To mark Three Kings Day in 2018, Municipio de Uruapan in Mexico secured its place in the record books, producing what remains the largest-ever cup of hot chocolate — an overly decadent 4,816.6 litres with more than 600 kilograms of semisweet chocolate in the mix.
Impressive for sure, in a ‘go big or go home’ kind of way, but just how big was the stir stick? While that’s not clear, there’s no mystery around the premise for Peterborough’s Hot Chocolate Fest.
Organized by Peterborough’s Downtown Business Improvement Association (DBIA), the nod to all things hot chocolate returns for a second year. Throughout February, downtown cafés, restaurants, pastry shops, bakeries and chocolatiers are serving up 19 unique hot chocolate creations, all while vying for the title of Top Hot Chocolatier as voted upon by those who sample their work.
“We are up to our old chocolatey tricks,” enthused DBIA Vibrancy Manager Hillary Flood during the event launch Tuesday morning (January 29). “If there’s one thing that’s true about Peterborough folks, it’s that we love our sweets. Chocolate is a common ingredient we can rally behind.”
“It (the festival) is a springboard for our culinary creators to push the envelope of what’s considered hot chocolate. It also presents an opportunity for us (the DBIA) to surprise and delight the local community with what’s available during the month of February.”
A Hot Chocolate Trail Map, featuring a list of all the participating businesses, can be viewed at www.ptbohotchocolatefest.com.
At the same site, visitors can vote for their favourite hot chocolate concoction, the categories being Top Hot Chocolate, Most Unique, Best Classic and Tastiest H’adult Chocolate — hot chocolate with a cocktail twist for the aged 19 plus crowd.
In addition, site visitors can download an app to join the Hot Chocolate Fest Rewards Program. Participants who collect three stamps will be entered in a weekly draw for a $25 Boro gift card as well as earn access to discounts at participating businesses. The more stamps collected, the more ballots earned.
From a DBIA perspective, the name of the game is to bring more people downtown. According to Flood, the Hot Chocolate Fest checks all the boxes in that regard.
“We’re entering the shoulder season for tourism and folks tend to stay indoors,” she said.
“This is strategically taking place in February, typically a dreary month. We have our charming skating rink (at Quaker Foods City Square) that folks can go to and pick up a fantastical hot chocolate on the way. It’s all about driving visitation to the heart of our urban centre. When we have a thriving downtown, it’s a healthier economic situation for all of us.”
“Events such as this enable small businesses to reach community members they may have never interfaced with before,” Flood added. “It brings children and families, different audiences, into the downtown to explore new stores and restaurants that they haven’t been to.”
Quick to jump into the Hot Chocolate Fest fray was Jennifer Miles, the new owner of Blackhoney on Hunter Street West. At the launch, she served white hot chocolate infused with tangerine oil as well as dark hot chocolate laced with peppermint.
“We’re also doing a whipped cream infused with honey, with honey, nutmeg and cinnamon on top,” Miles explained. “As well, you have a choice of white milk or dark chocolate honeycomb. We’re also going to offer edible beeswax honeycomb. It’s organic and it’s local. A lot of people may not have had the opportunity to try edible beeswax but we’ll have to be able to try out. We also are going to be doing what we’re calling a hot chocolate bomb.”
Along with being a downtown business owner since just before Christmas, Miles is a downtown resident. As such, she’s fully committed to throwing her support behind anything that brings more people to the core.
DBIA board member Madeleine Hurrell, who is manager of the Business Advisory Centre at Peterborough and the Kawarthas Economic Development, couldn’t agree more.
“This (the Hot Chocolate Fest) integrates a lot of great pieces,” Hurrell said. “We know how vital it is to support our small businesses, our restaurants, as well as culinary experiences. We also know that these colder months can be a little bit more challenging for our small businesses.”
“This is not just a one time festival or event,” Hurrell said. “It’s a month-long celebration that allows visitors, as well as community members, to explore different cafes and restaurants they haven’t been to.”
As for Flood, getting buy-in for the festival from downtown businesses wasn’t a challenge.
“I think we’ve built a lot of trust in success based on previous programs,” she said. “When we do approach a business about a new zany idea — that we want to hyper-focus on a dish or an ingredient — there’s buy-in because they know that that going the extra mile and thinking outside of the hot chocolate box can pay back tenfold. When it comes to new projects, our community is experimental and we have the proven capacity to deliver.”
As for those who perhaps made a New Year’s resolution to lay off sweets, Flood makes no apologies.
“It’s the little small actions that can make being a Canadian through the cold winter months worthwhile,” she said. “It’s important to treat yourself along the way. For those who are worried about their waistband or want to make healthier choices, it’s all about moderation. Maybe you have a small hot chocolate instead of an extra large.”
For more information about the Ptbo Hot Chocolate Fest and to vote online for your favourites, visit www.ptbohotchocolatefest.com.
