Entertaining - Parties and Events

How to Create an Epic Hot Cocoa Bar

Is it chilly outside? Are you throwing a Christmas party? A winter themed party? Are the kiddos playing outside in the snow and they need a warmup? Whatever the case may be, I think the cold weather calls for the ultimate hot cocoa bar! A nice and cozy cup of hot cocoa is just what the doctor ordered!

For my younger son’s first birthday in January of 2022, when it was frigid cold outside, I decided to capitalize on the winter weather by throwing a Winter ONEderland Party! Get it? Winter One-der-land? Ha ha!!! I was used to throwing outdoor parties for my older son because he was born in July. We’d always have some awesome punch to serve our guests to cool off with, so I thought, let’s do the opposite here! A nice hot mug of cocoa to warm our guests!

We created an adorable hot cocoa bar, and it was a total hit! I think the hot cocoa bar got more attention than the cake! All the guests had so much fun making their own cups of cocoa with all the fun trimmings we offered! Because the hot cocoa bar was such a triumph, we decided to make it an annual tradition and offer it at all his birthday parties going forward! When he turned two in January 2023, the party theme was Two-The-Moon and we still had a hot cocoa bar, but we incorporated space trimmings, like star shaped marshmallows and star straws! It looked awesome and the cocoa was delicious!

Below are my step-by-step instructions for creating the ultimate hot cocoa bar for your next event:

*First: Determine your canvas/serving location: Determine where you want to have your hot cocoa bar and what you want to serve the trimmings on. In the kitchen? In the butler’s pantry? On the dining room buffet/sideboard? Kitchen Island? Maybe you set up a card table of some sort. Think about the most appropriate place to set it up. Think about necessary electrical outlets you may need access to.

How do you want to display all your exciting trimmings? In jars/bowls/vessels placed directly on the countertop? On a nice tray/platter? Do you make the hot cocoa fixings into a charcuterie board? There are various possibilities here. Think about ease of preparing the hot cocoa. You want your guests to be able to create their perfect cup without issue. We put all our toppings in various mason jars. The powdered cocoa was placed in a glass jar, so it could easily be mixed with hot water.

We placed our hot cocoa bar on the kitchen counter. I chose this location because we used our antique silver coffee/tea maker for the hot water dispenser and an outlet was available. Although we have outlets in the kitchen island, I thought this area was safer as we had little ones running around. I put all the hot cocoa fixings on a nice French Style melamine tray and displayed the Styrofoam cups on my two-tiered antique silver server to coordinate with the coffee maker! Of course!

Link to Country French tray I used: https://amzn.to/43PPZev

Below is how I set up the hot cocoa bar for the Two-The-Moon party the next year!

*Second: Make a list of what supplies you need and shop: Hot cocoa mix and hot water or even milk are givens here! Next, think about what other items are complements to hot chocolate. Marshmallows and whipped cream are pretty standard items, but also think outside of the box. Have fun with it! You are the designer here.

To assist you in making an epic hot cocoa bar below is a helpful shopping list for the items you see photographed:

  • Swiss Miss Premium Imported Cocoa – Milk Chocolate – 38.27 ounces/about 34 servings.
  • Wilton Trimming Kit with snowmen and candy canes – https://amzn.to/4aoLJ7X
  • DeBeukelaer Creme de Pirouline Chocolate Hazelnut Cookie Sticks – https://amzn.to/3VSWSd2
  • Milk Chocolate Chips – any brand -11.5 oz bag
  • White Chocolate Chips – any brand – 11.5 oz bag
  • Mini Marshmallows – any brand – 10 oz bag
  • Hammonds Vanilla Bean Marshmallow Squares – https://amzn.to/3xu24tC
  • Red Bird Soft Peppermint Candy Puffs – https://amzn.to/3TRVrZr
  • Candy Canes – any brand
  • Jet-Puffed Star Marshmallows – Local grocery store (Two-The-Moon edition)
  • Star Straws – https://amzn.to/3JborXe

The above list is just to give you ideas and promote inspiration. Some of the quantities are dependent upon the number of guests you have. We had a small group, so this set up worked great.

Have fun with it! Some other toppings can be hot cocoa bombs, unique shaped and flavored marshmallows, dehydrated marshmallows, meltaway items, hot chocolate or peppermint spoons, edible glitter, sprinkles, whipped creams, etc. To make it an adult version, you could even serve spiked hot cocoa with Kahlua, Peppermint Schnapps, Bailey’s, etc. Hot cocoa toppings and trimmings are all the rage right now, so a lot of stores carry these items. There is no limit here! Get creative and make it your own!

*Third – Garnishes/Decorative Accents: Once you have your shopping list in order, make sure you also think about garnishes. Something to jazz up your hot cocoa bar. For the Winter ONEderland party, I used snow covered pinecones as a garnish because they were fitting with the winter theme. Link to pinecones found here – https://amzn.to/49rddsl. Because they were in a pack of 25, I used the other pinecones to decorate other areas of my home.

I also used a silver glitter snowflake from the Winter ONEderland banner as a decorative accent. Link here: https://amzn.to/43YkMpu

For the Two-The-Moon event, I used glittery moon and star confetti to spruce up the hot cocoa bar. Link found here for the confetti: https://amzn.to/3J9JrO3

*Fourth: Set – Up: Now that you have the location, your canvas and all the fun toppings it is time for the exciting part! Setting it all up! Arrange all your items in a manner to allow guests to easily create their own unique mug of cocoa. There are no rules here!

We used a hot water dispenser for ours, but you may have your Keurig out for guests to use. Maybe you have an electric kettle or coffee carafe. Be sure to include utensils such as scoopers, spoons, tongs, etc. See to it that everything is set up, so your hot cocoa bar is user friendly! Be mindful of the time when you set items out. You want to ensure the water/milk is hot when guests arrive, and the marshmallows are fresh. Room temperature water/milk and stale marshmallows would definitely put a damper on things. We served ours with the cake!

*Fifth: Cozy Up and Enjoy: The work is done, the guests arrive, and everyone is loving your hot cocoa bar! Victory! Don’t forget to take pictures! Join the fun, make cocoa, but most importantly make memories.

(4) Comments

  1. This is such a cute idea! The snowmen are adorable and I love the idea of Pirouline cookies with hot cocoa! I’m hoping to plan a winter get together with friends and I’ll definitely use these ideas!

    1. Awesome to hear! Send pics! 🙂

  2. I love the idea of a hot cocoa bar! The snowmen marshmallows are absolutely adorable and the perfect addition to a hot cocoa bar. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you!!! 🙂

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