A cup of hot chocolate made from Hershey’s cocoa mix. I found it to be the best, although it requires a little more work to make. Photo by Abe Nelson.

As the days get shorter and more rainy, there are few better ways to spend your day than inside with a mug of hot chocolate. But not all cups of cocoa are created equal. Here are some of the best options to enjoy this season.

First of all, you will never be able to reach peak enjoyment when using water in your cocoa. Milk adds the extra creaminess that can’t be achieved with water. All of the hot chocolates reviewed here were made with milk.

Coming in first place is Hershey’s recipe for their cocoa powder. While it isn’t an instant mix, it was worth the extra time. It was much richer and darker than the others. Due to this, it felt closer to what you would get in a restaurant. While it does require more work, the benefit of making your own cocoa means you will also be able to fine tune the recipe to your liking. The recipe, which is available on Hershey’s website, makes enough for six cups.

Swiss Miss is a classic, and out of the instant hot chocolate mixes, it comes in first. While it is much sweeter than the Hershey’s, it maintains a rich flavor, and may have nailed the amount of salt. The marshmallow version is especially good, because who doesn’t love marshmallows in their cocoa?

Steven’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Mix came next. Because of it being dark chocolate, and because of the price, I was expecting a step up from Swiss Miss. While the chocolate was indeed darker and richer, it was too salty. A little bit of salt helps make a good cup of cocoa, but in this case it overshadows the richness, leaving us with more of a salted milk drink than a hot chocolate.

Two of my least favorite cocoas were Nestlé, and a Fred Meyer branded Dutch hot chocolate. Nestlé’s mix is most similar to Swiss Miss, but too sweet. It was also oversalted, and not rich enough, leaving a slight aftertaste. The Fred Meyer hot chocolate, unsurprisingly, wasn’t especially inspiring either. It was too sweet, and the chocolate flavor was too weak.

Hopefully you will be able to find a hot chocolate that fits your tastes for this winter. If you are looking for a little extra enjoyment, I always recommend adding whipped cream!

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