2024 Hot Chocolate Trail Map
Hot Chocolate Creations
“Blackhoneycomb” by Blackhoney Coffeehouse
Indulge in this decadent black honey-infused hot cocoa served up in an edible chocolate cup. Choose between a white chocolate cup infused with tangerine or dark chocolate. The Blackhoneycomb is topped with velvety whipped cream and infused with even more black honey. Garnished with a chocolate honeycomb of your choice: white, milk. or dark chocolate and dusted with edible gold.
“Chocolate Forest H’adult Cocktail” by The Dirty Burger
A multi-sensory cocktail experience featuring cinnamon-spiced Belgian-style hot chocolate made with 1.5 oz of espresso vodka for a nutty and earthy kick. Ignite your taste buds with foresty notes of herbaceous lavender and vanilla, topped in a mountain of maple whipped cream and garnished with crushed honey comb and edible flowers.
“Chocolate-Maple Champurrado” by La Hacienda
A spiced, warm, and creamy chocolate-based beverage that holds a special place in Mexican culinary traditions. Made with Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla along with the corn flour for a thick and slightly gritty texture, it is sweetened with local Red Mill maple syrup. This indulgent drink is infused with ancho pepper, which is the final touch for a warm, bold flavour. Served with traditional buñuelos — a thin, rosette-shaped, crispy fried pastry coated in cinnamon sugar.
“Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate” by Kit Croissanterie & Café
A sweet hot cocoa with a zesty burst of citrus, made with orange zest syrup and dark chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon, and garnished with candied orange.
“Hazelnut Infused Triple Chocolate” by Dreams of Beans
Indulge in this dreamy hot cocoa made with hazelnut chocolate sauce and white chocolate milk, topped with whipped cream and milk chocolate shavings. Kick it up a notch with a shot Irish cream with whisky and optional espresso.
“Raspberry Brownie Fudge” by Turnbull Café
A delicious blend of rich dark chocolate infused with raspberries, topped with real whipped cream and layered with chunks of espresso fudge brownie and fresh raspberries, delicately drizzled in a blanket of pure chocolate sauce under a halo of cocoa snow. Comes in both hot chocolate and mocha options. Ask for a spoon.
“Peanut Butter & Caramel Screwball” by Black Horse Pub
If you’re looking for a hug in a mug that is cozy, sweet, decadent, and smooth, this hot chocolate screwball is something to celebrate. This is a creamy and rich hot chocolate with sundae vibes and a bit of a kick from Screwball peanut butter whisky, and is topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, and peanut butter cups.
“Smores Hot Chocolate” by Cork & Bean
Rich and velvety hot chocolate, topped with lightly toasted marshmallows, crumbled Graham cracker and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.
“Peppermint Hot Cocoa” by Cork & Bean
A creamy and delicious hot chocolate with a candy cane twist, featuring classic hot cocoa, peppermint syrup, steamed milk of your choice and topped with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, and crushed peppermint candy.
“Mexican Hot Chocolate” by Agave by Imperial
Mexican hot chocolate made with masa corn and whipped cream, with crushed chilies for a little extra kick, and topped with homemade buñuelos.
“Gimme S’more” by Speak Easy
An ultimate campfire-inspired drink featuring a steaming mug of ultra-whipped hot chocolate crowned with fire-toasted marshmallows, and completed with a chocolate fudge-coated graham cracker cookie.
“Earl Grey Hot Chocolate” by Milk + Tea
Cozy up with this rich tapioca hot chocolate drink blended with Earl Grey for a subtle hint of tea and lavender. Topped with a thick sweet and salty cream, you can enjoy it hot or cold.
“Soon-to-be-Famous Chocolate Chip Hot Choc” by Boardwalk Lounge
Dive into this glorious toasted marshmallow-rimmed mug filled with rich hot chocolate, cookie syrup, and topped with whipped cream and crumbs from Connor’s soon-to-be-famous chocolate chip cookies. Yum yum!
“Death by Chocolate” by La Mesita
Sip on this deliciously rich Mexican-style hot chocolate that’s spiced to perfection with cinnamon sugar and topped with a chocolate skull. Served with a churro donut for dunking.
“Cocoa Brûlée” by Bobo Tea
Crack into this decadent drink made with loads of cocoa chocolate, fresh milk, brown sugar pearls, and crowned with a hand-torched crème brûlée top.
“Mint-Kissed PB&J Hot Chocolate” by Dr. J’s BBQ & Brews
If hot chocolate and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches had a baby, this drink would be their love child. Indulge in the richness of your favourite childhood snack that combines a rich hot chocolate base with a kiss of mint. Served with peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and a peanut cocoa dusting.
“Teddy Bears Winter Picnic” by The Vine
This delightful white chocolate drink is made to order with steamed milk and topped with whipped cream, a healthy dusting of shaved dark chocolate, and teddy grahams.
“Choc Mocha + Hot Chocolate Donut Chocolate on Chocolate” by Tragically Dipped Donut
Indulge in the ultimate chocolate experience with a decadent chocolate donut filled with a velvety, chocolate ganache and finished off with cocoa dust along with a mug of hot chocolate served up mocha style with homemade marshmallow, chocolate ganache, espresso, and milk.
To be announced: Hot chocolate creations by The El (P) and by Canoe Co. Cafe at Euphoria Wellness Spa.