured they’d have a pretty good cup of hot chocolate. I was wrong- they don’t have a “pretty good cup of hot chocolate.” They have a fantastic cup of hot chocolate, one that completely exceeded my expectations.
I’d take a trip out to Findlay Market in the cold again just for this single cup of cocoa. They offer only one size, and it’s small, but you don’t need any more than this. Each sip is like a nibble on a nub of dark chocolate. Rich, melty, decadent, and topped with cream and shavings of milk chocolate. My goodness, it’s crazy good…
We had fun walking around Findlay Market, energies high on sugar. This neighborhood market is full of interesting finds. We shopped for spices at Colonel De, finding a Cincinnati-inspired chili spice we used later that night for soup- super yummy! Lucca is my favorite spot in the market for home decor, a female-owned shop focused on beautiful woodwork with a chill, modern, and neutral vibe. And Dean’s Mediterranean Imports is a dream for an olive and feta lover like yours truly.
There’s so much more to explore here. Read this GoNOMAD article, “Cincinnati Fit for Foodies“, featuring Findlay Market food tours for more tasty ideas.
Rounding out our trip, we ended up back in OTR for our last stop- Taste of Belgium.
Taste of Belgium
Taste of Belgium is a Cincinnati eatery that serves Belgian fare with a twist. It’s a sit-down or carry-out joint that has become a favorite among locals. The Belgian beers and waffles, along with galettes, crepes, and burgers, are what keep people coming back. But I heard through the grapevine they happened to have some pretty good hot chocolate. So we ran in for a cup on our way out of town, and it was worth the stop. The hot chocolate was super steamy with cream and a sprinkle of cocoa on top. It reminded me of my childhood hot chocolate, the kind my mom would make on the stove and sprinkle with mini marshmallows.
I guess that’s why I love hot chocolate so much. It’s a comfort and reminds me of being a kid when worries were low and life seemed a little more straightforward. But we are all still just big kids, after all, needing those warm comforts regardless of age.
I hope you’re able to find the comforts that bring you the most joy, peace, and love this winter.
Till next time,