How to Set Up a Hot Chocolate Bar + Hot Cocoa Recipe

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Tis the season for a cup of hot cocoa! Indulge in the ultimate hot chocolate experience with our festive hot chocolate bar ideas and decadent hot cocoa recipe. Plus, download our free printable hot cocoa topping tags for a charming touch.

Ultimate hot chocolate bar with a homemade hot chocolate recipe.
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Let’s be honest, what are the holidays without a cup of rich, decadent hot cocoa?! 

It’s a beverage synonymous with Christmas, and perfect for those chilly winter days. One sip warms the soul and makes you feel instantly cozy inside. 

As much as I love a cup of hot cocoa, it may be the hot chocolate toppings that are the best part of this winter drink. 

So, I thought I would share with you how to set up a hot chocolate bar for the holidays that includes the toppings you might want to include in your bar (with free printable tags) and an easy, delicious hot cocoa recipe you can easily make right in the crockpot. 

Hot cocoa stations are a fun and festive way to serve hot cocoa on family movie night, at a Christmas party, children’s birthday party, or even an adult holiday parties. 

I promise you, this hot chocolate bar is bound to spread holiday cheer and joy to everyone involved.

Hot chocolate station with candy canes, milk chocolate morsels, and Christmas lights.

This blog post is part of a Christmas entertaining blog hop. Continue reading to the end of this post for links and photos for all the holiday entertaining inspiration. 

Why You’ll Want to Throw a Hot Chocolate Bar Party

Before we talk about how to set up a hot cocoa bar, first let me tell you why you’ll want to create one this holiday season.

Setting up a hot chocolate bar for the holidays isn’t just about serving a warm beverage; it’s about creating a festive experience for your family and friends. 

Hot cocoa bar in the kitchen with slow cooker hot chocolate.

A hot cocoa bar adds a touch of warmth to any get-together, inviting people to linger and connect in the cozy ambiance. It elevates the holiday spirit whether you’re hosting a large Christmas party or simply enjoying a quiet evening at home with family.

It’s the perfect way to spread warmth, happiness, and coziness during the most magical time of the year.

How to Set Up a Hot Chocolate Station

Creating this festive treat of warmth and flavor for friends and family is easier than you might think and it’s budget friendly too!

So turn on some Christmas music, and let’s dive into the steps for this diy hot chocolate bar and turn your home into a space of comfort and joy, one cup of hot chocolate at a time.

DIY hot chocolate bar for holiday cheer at Christmas parties.

The Base of the Hot Chocolate Bar

First, find a spot in your kitchen or on a kitchen or dining room table to set up your bar.

I set up our hot cocoa station on our kitchen counter under our open kitchen shelf.

Mason jars full of must-have toppings for a hot chocolate party.

To start the base of the bar, I placed a plaid red and white table runner down on the counter, and then placed an old vintage wooden sled on top of that.

I always love to blend new and old pieces together when I’m decorating or setting a table, so a hot cocoa bar is no exception!

The sled added that perfect touch of old, Christmas nostalgia while also adding height and depth to our station.

Note: If you decide to use decor like this in your hot chocolate bar that’s been in storage, make sure to give it a good cleaning with hot soapy water before adding it to your cocoa bar. You want to make sure it’s clean since food will be placed on and around it.

If you don’t have a vintage sled to use as the base of your hot cocoa station, here are a few other ideas that will help to add character, height, and depth to your setup.

  • Rustic Wooden Crates: Perfect for arranging toppings and mugs, stack them up to create varying heights.
  • Serving Boards: These serve as excellent surfaces for toppings, offering a natural and rustic appeal while showcasing your treats beautifully.
  • Antique Table: Set up your hot cocoa bar on an old table. It will add a touch of vintage charm and create a cozy atmosphere.
  • Wooden Pallet: Perfect for a shabby chic or farmhouse themed event, a pallet can be creatively repurposed into a rustic hot cocoa bar.
A festive Christmas party idea with this hot chocolate station.

Hot Cocoa Drinkware

For your hot cocoa station, you can choose to use disposable coffee cups, regular coffee mugs, or maybe a combination of both. I have disposable hot paper cups next to our hot cocoa but I also have Christmas mugs on the shelf above it. 

Disposable paper cups are a convenient option because guests can easily throw them away when done, and most importantly…you won’t have to wash a bunch of dishes after the party. 

Disposable coffee cups for this delicious hot chocolate recipe.

There are really cute disposable Christmas hot paper cups available both online and in-store. I found our disposable hot cocoa cups at the Target dollar spot for only $3. 

Here are some Christmas drink ware options both disposable and non, that would be perfect for a hot cocoa bar.

Shop Hot Cocoa Mug Options

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Jump to Recipe

The most important part of any hot cocoa station, the hot cocoa! 

You could have instant hot cocoa mix at your station with hot water available for guests to make their own instant hot chocolate. However, I have the easiest and most delicious hot chocolate recipe that literally takes minutes to mix together. It cooks in the slow cooker for a few hours and tastes absolutely incredible!

