Hot chocolate is a staple in my house when the temperature drops. I always have a small little hot cocoa bar set up on my breakfast bar with the basics; hot cocoa, a shaker of mini marshmallows, a hot water dispenser and mugs. My kids know that there is always a can or two of whip cream and some creamer in the fridge. All winter long it seems at least one person is either making or enjoying a cup of the yummy chocolatey goodness at any given time during the day. Because we are such hot cocoa fanatics, we have plenty of parties and get togethers where I want to do a bit more than the basics. My friends and family RAVE about my hot cocoa bar, and so I thought I would share some tips on how to make an easy and fun set up that I have learned through lots of trial and error.
6 tips to a fabulous Hot Cocoa Bar
1. Choose a color scheme…and stick to it
The easiest way to make everything look fantastic is to choose a color scheme. For this particular hot cocoa bar, I chose black and white with pops of red and silver. While pulling things together I tried to keep everything in those colors. From the decorations, to the containers, right down to the candy that I set out to eat.
2. Don’t forget the cute decorations
I’m all about making the world cuter, so you know I have to have some cute decorations…in my color scheme of course. These adorable tree lanterns came from Oriental Trading Company, yup, they have adorable, affordable decor items that will put your hot cocoa bar right over the top!
I also got these PERFECT disco ball ornaments from there that I am OBSESSED with! For less than $10 you get a dozen of them! You may have noticed that I used one on my photo card holder here, and when you see my living room all decked out for Christmas, you will see that I have a bowl of them on my coffee table. I can’t get enough of them. Big heart eyes for sure!
3. Cute Matching Containers
This is an easy one to overlook, but it makes a huge difference in how your hot cocoa bar looks. I got these cute little white pails from Oriental Trading Company too. They are tiny and cute, again, less than $10 for a dozen…and they have them in lots of other colors if white isn’t the color scheme you are going with! I was able to put out a bunch of mix ins, the treat stirrers and some markers to write names on cups in these, They all match, they look great, and I will be able to use these for all sorts of cute decorating things in the future.
4. It’s all in the details
Adding in little details make a BIG difference. Since my color scheme was black and white, a chalkboard sign was obviously a natural choice to add in. To make this, I took a piece of black cardstock and a chalk marker. Then I just put the “recipe” on how to make a cup of hot cocoa on it with some little doodles and flourishes. I hung it on a canvas board with a clothespin hot glued on it. Super easy and makes a big statement.
To stick with that chalkboard look, I punched squares out of the black cardstock and made labels for everything. I tied them to the buckets with black and white bakers twine. I also just added a little piece of black and white plaid flannel fabric in the back to add a little texture and softness. It gives it a cozy look, and what’s more cozy than hot cocoa?!
5. Levels, lots of levels
I think this is the biggest thing I’ve learned in all of my hot cocoa bar practice…really any food bar, levels make ALL the difference! If I would have just set out the buckets and hot cocoa on the counter, it would have been fine, but adding in levels of different heights makes it much more professional and cute!
Pay attention to balance. If you have a tall thing on one side, like my hot water carafe, balance it with something else tall on the other side. I stacked cake plates (the little one is from Target in the one spot) to make the height work and put my shakers on top. The adorable three tiered tray in the middle is also a find from OTC, that was fun to just add decor and pops of color. You could also fill it with cookies…and invite me!
6. Make it Special
This is the part where we actually talk about the hot chocolate bar ingredients! After you have all the cuteness taken care of, it’s time to think about what you’re serving. I always am on the lookout for fun flavors of hot cocoa. These are all Stephen’s flavors that I poured into glass jars and added labels to. If you can’t find or would rather make your own flavors, I know there are TONS of recipes on Pinterest to DIY some yummy flavors.
Stir sticks, are an easy way to add some yummy flavor. We always have peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks and cookie sticks, either piroulines or biscotti.
Mix ins are fun, especially if kids will be partaking in the fun!
Here are some of the fun mix ins that we had for this bar:
- toffee bits
- dark chocolate chips
- peanut butter chips
- pumpkin malt balls (my hubby brings these home sometimes, they are yummo!)
- mini marshmallow bits (the little hard ones that you get in the packets, you can buy them in a jar, and you better believe that we do!)
Having creamers to cool off the hot chocolate is a must, and if it’s a must, it’s fun to have some variety! We like the french vanilla coffee creamer, half and half, and my husband and daughter love eggnog. I also like to have cinnamon sugar sprinkled on mine, I have friends that like salt, and some of my boys love powdered sugar dusted on top. Those are easy enough to set out in shakers.
This one is the tip that my friends would insist that I add. They are always so excited when I pull out the REAL whipping cream. I just pour a bunch in my Kitchen Aid and let it come to soft peaks and then I add powdered sugar to taste and a little pinch of salt. I put it all in a glass bowl and by the end of the night someone is licking out the bowl. It’s an easy way to make your hot cocoa bar just that much yummier!
And on that note…I’m going to go drink a hot cup now! What have been your favorite touches when you’ve thrown a hot cocoa party, or been to one? I would love to hear in the comments!