Hot Cocoa Bar - How To
When it comes to decorating, there are no rules. Lucky for you, same applies for creating your own hot cocoa bar... For those of you where the idea of decorating gives a chill down your spine, I'm here to break it down in a simple, easy, and fun way.
If you've wanted to create your own Hot Cocoa Bar (or host a bar for a Wedding or Shower) but thought it might be too time-consuming or costly, you've come to the right place! This hot cocoa bar was not only easy to setup, but fairly cost-effective as well. It does help to have some extra Christmas or winter-themed decor laying around the home.
WHAT YOU NEED (In a Nutshell):
Some of these things are optional, but figured I'd include more ideas than less to help the brainstorming process and to facilitate your "To Do" / "To Buy" list. You can make this as elaborate or as simple as you'd like. Both approaches can work great!
table, bar, or dresser to display hot cocoa bar
containers for toppings (think glass jars, mason jars, tins, buckets, etc.)
toppings (of course!)
hot cocoa mix and milk (if using milk)
carafe (for hot cocoa or hot water)
hot cocoa container with spoon (if guests will make their own)
mugs or hot/cold to-go cups
serving-ware for toppings (such as spoons and tongs)
hot cocoa stirrers or spoons (for guests)
backdrop (optional, but can definitely add to ambience!)
Christmas lights (optional)
extra decorative accents, branches, and ribbon to fill in gaps
trays, plates, or platters to group items
hot cocoa signs (and easels if needed)
hot cocoa labels (with string or ribbon)
hot cocoa bar banner
tape (to tape banner if needed)
glass cake stands, crates, or anything to create levels
3-tiered stand (optional but an easy way to create height)
vase with floral arrangement (optional, but definitely adds height and charm)
table runner (optional, but can add color and tie in your theme)
fabric napkins (optional, but can add extra color)
fun cocktail napkins (for guests)
Keep reading to find out where to purchase these items, including the #LikeToKnowIt section towards the end!
SAVVY SHOPPING TIP: Wait until the glassware is 50% off at Hobby Lobby which happens almost every other week. Most of the jars were $1-$2.50 each.
HOT COCOA BAR TOPPINGS:
Here is an extensive list of ideas for toppings and mix-ins to get your brain juices flowing. Choose your favorites and create your own unique combination.
whipped cream (or cool whip)
white chocolate chips
peppermint twists (they make great stirrers)
crushed andes mints
crushed peppermint bark
heath bar bits
peanut butter chips
crushed candy canes
mint chocolate chips
chopped up candy bars
flavored syrups (such as cinnamon, caramel, hazelnut, vanilla, peppermint)
chocolate chip cookies
adult beverages such as...
Creme de Mint
Bailey's Irish Creme
Make a list of everything you need before you head to the store.
Crunch up candy toppings ahead of time (such as the Andes mints and peppermint bark) and store them in a ziplock bag until ready for use.
I actually used Cool Whip for the Whipped Cream when hosting the party as it stood up much longer than actual whipped cream would. You could also use a can of Whipped Cream and use some paper that matches your labels to cover the can and create your own label to make it cute.
We also like to serve chocolate chip cookies with our hot cocoa bar.
Because we all like to save money when we can...
SAVVY SHOPPING TIP: You can purchase the Pirouette cookies at the $1 store (where as the same cookies are $2-4 at a grocery store) as well as the peppermint twists for $1 which makes the perfect festive drink stirrer.
HOT COCOA BAR STIRRER IDEAS:
Here are just a few ideas to stir in your toppings or add some extra flavor:
chocolate covered spoons
rock candy sticks
wooden spoons (from Hobby Lobby)
SETUP ADVICE & TIPS:
Create levels and various heights which create interest and dimension to your bar. Be creative and look for ways to create height with items from around your home. I used a square styrofoam cube under the White Chocolate Chips to raise the jar up higher. I then covered it with a fabric napkin to hide it (as shown below). I also used 2 glass tiered cake stands and various galvanized metal drawers (I just flipped them around to hide the handles) and metal boxes to add height. Wooden crates and cute boxes work well too!
Utilize a 3-Tiered Stand: Add a 3-tiered stand if possible as an easy way to add height and function. Fill each section with either toppings, mugs, or decorative items and signs (or all of the above to give it that "Wow" factor). I did a combination along with some extra leaves, branches, ribbon, and red berries to add a unique touch. Fill in the gaps with ribbon, leaves, &/or branches.
Add an Element of Interest as a Backdrop: If possible, add a window frame, wreath (or both), or some type of wintery scenic picture behind your setup to add depth and ambience. You could even add some white bead-board as a backdrop and incorporate a banner and Christmas lights. I made the wreath below in less than 15 minutes by inserting leaves from a eucalyptus garland into the wreath. I then just wrapped a ribbon around the wreath with a bow and inserted a few red berries to add a pop of color. Click this link for an easy, a step-by-step Wreath Making Tutorial.
