This newish, ultra-stylish coffeehouse doesn’t cut corners. Owners Esther and Aaron Clark fashion a darkly rich, barely sweet syrup using vanilla beans, cane sugar and cocoa powder from Tcho, a premium producer in Berkeley, Calif. The luscious milk hails from Autumnwood Farm in Forest Lake (the nondairy option is an almond-macadamia nut milk). It’s a minimalist formula, and a potent combination. $4.50.
1830 E. 38th St., Mpls., botanycoffee.com
At her sparkling new Lowertown cafe, chef/owner Michelle Gayer makes hot chocolate a party. It starts out simple, just a gigantic mug, steamed milk and a mellow cocoa powder-chocolate mixture. The crowning touch is banana cream pie-levels of sweet whipped cream, garnished with bitter, crunchy cocoa nibs. “I’ve been fantasizing about making marshmallows,” said Gayer. Please make that a reality. $4 and $4.50.
289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 612-874-9206, saltytart.com
Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co.
The first step is a house-made syrup crafted with Valrhona, a chocolate that’s synonymous with “luxury.” From there, it’s just top-quality steamed milk, and take your pick: whole or skim (from Crystal Ball Farms Organic Dairy, a family-run farmstead operation in Osceola, Wis.), or soy, almond or oat. Add in the considerable skill of the barista, and you’ll get an artfully foamed warmup for kids of all ages. $4.25.
Five Twin Cities locations (including 420 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul), spyhousecoffee.com