Decadent winter drink for cold winter days to warm the soul.

You and your guests will love this decadent hot chocolate recipe. Continue reading for my hot chocolate recipe at the end of this blog post. 

I placed our crockpot full of hot cocoa on one side of the sled next to the disposable cups so guests can easily help themselves to hot chocolate at their leisure.

Handy Tip: Prepare Ahead!

Prepare your hot cocoa ahead of time. Whip up a batch of this hot chocolate recipe a day before your event. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Before your guests arrive, simply reheat the hot chocolate in your slow cooker.

Gather Your Hot Cocoa Toppings

This is where the fun truly begins! 

Creat a hot cocoa station with all the must-have toppings for a delicious warm drink.

Create a spread of fun toppings that cater to all tastes. 

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Think mini marshmallows, whipped cream, crushed candy canes, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, and even a pinch of sea salt for that gourmet touch.

Freshly whipped cream adds a luxurious creaminess, while a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg provides a hint of spice.

Milk chocolate chips to top a warm, creamy winter drink for the holidays.

Must-Have Toppings for Hot Cocoa 

  • Marshmallows
  • Peppermint Sticks
  • Whipped Cream
  • Peanut Butter Cups
  • Dark Chocolate Wafers
  • Mint Bits
  • Toffee Bits
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Truffles
  • Meringues
  • Sprinkles
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Sno-caps
  • Course Sea Salt
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Milk Chocolate Sauce

How to Display Toppings on Your Christmas Hot Chocolate Bar

Once you decide on the toppings to serve at your own hot cocoa bar, you’ll need to display them.

I placed our hot chocolate toppings in these canning jars in assorted sizes (mason jars could also be used). I then tied red & white bakers twine around the top of the canning jar for a fun, festive touch.

Download Your Free Printable Hot Cocoa Topping Tags

You’ll want to download and print these hot cocoa topping tags to attach to your jars.

Cut out the topping tags, then punch a hole in each tag to thread twine through. Place a tag on each jar, tying a bow around the tag with the twine for a whimsical touch.

A fun and festive Christmas party idea with sweet treats like gingerbread cookies.

Add toppings to each corresponding jar.

pro Tip
  • If you’re using various sized jars to display your toppings, use the taller jars for taller toppings like candy canes and wafers. Use the shorter jars for smaller topping pieces.

Arrange the topping filled jars on and around the sled, keeping shorter jars at closer reach for little hands.

Add scoops or spoons to the jars for scooping or place them off to the side for people to easily grab and scoop.

Christmas party idea for the holidays with a drink station and sweet treats.

You can even add some fun holiday Christmas lights to your station for an even more fun and whimsical touch! The little Christmas tree lights added such a festive glow, and I loved the little pop of green they provided!

Shop Hot Cocoa Topping Supplies

Hot Cocoa Station Sign or Banner

And finally, a hot cocoa station is not complete without a cute sign or banner! 

I found this adorable Cocoa banner at Target which I hung from peg hooks above our ultimate hot chocolate bar. 

Here are a couple of other cute banners that would be the perfect addition to your hot chocolate party.

Shop Hot Cocoa Banners

hot chocolate bar Tips & Tricks

  • Use high quality cocoa powder and real milk chocolate for the best flavor. Quality ingredients make a noticeable difference in the taste of your hot cocoa.
  • Use a slow cooker or a hot cocoa dispenser to keep the hot chocolate warm throughout the event. This allows guests to enjoy hot cocoa at their convenience.
  • Provide a wide array of toppings. Think whipped cream, marshmallows, crushed candy canes, caramel sauce, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. The more options, the more fun your guests will have creating their perfect cup.
  • Use small signs or labels to indicate different toppings and types of hot chocolate available. This not only adds a decorative touch but also helps guests easily identify their options.
  • Choose between disposable cups for easy cleanup or opt for vintage mugs or themed mugs that match the overall decor of your hot cocoa bar.
  • Decorate the hot chocolate bar area with fairy lights, garlands, and seasonal decorations. This enhances the ambiance and adds to the festive mood.
  • Keep your toppings organized in small jars, bowls, or baskets. This not only looks visually appealing but also keeps the area neat and easy to navigate.
  • Place a nearby table with napkins, wipes, and a bin for used cups and utensils. This makes cleanup a breeze for both you and your guests.
Hot cocoa bar for Christmas with candy canes, milk chocolate candies, and sugar cookies.

What else can you serve alongside a hot chocolate bar?

A hot chocolate bar party can be complemented with an array of treats that pair perfectly with the warm and comforting cocoa.

