Hot Cocoa, hot chocolate, or sipping chocolate… Is there a difference?

Air turning crisp? Pumpkin spice season wrapping up? There is no better welcome to winter than a cozy mug of hot cocoa. Filled with nostalgia and chocolatey goodness, it’s a joy that never grows old! 

But here’s a question to consider: 

Was that hot cocoa in your cup? Was it hot chocolate? Was it sipping chocolate?

Most people use “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” in a quick switch. While “sipping chocolate” sounds like something loftier. 

All three terms describe a warm cup of deliciousness, but they are very different drinks. So, let’s look into this a little more because you might find that you’ve been missing out on some amazing beverages!

Cup of hot chocolate flavored with chili pepper


Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, sugar, and milk. Also, hot cocoa tends to be sweet and light in body. Also, it often contains flavoring like vanilla or even spices like ground cinnamon. 

So those packets of Swiss Miss you grew up on are most definitely hot cocoa, and not hot chocolate. Using milk instead of water, when you can, makes for a creamier beverage. 

Don’t forget the whipped cream! Get every bit of cocoas goodness out of your mug. 


Hot chocolate is simply melted, shaved, or grated dark, white, or milk chocolate combined with either milk or water. You can tailor the intensity to suit your mood with milk leading to a richer drink than if you use just water. Hot chocolate is great on its own but it great to experiment with as well. 

Many flavors can be added to mix it up. 

Try adding a mix of roasted chili peppers. Or try a touch of cinnamon for a Mayan Hot Chocolate (you can cheat by melting my Aztec Soul bar instead). 

Want spiked hot chocolate? Add an ounce of dark liquor.


Finally, sipping chocolate is much richer than your normal cup of hot chocolate. This decadent drink consists of equal parts of luxury gourmet dark chocolate and heavy cream frothed to perfection. 

Think of it as a liquid truffle. That’s why I refer to it as a truffle shot. No alcohol needed!

Take drinking chocolate to a whole new level as rich, warm, velvety texture thickens the palate. Tastes intensified flavors as they slowly spread across the tongue. This decadent drink is served in a warmed espresso cup as just 2-3 ounces is so satisfying! 

Sipping chocolate is traditionally served unadorned as the simple elegance of this beverage is perfection in and of itself!


Seek out artisan chocolatiers and bean-to-bar chocolate makers. Regularly explore their chocolate offerings! Mix and match chocolate bars to create one of a kind chocolate drinks. 

I suggest buying only the chocolates that will be used, eaten, or drunk within a month or two max. Even though solid chocolate bars do not spoil quickly, it is best to stay safe. 

As with most good foods, chocolate rarely gets better with age. So why not get the maximum flavors and enjoyment that only the freshest chocolates can deliver? Your taste buds will thank you for it. 

Interested in trying some of the most beautiful and luxurious tasting chocolates in the world? Check out our award-winning chocolates. 

You will be amazed at how amazing chocolate can taste!

Karen Neugebauer is internationally recognized as being one of the best chocolatiers in the artisan chocolate industry. She is the owner and Master Chocolatier of Forte Chocolates, located about an hour north of Seattle in beautiful Mount Vernon, Washington. 

To get more information or to contact Chef Karen for custom projects/consulting services please send an email to or call 360-982-2159.