The best hot chocolate for the winter season

Krystal Koski, Staff Writer

The inevitable winter chill is rolling through West Michigan, and although I don’t find solace in the pristine, white snow, I do find amenity in fuzzy blankets, artificial heat, and a warm mug of hot chocolate. However, this momentary bliss is only achieved through the most delectable of drinks. With so many different brands and mixes to choose from, finding the perfect cup of cocoa can be quite the challenge. However, to aid in finding this blissful cup of hot chocolate, I have compiled my thoughts on certain brands and flavors of the ever-so-popular winter drink.

Swiss Miss–Caramel Cream

Swiss Miss is one of the most well-known brands in the hot chocolate industry, so when I made myself a cup of hot cocoa with their Caramel Cream mix, I was expecting perfection. What I got, however, was subpar. When I took the first sip, instead of being overwhelmed with the taste of caramel, I was searching for even a tint of a caramel taste. Sip after sip, I was obsessing over finding a hint of the caramel instead of relaxing with one of my favorite seasonal drinks. On top of the lack of caramel, the chocolate taste itself was average at best. Plus, the aftertaste that was left in my mouth after draining the mug was slightly bitter, an almost coffee-like taste. Overall, the Caramel Cream did not live up to the ideas I fabricated in my mind, and was surprisingly bland.

Ghirardelli–Double Chocolate

I have always been a fan of the Ghirardelli chocolates, so when I selected the hot chocolate mix off the shelf, I was again expecting a phenomenal flavor. Yet again, I was disappointed. The mix was called “Double Chocolate,” but the chocolate that I could taste barely qualified as single chocolate. While the chocolate I could taste was decent, it wasn’t as mind-blowing as I expected. With an odd, indescribable aftertaste left in my mouth, I would say Ghirardelli provided an exceptionally average mug of hot chocolate.

Archer Farms–Sea Salt Caramel

After tasting the incredibly disappointing Caramel Cream mix, I was anxious to try this Sea Salt Caramel hot cocoa mix. I was hoping that I would find a new favorite flavor in this Sea Salt Caramel mix, but yet again, I was disappointed. This first sip was utterly disgusting. I, having had taken an exceptionally large swig of what I thought would be a delicious drink had to hold back a gag. The “hot cocoa” tasted of two-day-old coffee water. Not only was the hot chocolate lacking caramel flavor, but it was also lacking the signature taste: chocolate. This watery disappointment of a drink is the exact opposite of my recommendation for a winter refreshment.

Swiss Miss– Marshmallow Lovers

After the previous disasters, I had ridiculously low expectations for my final cup of cocoa. This mix included the Swiss Miss classic flavor, with an extra packet of “marshmallows” to add with the chocolate. This drink, thankfully, was a pleasant surprise. My first sip excited my taste buds with the rich chocolate flavor. To follow the delectable chocolate taste, the artificial marshmallows created a layer of sweet foam on top of the actual drink, which added to the sweet joy to the cup of cocoa. While the plain chocolate taste turned me away at first, the classic taste reminded me of many winter days spent curled in a cozy blanket with a classic holiday movie on. Overall, the Marshmallow Lovers brought a classic taste, but a phenomenal taste nonetheless.

Sadly, only one of these cocoas earned itself a permanent place in my kitchen cupboard, and while the classic taste of rich chocolate and marshmallows may seem boring and plain, the taste brings back happy memories of winters past. Swiss Miss created the perfect cup of cocoa with Marshmallow Lovers, one that has earned the right to be my go-to hot chocolate for curling up with fuzzy socks and a blanket on a chilly winter day.