Here are some delicious food ideas that you could serve at your hot chocolate bar party:

  • Marshmallow Treats: Offer an assortment of marshmallow treats, such as chocolate covered marshmallows, marshmallow pops, or homemade marshmallow squares.
  • Dipped Pretzels: Provide pretzel sticks or twists coated in chocolate and sprinkles. They add a delightful crunch and a touch of saltiness to balance the sweetness of the hot cocoa. You can even use them as stirrers in your cup of hot chocolate!
  • Mini Donuts: Serve an assortment of mini donuts with various glazes and toppings. They are a crowd pleaser and pair wonderfully with hot chocolate.
  • Cookies: Offer an assortment of Christmas cookies such as monster, gingerbread, or sugar cookies.
  • Candy Canes: Provide classic peppermint candy canes for stirring and adding a hint of minty freshness to the hot cocoa.
  • Charcuterie Board: If you prefer a savory option, offer a cheese platter with a variety of cheeses, crackers, and some fruits like grapes and apples. This Christmas tree charcuterie is another great option!
  • Savory Snacks: Include some savory snacks like popcorn, mixed nuts, or even mini sandwiches to balance out the sweetness of the hot chocolate.
DIY hot chocolate bar for holiday cheer at Christmas parties.

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I look forward to sharing more of my home with you and inspiring you to have a well loved home! Follow me on FacebookInstagramPinterest, and

xoxo, heidi

Ultimate hot chocolate bar with a homemade hot chocolate recipe.
5 from 1 vote

Delicious Hot Chocolate Recipe

Warm up and embrace the winter season with a cup of decadent hot chocolate! This incredibly rich hot chocolate recipe is easy to make with the slow cooker doing most of the work for you.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:4 hours
Total Time:4 hours 5 minutes


  • 1 Slow Cooker


  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder unsweetened
  • 8 oz Dark Chocolate
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 6 cups 1% Milk
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream


  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together milk, heavy cream, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined.
  • Carefully pour mixture into slow cooker.
  • Add the dark chocolate to slow cooker.
  • Cook hot cocoa on low for 4 hours, stirring every hour to ensure chocolate melts evenly and does not stick to the bottom.
  • Pour hot cocoa into cups and top with your favorite hot cocoa topping.
  • Enjoy!


  • Use an appropriately sized slow cooker. If you’re serving a large group, opt for a larger slow cooker to accommodate the quantity you need without overflowing.
  • Start with high quality chocolate or cocoa powder and use  a combination of milk and heavy cream for a rich and creamy hot chocolate base.
  • A splash of pure vanilla extract enhances the overall flavor of the hot chocolate. 
  • Whisk the hot chocolate mixture well, especially after adding cocoa powder or chocolate. This ensures a smooth and lump-free texture.
  • While the slow cooker is great for heating, avoid boiling the hot chocolate. High heat can scorch the milk and change the texture. Keep the slow cooker on the low setting to gently heat the mixture.
  • If your slow cooker has a tendency to develop a skin on top, stir the hot chocolate occasionally to keep it smooth.
  • If your slow cooker has a “keep warm” setting, switch to this setting once the hot chocolate is ready. This will maintain the ideal serving temperature without overcooking the mixture.
  • If you’re using different types of milk (such as almond or soy milk) to accommodate dietary restrictions, make sure to label them clearly to avoid any allergic reactions.
  • Feel free to experiment with flavors by adding spices like cinnamon or a shot of flavored syrup like peppermint or caramel for unique and delightful variations.


Calories: 194kcal
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Hot Chocolate, Hot Cocoa, Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate
Servings: 6
Calories: 194kcal

Christmas Entertaining Inspiration

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Ultimate hot chocolate bar with a homemade hot chocolate recipe.
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  1. Your Hot Cocoa Station is simply adorable! I love it! Thank you for sharing it! It was so much fun hopping with you!

  2. I love all of your ideas for a hot cocoa station! Thanks for sharing the crock pot hot cocoa recipe! That will be a wonderful improvement over our usual Swiss Miss!! It’s been fun hopping with you!

  3. So many great ideas for a cocoa station! I especially love your list of toppings…quite a few that I had not thought of but will definitely include! It has been a delight to read your post and be introduced to you and your blog. This was definitely a fun blog hop! ~Missy Noonan, Sonata Home Design

  4. Hi Heidi – You’ve inspired me to set-up a Hot Cocoa Bar! Love all of the ideas for things you can stock the bar with. Thanks so much for being a part of our very first Fabulous Friday Blog Hop!

  5. Thank you Donna, I appreciate your kind words! Happy holidays and thank you for including in the first ever link party blog hop. It was so much fun!!!

  6. Such a fun and festive way to serve your guests hot cocoa! I love all the special touches you added from the sled, to the adorable printable tags, and all the yummy toppings! It fits perfectly on that part of your counter tucked underneath your beautifully decorated shelf! Here’s to a happy and blessed holliday season for all!

  7. Just what I needed!!!! A good, rich hot cocoa crock pot recipe. And all the fun topping suggestions are great too! Can’t wait to set up a cocoa bar for our neighborhood holiday party. Thanks so much for joining us on this inaugural Fab Friday Seasonal Blog Hop. It’s always great having you link up at the link Party too.

  8. Your hot cocoa station is so cute! I love all the mix-ins you’ve added and the thank you for the printables too. It will definitely help to make setting up one at our house super easy this year. I’ve never made crock pot hot chocolate before so I’m excited to try your recipe. Hope you and your family have a happy holiday season, CoCo

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