DIY Holiday Hot Cocoa Bar

DIY Holiday Hot Cocoa Bar
’Tis the season for hot cocoa! I love whipping up this drink every winter. It’s warm, comforting and open to all sorts of interpretations. For our second annual Christmas Eve party with our families, I decided to stir things up by putting this drink on full display with a hot cocoa bar. The premise? Guests can customize their cocoa with a variety of toppings—ranging from traditional (caramel sauce, whipped cream) to unexpected (peanut butter, graham crackers)—to create the perfect cup of cheer.

Cups of cheer for a DIY hot cocoa bar

Stir things up with a custom hot cocoa bar

Turn a buffet table into a hot cocoa bar

To help our guests navigate the bar, we provided some instructions: Fill a mug with hot cocoa, then find your favorite fixings...” followed by hot ideas for creative cocoa combinations. Preparation included taste-tasting new recipes every night for most of December—somebody had to do it! For the custom cocoa concept to work, we needed variations that could start with the same base, a simple but decadent mix of Guittard Grand Cocoa Drinking Chocolate and whole milk, and easily take on new flavors (S’mores! Peanut Butter Fluff! Salted Caramel!) with a few key additions. Check out our list of recipes below...

Easy recipe ideas for a hot cocoa bar

Graham cracker crumbles, chocolate chips & more toppings for a DIY hot coca bar

Fun toppings for a DIY hot cocoa bar: peanut butter, whipped cream, candy canes, cinnamon sticks & caramel sauce

Use a buffet table for a holiday hot cocoa bar

To create a cozy, rustic vibe for the bar, I started with an antique buffet table and added an eclectic mix of serving pieces and chalkboard-inspired signs and labels. Here’s how it came together, plus a few tips:
  • For the chalkboard-style signs and labels, I downloaded a free Baby It’s Cold Outside sign and labels for the mugs and toppings. To make the list of cocoa combos, I downloaded a chalkboard background and holiday-ready chalkboard fonts. I then printed everything at OfficeMax for less than $2. Tip: Print signs to fit frames you already have and temporarily swap out your wedding photos come cocoa time.
  • To show off the toppings, I used a mix of glass jars and white serving pieces (I loved putting this little set to use). Tip: Don’t be afraid to repurpose what you’ve got in your cabinets. A cake stand made for the perfect way to elevate some of the toppings, and a tea cup held a handful of stirrers.
  • To complete the rustic look, I used twine to tie on the labels and put out wooden scooping spoons.
  • I made use of the buffet’s drawers by filling them with extra tea cups to have nearby.
Salted caramel hot cocoa—the perfect cup of cheer

S'mores hot cocoa creation at a custom hot chocolate bar

Creative hot cocoa recipes for a create-your-own hot cocoa bar

The custom hot cocoa bar made for a fun, creative addition to our Christmas Eve festivities. My dad called it the best hot cocoa he’d ever had in his life, and my brothers invented their own recipes by adding almost every topping to their drinks. This DIY bar would also be perfect for a New Year’s Eve party (just add some 21-and-up fixings, like Bailey’s Irish Cream and Peppermint Schnapps), a winter wedding or shower, or just to have out as decor—and easy cocoa access—all season.

P.S. See what happened last year when we hosted Christmas Eve.


  1. Oh my, how much have I missed around here. Big congratulations!!! And of course, a very happy and healthy new year to you and to the small boy growing in you, and to everyone in your family! xoxo

    Sylvia @ WorldTasting

    1. Thank you so much, Sylvia! I really appreciate that! Happy, healthy New Year to you and yours, too! xo