Trust us—the whipped cream-rimmed smiles will make building a homemade hot chocolate bar for your loved ones well worth it!
A store-bought package of hot cocoa mix stirred into hot water often does the trick, but a special occasion calls for creamy, homemade and decked out with a whole assortment of goodies.
Set a date and call your friends. Follow these simple steps for a chocolaty, swoon-worthy setup all your party guests will love.
Start by Simmering
You can’t go wrong with any of our hot chocolate recipes, but we think the contest-winning Fluffy Hot Chocolate recipe is the perfect base for guests’ hot cocoa concoctions. Unless you know your crew’s preferences and can cater to their tastes specifically with your recipe selection, we suggest you stick to a basic recipe and allow your friends and family to customize their beverages themselves.
Pour the prepared cocoa into your trusty slow cooker and let it simmer on low so it stays warm and steamy-good throughout the party. Add a ladle to encourage guests to keep coming back for more.
Mug It Out
A cozy drink cannot be fully enjoyed without a cute mug to go along with it. Set out a collection of mugs for guests to grab. The well-loved, reusable glasses will make your guests feel more at home (and their hands less hot!) than if you were to use plastic or paper alternatives. If you don’t have enough mugs in your own stash at home, head to a consignment store and stock up. Bonus points if they’re seasonal or just plain funny!
Chocolate needn’t be the only flavor filling up your mug—the possibilities are endless with the right hot chocolate add-ins. Delightfully decorated jars of surprising mix-ins such as creamy peanut butter, instant espresso, maple syrup, vanilla extract and eggnog allow party guests to create their hot chocolate just the way they like it. Label the different ingredients for easy identification.
Top It Off
Move over, marshmallows! There are a million and one unexpected yet equally tasty toppings to put on your cup o’ cocoa. Give guests the option to go classic with toppings such as marshmallows, chocolate shavings, cinnamon, whipped cream and caramel, but make sure to save table space for the more adventurous options: crushed peppermint sticks, rolled wafer cookies, toasted coconut and even chocolate puffed cereal. You can also fancy it up with this hot chocolate Cool Whip hack.
Jam jars, ramekins and small bowls are a pretty way to offer up these goodies. Just don’t forget the serving utensils.
Ready, Set, Spike!
Warm up your mug even more with the option for the addition of boozy spirits. The 21-and-over crowd will love stir-ins such as whiskey, peppermint schnapps, Irish cream (our homemade rendition is positively irresistible) and kahlua. Now, crank up the holiday tunes, indulge in your customized cocoa and be merry, because, hey, it’s a celebration!
I served these at a party and everyone went wild! These delicious morsels have a crispy flaky outside filled with creamy sweet crab that has a little kick. I used scalloped-edge cookie cutters to cut my pastry, but you can use a small biscuit cutter. —Vanessa Mason, Summerdale, Alabama
My family is of Danish heritage, and my husband makes our smoked salmon. To use it, I came up with these dilly deviled eggs. They're a real treat and nice addition to any meal. —Charlotte Giltner, Mesa, Arizona
I always get requests for the recipe for these canapes whenever I serve them. They're delicate finger sandwiches with a creamy herb spread and festive red and green garnishes. —Nadine Whittaker, South Plymouth, Massachusetts
People always pass on compliments when I take this salad to covered-dish suppers. It's nice on a hot day...with a winter meal...or as a dessert! We live on a small farm where my garden gives me lots of possibilities for fresh food. —Page Alexander, Baldwin City, Kansas
Eat these roasted veggies with a crunchy baguette or a couple of cheeses. You can also double, or triple, the amounts and have leftovers to toss with spaghetti the next day. —Anndrea Bailey, Huntington Beach, California
I can't go anywhere without taking along my puffs. They're pretty enough for a wedding reception yet hearty enough to snack on while the gang is watching football on television. A platter of these will disappear even with a small group. —Kelly Williams, La Porte, Indiana
Chicken and mushrooms make up the filling in these pot stickers, a traditional Chinese dumpling. Greasing the steamer rack makes it easier to remove them once they're steamed. —Jacquelynne Stine, Las Vegas, Nevada
It’s so easy to top crunchy cucumber slices with a smooth and creamy salmon filling. Guests rave about the fun presentation, contrasting textures and refreshing flavor. —Barb Templin, Norwood, Minnesota
This seafood starter is so good that it makes me love a food I usually don't—radishes! This recipe also calls for spicy V8, but Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix works just as well. Serve the cocktail straight up, with tortilla chips or on a bed of butter lettuce. —Heidi Knaak, Liberty, Missouri
With their cranberry dipping sauce, these no-fuss appetizer meatballs make use of traditional Thanksgiving ingredients, so they're ideal around the holiday or anytime you're craving those favorite seasonal tastes.—Ann Baker, Texarkana, Texas
This tasty spread is easy to make in a food processor, and it’s a guaranteed winner at any party. The recipe is versatile, so feel free to substitute other favorite smoked fish.—Judy Walle, Toledo, Ohio
I was recently at a wedding reception where the menu was all small bites. Here’s my rendition of the pear pastries they served. They're the perfect combo of savory and sweet. —Arlene Erlbach, Morton Grove, Illinois
