Plus, a great shortcut to your own DIY mix!
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Whether it is a mid-afternoon pick-me-up in place of a snack, or a way to keep warm while having a distanced visit on our front porch, hot chocolate has quickly becoming a part of our routine, and as such, we have been doing a deep dive into finding which mixes work best for us. Much like tea drinkers often have a library of blends and flavors to choose from, we have found that having a few different types around means we can pick the perfect hot chocolate for every occasion!  Think about stocking your pantry with these shelf-stable mixes for all kinds of fall and winter needs.

Abuelita hot chocolate
Credit: Courtesy Amazon

For boozy beverages: Abuelita Mexican Hot Chocolate Tablets

Cinnamon and chocolate are a natural pairing, and I have always been a fan of Mexican hot chocolate (Nestle’s version, featuring the original Mexican brand’s use of actress Sara García Hidalgo as a classic abuelita—or grandmother—is easy to find and inexpensive). Disks of spiced chocolate designed to be chopped up and whisked into hot milk are a surprisingly sophisticated beverage that is great on its own, but even better with a shot of something extra warming. Bourbon and dark rum are both terrific in this, and a steaming mug of spiked spicy chocolate is the perfect thing in front of a fire. Sometimes we add a pinch of cayenne or other chili to really amp up the heat.

Buy it: Abuelita Authentic Mexican Hot Chocolate Tablets ($3.19),

Land o Lake Hot Chocolate
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For mid-afternoon pick me ups: Land O’Lakes Cocoa Classics Chocolate Supreme

When you want a quick hot drink with minimal fuss, you want a hot cocoa mix that just needs some boiling water stirred in, and no fussing with warming milk. We have tasted probably a dozen different versions and keep coming back to Land O’Lakes. It has that rich flavor that is a bit nostalgic, soothing, but plenty creamy for a water-mixed powder.

Buy it: Land O’Lakes Cocoa Classics Chocolate Supreme Hot Cocoa Mix ($7.49),

Silly cow hot chocolate mix
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For lazy weekend mornings: Sillycow Farms Hot Chocolate

When you want to go that extra mile with the warm milk and maybe a marshmallow (or three), you want to look for a more premium blend. Sillycow sells its various flavors in adorable mini glass milk bottles, and produces a deep, rich hot chocolate that is just the thing to bridge brunch and a nap.

Buy it: Sillycow Farms Hot Chocolate Chocolate Truffle ($6.89, list price $8.09),

Swiss Miss hot chocolate
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For taking the edge off the indulgence: Swiss Miss Reduced Calorie and No Added Sugar Hot Cocoa Mixes

Swiss Miss makes two versions of its hot cocoa mix that are less of a calorie load and sugar bomb than the rest. Their no sugar added version has clean chocolate flavor with about 50-70% of the calories of most other brands, and their reduced calorie version is only about 25-30%, so much more of a manageable treat if such things are important to you.

Buy it: Swiss Miss Reduced Calorie Hot Cocoa Mix ($3.49),

Buy it: Swiss Miss No Added Sugar Hot Cocoa Mix ($5.79),

Valrhona powder hot chocolate
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Bonus: Make your own mix!

When it comes to hot chocolate, there is simply no substitute for making your own homemade version. This is the ultimate treat, and a skill worth having. This is the hot chocolate you make when you have suffered a heartbreak, or are enraged at the state of the world, or are in need of intense comfort and pleasure… In other words, the most 2020 hot chocolate imaginable. And the ratio is simple. For every cup of milk (whole milk, please, if possible) you will need a quarter cup of chopped chocolate and a teaspoon of cocoa powder. This is the place to use the good stuff, so invest in a high-quality baking chocolate and cocoa powder. I use Valrhona, and my favorite combo is their 70% Guanaja and their 100% cocoa powder, which gives a luxurious and deeply chocolate drink with enough bitterness to be balanced and not cloying. I heat the milk to just shy of boiling and then whisk in the cocoa powder till it is fully combined, and then pour the hot mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and whisk vigorously till it is melted and combined.

Buy it: Valrhona Guanaja 70% Baking Bar ($12.99),

Buy it: Valrhona Pure Cocoa Powder ($17),

instant milk frother
Credit: Courtesy Walmart

Bonus Bonus: How to take your hot chocolate game to the next level

If you really want to increase your hot chocolate joy, try a milk frother that also heats the milk! Being able to quickly and easily make a great warm frothy milk is the key to superior hot chocolate experience, not to mention lattes or cappuccinos for you coffee drinkers. I’m loving this new Instant brand milk frother; it has settings for both hot and cold frothing and makes a really thick foam with serious staying power.

Buy it: Instant Brand Milk Frother ($29.92),