Go On an Inner Loop Hot Chocolate Crawl

You say "hot chocolate," I say "hot cocoa." Both equal Liquid Holiday Spirit, so here's an assemblage of hot chocos to try all within a few zip codes. It's a beverage crawl for which you won't need a designated driver. (Unless you consider sugar high a form of impairment.)

5. Chocolat du Monde. Your marathon begins at Rice Village's cutest chocolate shop. Their hot chocolate (and I mean "hot chocolate") is made with milk mixed with enough melted fine Belgian chocolate to make your hair curl. Tip: Arrive in the late afternoon as they close just around sunset.

4. Starbucks on South Shepard. Not kidding. Just a few sips of their mass-produced peppermint mocha/white chocolate shiznit will make that first cup from Chocolat Du Monde taste all the sweeter and get you psyched for the better brews to come. It's only uphill from here.

3. Brasil. Fresh off the corporate blandness of Starbucks, you will appreciate Brasil's smooth, not-too-rich rendition of hot cocoa, which I recommend getting "to go" so as to facilitate evening window-shopping and antiquing.

2. Hugo's. Next stop is Hugo's, which seems to have nailed both ends of the beverage spectrum by proffering the city's best margarita and a kick-ass hot chocolate. Their version unsurprisingly involves more spice, courtesy of high quality Mexican chocolate laced with chile powder. The accompanying churros, albeit delicious, may became just an afterthought once you've started quaffing this spunky, delicious libation.

1. Dirk's. Their pumpkin spice latte is terrific, but you'll need something with a higher glycemic index to sustain your cocoa trip. Even with a sizable crown of whipped cream, Dirk's hot cocoa is milder and slightly bitter, a welcome wind-down to your crawl. Feeling a bit shaky/crazy/hyper? Add a sprinkle of cinnamon to level out your skyrocketing blood sugar.

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