Inspired Entertaining: A DIY Hot Chocolate Bar Party

I love winter in New York City.

The crisp air. The glittering lights in the trees. The excuse to bundle up in cute boots and cozy coats.

It really is a magical time of year, although I admit that the cold does get to me. As much as I love to spend a day out and about in the city shopping and ice skating with friends, it usually isn't long before I find myself craving a crackling fire and a mug of something warm and cozy.

And while there are plenty of restaurants where I could do just that, I much rather use it as an excuse to invite a few friends over and host a casual and cozy DIY Hot Chocolate Bar Party at home.

The first day of winter is just a few days away, and it's the perfect time to invite over a few friends and toast the start of this cozy season. As part of my ongoing entertaining series with Smirnoff, I thought I'd share a few of my tips and ideas for hosting a low-key winter hot chocolate bar party.

(And I really do mean simple!) Fancy signs and matchy-matchy labels are super cute for weddings or bridal showers, but I prefer something a little more casual that everyone can do.

No need to spend days planning. Just follow the easy tips below, and you and your friends will be toasting in no time!

I start setting up my bar by gathering all my favorite mugs. They don't have to match. In fact, I think it's better when they don't!

Big ones. Small ones. Put out enough for everyone, plus a few extra in case people want seconds (or thirds!).

It's not necessary, but I added little drink flags and a marker so that your guests can identify their mugs.

You can even turn it into a contest later and have people vote on the most creative hot chocolate concoction!

Hot Chocolate
For my party, I set out two different kinds of hot chocolate. A regular dark hot chocolate and a creamy white vanilla hot chocolate.  Follow your favorite from-scratch recipe or go ahead and use a mix...I won't judge! :)

Since the point of the bar is for guests to personalize the flavors, I suggest keeping it very simple with basic flavors that guests can doctor up to their liking.

I prepared everything on the bar in advance, and kept the hot chocolate and other perishables in the fridge until my guests arrived. Once it was party time, I quickly warmed the chocolates up on the stove and poured into insulated carafes for serving.

You can also use a slow cooker or a coffee dispenser to keep everything nice and warm throughout the party.

Spike it Up
How to make hot chocolate even better? Add a little vodka! I love Smirnoff's confections line of flavored vodkas.

My favorite is Smirnoff Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka, which tastes like creamy vanilla whipped cream and is amazing with both dark and white hot chocolate.

I recommend putting out a few different flavors as part of your hot chocolate bar, so that guests can mix and match their favorites. As a guideline, guests should start by adding 1 to 1 ½ ounces of vodka per mug—I suggest leaving out a couple little measuring cups for easy reference—then follow with their favorite hot chocolate. 
For this party, I featured Smirnoff Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka, Smirnoff Fluffed Marshmallow Flavored Vodka (which tastes like toasted marshmallows!), Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Flavored Vodka, and Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka.

You can also have fun with some fruit flavors—Smirnoff Raspberry vodka is incredible with dark chocolate, and the Smirnoff Pear vodka went really well with the white chocolate.

If you or your guests need a little additional inspiration, try one of the recipes I created for this party, like my Whipped Vanilla White Hot Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs or my Fluffernutter Hot Chocolate with Salted Peanuts.

What an incredible way to warm up after a chilly day out on the town!

This is where you can have a lot of fun! Raid your pantry and fridge, and pull out anything you think could work well with hot chocolate.

Think things like chocolate chips, mini (or big!) marshmallows, crumbled cookies, maraschino cherries, roasted peanuts, coconut, and even fresh berries or diced fruit.

( good would banana be?!).

Small candies or sprinkles would work well, too. You might even want to pull out a few spices like cinnamon, cayenne (for a spicy hot chocolate!), and nutmeg.

A good flaky sea salt would be a nice touch.

Add a shaker filled with cinnamon and powdered sugar for dusting on top. 

Arrange each of the toppings in small bowls or glasses. Use vessels of different shapes and sizes to add height and variety to the table.

Whipped cream is obviously a must. You can either make your own from scratch, or just set out a chilled can of the store-bought kind.

And think of other things your guests might like to drizzle on top. I put out a jar of honey, a small bottle of maple syrup, some peppermint chocolate syrup, and some raw and maple sugar for sprinkling.

You can use paper straws or plastic stirrers, but also think about other edible options like candy canes, cinnamon sticks, pretzels, or wafer cookies.

As you've been out all day, it's best to keep the activities simple. Let your friends have fun creating different hot chocolate combinations, and then settle down on the couch or some cozy chairs to watch a movie or chat.

Take photos of the different creations and share them on Instagram or Facebook.

Party Favors
And, when the time comes to head home, you can send each of your guests home with a little jar of hot chocolate mix to continue the fun at home. This is my favorite recipe for a DIY Peppermint Hot Chocolate Mix, but feel free to play around and make it your own by adding different flavors or candies.

Want more great Winter Entertaining ideas? 
Click on over to my DIY Hot Chocolate Bar Party Tips Board on Pinterest!

Or check out my eCookbook: The Puerto Rican Christmas Table with 40+ recipes and full-color photos.
 Click here to learn more!

Note: This post is sponsored by Smirnoff. Thank you for supporting great companies like Smirnoff that make it possible for me to keep creating fun new content for you to enjoy. All photos, opinions, and recipes are (of course!) my own. As always, please remember to drink responsibly!

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