This colorful relish is a favorite with friends and family because it tastes amazing on just about everything. I like to serve it over cream cheese or a block of sharp cheddar cheese along with crackers or French baguette slices. I also include a jar in gift baskets. —Barbara Pletzke, Herndon, Virginia
These simple sandwiches are ideal for a bridal shower, brunch or high tea, when the menu is a bit more substantial. The mustard adds a nice kick without being overly spicy. —Anndrea Bailey, Huntington Beach, California
I was a theater major in college, and our director's mother always made sure we were well fed. I was particularly fond of her pimiento cheese sandwiches and tried making a similar spread for crackers. It tastes just as good as I remember! —Katrina Jameson, Brandon, Mississippi
Fresh crab is one of my all-time favorite foods so whenever I get the chance to cook with it I will often make this dish. It's great for appetizers but you can make larger ones for a fantastic dinner with a simple salad. —Ellen Riley, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
In my family, Easter isn't complete without deviled eggs. Fresh dill and garlic perk up the flavor of these irresistible appetizers that you'll want to eat on every occasion. —Kami Horch, Calais, Maine
Clever little meatballs deliver the flavor and rich sauce of a traditional tamale in a bite-sized portion. They’re a delightfully different addition to a holiday spread. —Dolores Jaycox, Gretna, Louisiana
I almost didn’t make these appetizers for last year’s Christmas party because I was running out of time, but I knew they’d be a tasty hit. Simple to make, the cups have few ingredients and look beautiful on the plate—very gourmet! This turned out to be one of the night’s favorites, and they just flew off the plate. —Terri Edmunds, Naperville, Illinois
Here's a terrific healthy addition to any buffet spread. Mushrooms and pearl onions seasoned with herbs, balsamic and red wine are terrific on their own or alongside a tenderloin roast. —Courtney Wilson, Fresno, California
I made a healthier spin on pea pesto by subbing in vegetable broth for some of the oil and going easy on the cheese. For use on pasta, add more broth for a saucelike consistency. —Amber Massey, Argyle, Texas
I always enjoyed traditional artichoke-cheese dip, and for a party, I wanted to create a new appetizer that was a spin on that. This original creation is a bit reminiscent of the dip recipe, and works well on a buffet. —Sherry Johnston, Green Cove Springs, Florida
This is one of the seven fish dishes we serve at Christmas time. It is easy to make and quite delicious! I enjoy it served both warm and cold. Either way, it has become one of our traditional dishes each year. The recipe has been passed down to me through my grandparents, who were excellent cooks. —Paul Rinaldi, Easton, Pennsylvania
If you like pina coladas, you've gotta try this fluffy fruit dip. Scooped up with a slice of fresh pineapple, it tastes just like the beloved beachside drink. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee Wisconsin
Here's a healthy and delicious addition to any buffet spread. Mushrooms and pearl onions seasoned with herbs, balsamic vinegar and red wine are terrific on their own or alongside a tenderloin roast. —Courtney Wilson, Fresno, California
I made these for our staff Christmas party last year; they were such a hit that I was flooded with requests for the recipe the next day. Throughout the year, whenever I needed favors done at school, people gladly helped as long as I promised to bring them shrimp cakes! This year's Christmas party is coming up, and I'm already being asked if I am bringing the shrimp cakes—I guess I am! —Linda Zilar, Kennewick, Washington
This recipe combines my favorite things to eat: toast, steak, bruschetta topping and delicious pancetta. It's looks so pretty on the plate! This five-ingredient appetizer is easy to prepare but will have everyone thinking you spent a long time in the kitchen. —Devon Delaney, Westport, Connecticut
I've had the pleasure of introducing many of my friends and family to chutney, that sweet and savory fruit sauce. Prepare this spread even faster by using chive-flavored whipped cream cheese. —Michelle Torkelson, Ham Lake, Minnesota
My friends and I have been getting together for "ladies lunches" for years. These vol-au-vents are the perfect no-fuss fancy food; they look complicated, but are actually simple and fun to make. Whenever I think of good friends and good company, I think of these savory pastries. —Shauna Havey, Roy, Utah
When you say "holiday tradition" around our house, this appetizer comes to mind immediately. Every winter, I make lots of cheese logs and freeze them for when I'm expecting company or need to take food to someone's home. The blend of smoked oysters, chili powder, nuts and cream cheese tastes good-even people who don't like oysters may enjoy this interesting appetizer. —William Tracy, Jerseyville, Illinois
With sweet, tangy and spiced flavors, these pickled beets are so good that they'll win over just about everyone in your house. Jars of colorful beets make great gifts, too! —Edna Hoffman, Hebron, Indiana
No matter when I've made these soufflés, they have always been a success. Although I've never seen the centers start to fall, it's best to plan on serving them hot from the oven. —Jean Ference, Sherwood Park, Alberta
You can enjoy a small batch of these sweet crunchy pickles anytime without the work of traditional canning methods. They're loaded with flavor and so easy to make. —Marie Wladyka, Land O'Lakes, Florida
Annamarie is Taste of Home’s Shopping Editor. In this role, she’s able to channel her affinity for online shopping and novel, cost-effective products into helpful insights, recommendations and roundups for our readers. A midwestern transplant originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she enjoys hiking, crafting and—you guessed it!—all things cooking and baking.