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Set up an epic hot chocolate bar that your family and holiday guests will rave about using these easy recipes, ideas, and tips.
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Hot chocolate bars (or stations) are a fun way to concoct all sorts of festive cocoa creations. Your guests can create their own hot chocolate drinks by adding flavorings, candies, fun toppings, and syrups to their own liking.
You can create a hot chocolate station for any kind of gathering, including Christmas parties, birthdays, baby or bridal showers, receptions, etc. A DIY hot chocolate bar is SO easy to set up, and we will give you all the tips and tricks to add holiday cheer to your next gathering!
How To Make Hot Chocolate
First and foremost, when making a hot chocolate bar, you need hot chocolate. You can use any kind of hot cocoa mix, store bought or homemade (hot chocolate recipe). I added 3 cups of hot chocolate mix to 1 gallon of hot milk and it was just right for about 15 servings.
To heat your milk, you can either use a cocoa machine or you can gently heat the milk on the stove on medium-low heat. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn’t curdle. You can also use hot water instead of milk if you prefer. Use an immersion blender to mix in the cocoa powder and make it nice and frothy.
Ingredients to put on a Hot Chocolate Bar
When it comes to items for a hot chocolate station, the sky’s the limit when it comes to toppings, sweet treats and add-ins. Let’s break it down into different sections of the station/bar so you can group the like items together when you are setting it up:
1. Stir Ins:
These are the items that can be stirred or melted directly into the cup of hot chocolate before adding toppings.
- Creamers – Creamers can add a fun flavor to the cocoa and also cool it down for easier drinking. The flavor possibilities are ENDLESS! Some of my favorites favorites are Snickers, Almond Joy, Caramel, White Chocolate Raspberry, Funfetti, Coconut. Gingerbread, and Hazelnut. These types of creamers can all be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. You can also find individual creamer cups, which are also really fun, in the coffee aisle.
- Peanut Butter Cups
- Mini chocolate chips
- Andes Mints: Lay them out on the table in their wrappers or chop them up into smaller bits.
- Ghiradelli Chocolate Squares: these come in so many fun flavors too and they are the perfect size to melt in a cup of cocoa.
- Chocolate Oranges: For those of you who like a citrus twist in your cocoa. I also love using the chocolate raspberry oranges but sometimes they can be a little more difficult to find.
- Peppermint Bits
- Whipped Cream – the spray can kind is so convenient for a cocoa bar.
- Marshmallows – Large, mini marshmallows, marshmallow bits, fun-shaped, or flavored marshmallows
- Chocolate Syrup
- Caramel Sauce
3. Garnishes and Candies
This is what I like to sprinkle over the top of the toppings to take it to the next level. These added toppings are what make your cocoa creation really impressive!
- Chopped Candy Canes
- Chopped chocolate bars – Snickers, Reeses, Hershey’s bars etc.
- Ground cinnamon – just a dash on top of some whipped cream looks so festive and pretty.
- Dehydrated Marshmallow Bits
- Milk Chocolate Chips (or any chocolate chip flavors)
- Any other creative garnishes or candies
4. Edible Stir Sticks and Spoons
- Peppermint Sticks
- Candy Canes
- Pirouette Cookies
- Chocolate Spoons (make your own using a mold or purchase them on Amazon)
- Cinnamon Sticks
5. Serve It With
Pair your hot chocolate creation with some sweet treats, including:
- Stroopwafles (wafer cookies filled with caramel, you can usually find them at Costco during the holidays)
- Gingerbread cookies
- Christmas cookies
- Danish butter cookies
- TimTams (gotta do the TimTam Slam!)
How To Set Up a Hot Chocolate Bar
To set up a hot chocolate bar, all you need is a table, a table cloth, and some trays and bowls. For the bar that I created, I added a box under the table cloth to make another level and add extra interest.
Much like a charcuterie board, you can be as creative as you want with whatever you have on hand. Cups, bowls, plates, Mason jars, cookie tins, a tiered tray, and even mugs of all shapes and sizes can be used to hold your toppings and ingredients.
Putting It All Together (Make it “Flow”)
To make your cocoa bar “flow”, you will want to put everything in the right order. Here’s how to lay it all out:
- Have the hot chocolate at the beginning of the bar, along with mugs or paper coffee cups, spoons, straws, and napkins.
- Next in line, place all the things that will stir into the cocoa such as creamers and add-ins.
- Then, place whipped cream and ice cream toppings as well as candy bits, marshmallows, and any other fun things to sprinkle over the top.
- Finally, you will want to have cookies and treats to serve alongside or dip into your hot chocolate. That’s it! By going in this order your cocoa bar will flow smoothly as guests work their way through.
Themed Hot Chocolate Bar Ideas
It is easy to build your hot chocolate bar around a theme or idea depending on what you are going for. The hot chocolate bar that I made was for a Christmas-themed birthday (it was actually an “Elf” movie-themed party, close enough, right) but it would have worked for a company Christmas party of even a Christmas-y reception or shower.
One year I made a “unicorn” hot chocolate bar with pink cocoa and pink, purple, and gold sprinkles for my little girl It was a HUGE hit with her little friends.
You can do a Valentine’s theme, candy bar theme, or even a FROZEN hot chocolate bar in the summer to cool off. The sky is the limit.
Get creative and don’t forget to tag us at @favoritefamilyrecipes on Instagram so we can see your creations!
Frequently Asked Questions About a Hot Chocolate Bar
The easiest way to keep your cocoa warm is to put it in a large slow cooker or crockpot after heating. I just put it on low heat and it kept it perfectly warm. To keep the cocoa mixture from settling on the bottom, use a whisk or immersion blender to mix it back up every once in a while.
To fill in any blanks spaces on your table, just add decorations that will go along with your theme. Use vase fillers, pinecones, plastic berries, evergreen springs, a Christmas candle, a wreath, etc.
In addition to the sweet treats listed above, try serving bowls of roasted almonds, toasted pumpkin seeds, pretzels or a cheese platter.
Read Next:25+ Christmas Dessert Ideas
More Hot Chocolate Recipes
Hot Chocolate Bar
- CrockPot or Slow Cooker
- Heat milk slowly over medium heat in a large stock pot, stirring often. Remove from heat before milk comes to a boil.
- Add hot chocolate powder mix and use a whisk or use an immersion blender to mix until well combined.Serve immediately or place hot chocolate in a large slow cooker or Crockpot until ready to serve.
- Serve immediately or place hot chocolate in a large slow cooker or Crockpot until ready to serve. Serve with creamed, whipped cream, marshmallows, and other hot cocoa bar toppings and mix ins.
More hot chocolate flavors to tryTo add even more variety to your hot chocolate bar or hot chocolate station, gather some extra Crockpots and give your guests additional base cocoa choices. Try adding one or more of the following flavors of hot chocolate:
- Salted Caramel
- Dark Chocolate
- White Chocolate