IN FROM THE COLD

Where to Drink Hot Chocolate in NYC

Eight cafes for savoring the sweetest part of winter: generous mugs of rich, melted chocolate infused with vanilla, cinnamon, even chipotle.

Chocolate Bar may bill itself as a "candy store for grown-ups," but the easygoing West Village café also sees its share of kids and dogs. Big windows, decorated with seasonal crafts and logo-emblazoned T-shirts, are perfect for people-watching—and sipping generous mugs of thick yet very drinkable hot chocolate. Chocolate Bar uses ground bittersweet chocolate chips and offers several varieties, such as caramel, raspberry, and peppermint. 19 8th Ave., 212/366-1541, from $4. Photos 1 of 3

While best known for its expert brewing and gourmet coffee beans, Joe The Art of Coffee also prepares a memorable hot cocoa. Mugs topped with a swirling heart or leaf design are reminiscent of chocolaty cappuccinos. What it lacks in size, Joe makes up for with warmth and comfort. Worn wooden floors absorb the shouts of baristas and the roar of espresso machines, and chatty regulars cram around bright yellow tables at the West Village location, one of five. 141 Waverly Place, 212/924-6750, 9 E. 13th St., 405 W. 23rd St., 44 Grand Central Terminal in the Graybar passage, 514 Columbus Ave., from $3. Photos 1 of 3

Chocolatier Katrina Markoff's international travels inspire unusual flavor combinations. The current selection at Vosges Haut-Chocolat encompasses white chocolate infused with Australian lemon myrtle and lavender, and the Parisienne Couture Cocoa, a lusty mix of dark chocolate and Madagascar vanilla bean. The hot chocolate arrives in tall, slender glasses and is available at two locations: a block from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on tony Madison Avenue, and in Soho. 1100 Madison Ave., 212/717-2929, 132 Spring St., 212-625-2929, from $5. Photos 1 of 3

Whimsicality rules at Max Brenner, from the cartoonish murals of jolly children to the egg-shaped Hug Mugs brimming with hot chocolate. It tastes surprisingly light, frothy, and pleasantly sweet. Dark and white hot chocolate, and flavors like toffee and Mexican Spicy are on the menu, alongside gooey chocolaty desserts. The large bi-level space draws crowds of Union Square shoppers and tourists and stays open late—till midnight on weeknights, 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. on Sundays. 841 Broadway, 212/388-0030, from $5.25. Photos 1 of 3

The celebrity name doesn't hurt, but Jacques Torres Chocolate's mildly spicy Wicked hot chocolate, prepared with frothed milk and served with whipped cream, is what brings customers back. The on-site factory, visible through windows in the Tribeca store, also churns out a tempting array of pastries and chocolates. Children seem especially taken with the setting: Oversize stuffed star pillows and kid-size tables and chairs are arranged below hulking chandeliers. 350 Hudson St., 212/414-2462, 285 Amsterdam Ave., 66 Water St. in Brooklyn, from $3.25. Photos 1 of 3

At City Bakery, a bustling two-level café north of Union Square, baker and chocolatier Maury Rubin has been dreaming up new flavors annually since 1990. Nearly pudding-thick, the hot chocolate is ladled from a steaming cauldron and poured into bowl-size cups. Say yes to a homemade marshmallow, a fluffy pillow that melts slowly, and watch the hungry crowds squeeze into booths to nosh on freshly baked pastries and plates of gourmet salads. 3 W. 18th St., 212/366-1414, from $4.50. Photos 1 of 3

Inside MarieBelle's Cacao Bar and Tea Salon, gilded mirrors reflect silver platters of pastries and white porcelain cups and saucers, and silent films are projected on a wall. Settle in with a cup of the trademark Aztec Hot Chocolate, made with Colombian cacao beans. Aztec Spicy, one of many creative variations, is creamy and teeming with cinnamon, chipotle, ancho chile, and nutmeg. Order yours American style (with milk) or European style (with water). 484 Broome St., 212/884-9707, from $6. Photos 1 of 3

Chef Tom Colicchio's 'Wichcraft cafes are refreshingly simple, with menus emphasizing high-quality ingredients and careful preparation. Inside the two-floor Midtown location, laid-back baristas greet morning regulars by name and fill mugs of coffee and strikingly flavorful hot chocolate—a rich, dark cocoa taste lingers on the lips. Despite the industrial-chic decor, 'Wichcraft makes a great place to warm up after skating at The Pond at Bryant Park or browsing its holiday market. 555 5th Ave., 212/780-0577, 11 E. 20th St., 269 11th Ave., 397 Greenwich St., 568 Broadway, 60 E. 8th St., 1 Park Ave., 11 W. 40th St., 245 Park Ave., 1 Rockefeller Plaza, Broadway at 32nd and 35th Sts., from $3.50. Photos 1 of 3

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