Vary Color in Your Setup. Since I had two red toppings (the peppermint twists and the crushed peppermint bark), I separated them in two different groups. I also did the same for my white toppings (like coconut, white chocolate chips, whipped cream, and marshmallows) so that the color is spread out throughout your bar. The little details make all the difference!
Be Creative with Your Setup Decor. Think outside the box. Repurpose other elements and decorate pieces from around your home to help add your own unique flair to your bar. I had this cream dresser in our storage room as well as some white Christmas trees, window frame, white pitcher, ribbon, baker's twine, a few jars, and extra seasonal floral stems.
SAVVY SHOPPER TIP: Check out the $1 and $3 bins at Target for decor, inspiration, banners, and jars! The adorable table runner was another $3 find from Target. I also found a super cute "Believe" banner for $3 as well (as seen on our patio in my Patio Christmas Decorating post).
Create Signage: I made the labels and banner with materials I already had in my craft closet. The chalkboard stickers were originally from Michaels. I attached the stickers to white glittery paper (also from Michaels).
NOTE: If using glitter paper, a word of caution. Applying stickers to glittery paper only holds up for so long... Use double-sided tape (not hot glue as this wrinkles the sticker...lesson learned), and wait to hang up your banner until you're ready for guests to avoid letters falling off prematurely. Some tape works better than others. My first banner held up for 2 days before it came apart, then I used a different tape and it has held up for 3+ weeks! #splurgeondoublesidedtape #itmatters
I cut the white paper into equal-sized squares and rounded the corners to polish off the look. I used a white marker to write the labels on the chalkboard stickers. I punched holes in each square and then added ribbon for the banner while using red and white baker's twine to tie the labels to the jars.
Utilize Other Signage: If possible, hit up your local Hobby Lobby or other stores to buy or create a few hot cocoa signs. The one below was less than $6. You can also make your own on a cute chalkboard or paint your own if you have time!
Don't forget the Serving-ware! Don't forget spoons and tongs for serving the toppings! No one likes germy, grubby phalanges rummaging through the jars, especially during the height of flu season. These spoons and the tongs were found at the $1 Store, for you guessed it...1 whopping dollar!
Carafe: You can make the hot cocoa ahead of time and keep it in the carafe to stay warm. This works best for large groups. If you have a smaller group, you can also keep the hot cocoa in a cute jar (such as these Santa cookie jars) with a spoon and then keep hot water in a carafe so guests can make their own hot cocoa.
Mugs &/or Cups: You can either include coffee mugs in your setup or supply to-go cups with lids. We chose to offer both options. The cute cream mugs were only $1 at Hobby Lobby!
We also purchased some to-go cups in bulk at Costco for around $13 for 100+cups and lids.
Straws & Napkins: Don't forget to add your own personal touch with some fun cocktail napkins and straws that coordinate with your setup.
Our hot cocoa bar was quite the hit, not only for our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party (Party Entertaining Made Easy post coming soon), but also for any guests that came over during the winter season.
This hot coca bar ended up becoming a permanent winter fixture in our home. We have a whole new appreciation for fancy hot cocoa now, thanks to our bar (and the bone-chilling winter we've had so far in the South). Who knew Peppermint Schnapps would be the perfect addition to adults-only hot cocoa as the unsuspecting remedy for warming up after a chilly day in the not-so-warm South...
For more Christmas decor ideas, check out my Christmas Decorating page for additional decorating ideas, advice, and cost-saving tips.
Cream Dresser: Our Custom Creation (Check out our Furniture Makeovers page to see more!)
Galvanized 3-Tiered Stand: Pottery Barn
Christmas Trees: Hobby Lobby
Table Runner: Target
Galvanized Boxes to Create Levels: Hobby Lobby
Hot Cocoa Banner & Labels: created by Me with stickers & paper from Michaels
Glass Jars: Hobby Lobby & Target
Cream Mugs: Hobby Lobby
Hot Cocoa Signs: Hobby Lobby
Glass Stands: Bed, Bath, & Beyond and Target
Glass Pitcher: Target
Straws: Hobby Lobby
Tea Pot: HomeGoods
Santa Cookie / Hot Cocoa Jar: HomeGoods
Ribbon: Michaels & Joann Fabrics
Eucalyputs Stems and Garland: Hobby Lobby
Wreath: Custom Made by Me
Mini Silver Spoons: $1 Store Window Frame: Barn Sale
Coffee/Hot Cocoa Carafe: Walmart
Plaid Napkins: HomeGoods
Check out my Christmas Decorating page for other ideas and "how-to's", including easy, step-by-step guides on wreath making, planter and floral arrangement creating, chandelier decorating, garland making, and more!