Taking hot cocoa to the next level in Reno/Tahoe.

By Rae Matthews, Elevation Eats

Is there anything better than breathing in the aroma of hot cocoa as you watch the seasons change? The tasty concoction goes way back, and I mean way back, to the Mayan era of 500 BCE. While not very recognizable as today’s sweet treat, it was loved nonetheless! The Mayans combined ground up cocoa seeds with water, cornmeal, and chili peppers and served it cold (yum?). In the 1500s, the loved, if bitter, drink was brought back to Spain where it evolved into the more familiar sweet and hot beverage we know today. But Spain guarded their sweet secrets closely, and it was over a hundred years before it spread around Europe. When it finally reached London, chocolate houses rivaled coffee houses in popularity.

With all this history, don’t be fooled into thinking that hot chocolate is just some powder that comes in a packet. There are so many ways to indulge in this delectable beverage.

Comma Coffee (Jeramie Lu)

Going out and getting toasty

Revive Coffee and Wine in South Lake Tahoe is a locals’ favorite for hot chocolate. Their hot cocoa is made with a rich dark chocolate and steamed whole milk. It’s then topped with homemade vanilla whipped cream. A classic at its best. At Basecamp Hotel, also in South Lake Tahoe, it’s all about options. Beginning in late November, they offer a hot cocoa bar where guests can build their own. Toppings include so much more than marshmallows, such as graham crackers, peppermints, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and different flavored syrups (but yes, there are marshmallows). California Burger inside Heavenly Village combines hot cocoa with the adult pleasures in life … coffee and alcohol! The Tahoe tiramisu is made with hazelnut espresso vodka and vanilla vodka, coffee, hot cocoa and whipped cream. Or try the snickers, which features vanilla vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, Disaronno, hot cocoa, and is topped with whipped cream and candied pecans. revivecoffeewine.com; basecamptahoesouth.com; caburgerco.com

Basecamp Cocoa
Basecamp Hotel

For a healthy-ish, food-conscious twist, head to Coffeebar with several locations all over the region, including Reno, Menlo Park, Truckee, Squaw Valley and Redwood City. They make their chocolate syrup in house from Omanhene Cocoa.

Customers have a choice of whole milk from a local dairy or they can choose from alternative milks including oat, almond or coconut. The frothy goodness is then topped with chocolate sprinkles and whipped cream made with vanilla agave. coffeebar.com

“We all loved hot cocoa as kids,
and we all secretly still love it as adults.”
Rae Matthews, Elevation Eats

In Tahoe City, be sure to stop by the River Ranch Lodge. This family friendly, historic lodge has hot chocolate offerings, starting around Thanksgiving, for both kids and adults (read: regular and alcoholic). Those of the over-21 variety can cozy up to the river rock fireplace with a dirty snowman, made with vanilla vodka, Frangelico, Baileys and hot cocoa. riverranchlodge.com

We all loved hot cocoa as kids, and we all secretly still love it as adults. If you find that it’s been awhile since you’ve warmed your hands and nostrils with a delicious cup of hot cocoa, this fall is the time to revisit an old classic.

Stay in and stay cozy

For those of you looking to enjoy the kitchen/hot tub/fireplace/view in your own home away from home in Reno/Tahoe, sip on some amazing recipes to warm up your tummy.

A true holiday treat! Mint Hot Chocolate


1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
10-12 large mint leaves, torn
1/3 cup mint-infused chocolate bar,
roughly chopped
1/8 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped


In a medium saucepan, bring milk and cream to a simmer. Add mint leaves. Cover with lid and steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain mint and reheat to a simmer. Add chocolates. Stir to combine until all chocolate is melted. Divide mint hot chocolate between serving glasses. Top with fresh mint leaves and peppermint stick or candy cane.

Perfect for fall! Orange Spice Hot Chocolate


1 quart whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground chili pepper
1 whole clove or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup dark chocolate syrup
Zest and juice of one orange
Whipped cream (preferably homemade)


Combine milk and spices into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat while whisking until simmering. Immediately turn down the heat to low and continue to whisk for three minutes while adding chocolate, orange juice and most of the zest, until all the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat. Discard clove if whole. Serve topped with whipped cream, cinnamon and remaining orange zest.