How to Create a DIY Hot Chocolate Bar

The holiday season is sprinkled with a variety of parties and themes: secret Santa get-togethers with co-workers, ugly sweater-themed parties with friends, and white elephant gift exchanges with family. 

All of these can be super fun, but why not put a new spin on your next holiday celebration or winter solstice party and host a DIY hot chocolate bar? (I know, genius, right?) 

Whether you have your very own DIY hot chocolate mix to share or are totally new to DIY hot chocolate, here’s everything you need to know about creating a cocoa bar DIY style.

hot chocolate in a mug

How to create a DIY hot chocolate bar

1. Choose a location

The first thing to consider when putting together a DIY hot chocolate bar is the location. Choose a place with enough space for people to crowd around the table (let’s be real, they inevitably will because hello, hot chocolate). To avoid traffic jams, make a clear starting and ending point for your hot chocolate bar with mugs on one end, followed by hot chocolate and then toppings. Speaking of mugs…

If you’re hosting an intimate and smaller crowd, opt for cute ceramic or glass mugs. But if you invite over a larger gathering of guests, consider ordering some holiday-inspired paper cups that come with lids and sleeves. You know, just like Starbucks. Include coffee stirrers, spoons, or straws so guests can mix up their very own DIY hot chocolate creations.

2. Design the hot cocoa bar

Next up are the hot chocolate bar toppings — well, their containers at least. Choose different-sized mason jars to set up the cocoa bar DIY style.

When creating and designing a homemade charcuterie board, you always want different heights and levels — and the same rule of thumb is true when setting up your DIY hot chocolate bar. Grab some tall and jumbo-sized jars for oversized marshmallows, medium-sized mason jars for candy, chocolates, and other bits, and mini mason jars for coarse sea salt and sprinkles.

Want to add an extra touch of festive flare? Tie red baker’s twine or traditional twine around each mason jar a few times. You can even repurpose any extra holiday ribbon from all of that holiday wrapping. 

Add homemade labels so guests know what toppings are which. Then, include a small scoop or spoon for each mason jar so guests can easily select and snag their favorite DIY hot chocolate toppings for their homemade mug of hot cocoa.

3. Gather DIY hot chocolate toppings

Now the fun part — choosing the DIY hot chocolate toppings. Here are some delicious and fun DIY cocoa bar toppings:

  • Candy canes
  • Caramels, like Cocomel’s (my absolute favorite), and caramel sauce 
  • Chocolate chips (you can also include butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, or white chocolate chips)
  • Chocolate squares (some of my favorite brands are Alter Eco, ChocXO, NibMor, and The Supplant Company)
  • Chocolate syrup, dark chocolate syrup, or other flavored syrups
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Coconut flakes
  • Crushed peppermints or soft peppermint sticks
  • Finely chopped nuts
  • Holiday sprinkles
  • Hot chocolate bombs
  • Kooshy French Toast croutons
  • Marshmallows (jumbo, mini, or regular-sized — or maybe all three!)
  • Milk chocolate truffles
  • Peppermint bark
  • Pirouette cookies
  • Pretzel rods or sticks
  • Skinny Pop holiday flavors like gingerbread, snickerdoodle, and white chocolate peppermint 
  • Toffee bits
  • Whipped cream
  • White chocolate shavings
  • Whoppers

If you’re hosting an adult-only DIY hot chocolate bar party, you may want to include some booze. Choose from selections like bourbon or whiskey to spike your hot chocolate. You can even include fun-flavored beverages like Spindrift Spiked Apple Cider or flavored vodkas like caramel and peppermint. A good stand-by is always Bailey’s Irish cream, Kahlua, or peppermint schnapps.

Avoiding alcohol? Opt for an alcohol-free option like Ritual Zero Proof, which offers zero-proof alcohol alternatives like gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey. (Seriously, so good!)

4. Include decorations

After you gather your DIY hot chocolate toppings, it’s time to include decorations. Some ideas include a basket for all of those paper goods, candles, faux birch tree branches and evergreens, a chalkboard menu or homemade welcome sign, red holly berries, scented pinecones, and white twinkle lights.

5. Set up the DIY hot chocolate mix

Now, obviously you can’t host a hot chocolate bar without hot chocolate. (Duh!) Find your favorite hot chocolate mix or recipe and set it up on the slow cooker or stovetop. Include a ladle and let the DIY hot chocolate festivities begin!

6. Serve with cookies

Although hot chocolate is the star of the show here, who doesn’t love a plate of holiday cookies? Cookies like Nonni’s Biscotti and their holiday flavors, like dark chocolate peppermint and gingerbread, are all great for dipping into a mug of piping hot, hot chocolate. 

You can also try Nonni’s Cranberry THINaddictives. This antioxidant-rich combination of crunchy almonds combined with succulent juicy cranberries are twice baked to give you the ultimate crunchy chewy sensation that pairs perfectly with a homemade mug of hot cocoa.

Other delicious options you can’t go wrong with are some classic holiday cookie staples like gingerbread, shortbread, and sugar cookies.

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About Ashley Martens

Ashley Martens is a Wellness Writer based in Chicago, Illinois. With a background in a digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.