Crazy for Cocoa

Hot cocoa is a quintessential cold-weather beverage and a good alternative to coffee and tea. I always make sure to have a box of Swiss Miss in my pantry in case of emergency. However, most (if not all) coffee shops also offer hot chocolate, and many of them provide their own take on the popular drink. Below are a number of local options if you’re looking to step out of your hot cocoa box.

Northside Social

Northside Social is unique in that it serves a tahini hot chocolate. What is tahini, you ask? It’s a creamy, oily ground sesame seed paste (similar to peanut butter) often used in Middle Eastern cuisine. This is the ideal drink for someone eager to try new things!

The Royal

I was first drawn to this hot chocolate after seeing multiple posts on Instagram. The Royal adds jalapeño to their cocoa for a bit of a kick, and it is all topped off with brûléed marshmallows, making it almost too beautiful to drink (keyword: almost).

A Baked Joint

A Baked Joint is known for their breads and breakfast spreads, but don’t underestimate what they can do with their drinks! They serve their hot cocoa in a tall glass and top it with homemade marshmallows (which are soooo much better than store-bought).

Little Red Fox

We love Harper Macaw, and Little Red Fox uses their product when making their mochas and hot chocolate. The chocolate flavor is more subtle and a tad bittersweet, so you know it’s authenticity that you’re getting and not some syrupy concoction.



Artifact Coffee in Baltimore offers several variations to your typical hot cocoa, one being s’mores and another that incorporates Malbec (talk about getting chocolate wasted!). I don’t know how you could choose between the two, but I do know I need to make it out to Charm City soon!

Stomping Ground

Stomping Ground in Alexandria serves up a Mexican hot chocolate that looks to die for. It is composed of Valrhona cocoa powder, cayenne, orange zest, and chilis and is certain to zap you back to life after being out in the cold!


Ok, so Italian sipping chocolate isn’t cocoa how we typically perceive it, but it is literally hot chocolate. Pitango offers this intense, thick, divine alternative in the cooler months. Add a shot of espresso, and you’ll be in heaven! Add some steamed milk, and you’ll have what they call an American-style hot chocolate!

Open City

Who doesn’t love sprinkles? And I’m kind of obsessed with lavender which you don’t see much of in the winter. So the lavender hot chocolate at Open City is perfect for me! You also get a couple animal crackers on the side which round off the presentation.


Have you tried any of these unique takes on hot chocolate? What’s your favorite place to grab a cup of cocoa?

Keep caffeinated,



Sneak Peek of Swing’s Coffee

It’s a busy time for the folks at Swing’s Coffee Roasters.

CEO Mark Warmuth and new store manager Alex Farewell-Prisaznuk hold the fort in Washington DC, working with DCRA (Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs) to get final permits approved for the latest installment of Swings Coffee. They are just days away from opening their third location at 640 14th Street NW, in the same building as the Hamilton Hotel and Old Ebbitts Grill. (Their G Street location will re-open after building construction is complete).

Teaser window coverings at 640 14th St NW


Beautifully designed bar at Swing’s Coffee

Meanwhile Director of Coffee Operations, Neil Balkom, is on his way to Knoxville for CoffeeChamps, a qualifying event for the US Coffee Championships, where he is taking a team of baristas and also judging in the competitions. Following the event he is heading to the coffee triangle of Colombia to delve deeper into the world of decaf coffees processing. Neil admires decaf drinkers for their dedication to drinking coffee purely for the flavor and enjoyment of it, not to merely transport caffeine, and therefore takes it upon himself to find the very best decaf coffee available.

Two of the many coffees available at Swing’s

At Swings’ new storefront you can expect the same quality and service you’re receiving at their Del Ray location: ethically sourced coffee through draft lattes, five single origin pour over options, and that carefully selected decaf. They will offer Junction Bakery pastries and are still working with a few other vendors to nail down more treat options.

The pastry case that will soon be filled with scrumptious baked goods
3-group La Marzocco espresso machine

CORE architecture + design, inc. (CORE) of Georgetown designed the space that used to be a tobacconist (CORE is the creative brain behind Rare Sweets and District Doughnut, among many other DC favorites). They worked with a marble/brass/black theme and the high ceilings really make that marble pop. Blending the artistically sleek design is a attention-grabbing copper Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine that complements the La Marzocco and Poursteady working the main bar. Combining all that with a Pentair Everpure filtration system, Swing’s Coffee is determined to bring you the best balanced coffee in the District.

Black, marble and brass complement each other at Swing’s
The aesthetically pleasing Victoria Arduino lever espresso machine
Coffee Director Neil pulling a honey-processed Java espresso shot

While I was canvassing the new space Neil served a honey processed Java espresso made with the Victoria Arduino and its aroma and flavor hinted at biscotti. The machine is quiet and artful. We followed it with a shot of their 4 Mile espresso blend, which was spicy and citrusy. We are looking forward to going back soon to try their draft latte and milk based espresso drinks, which we plan to consume while we linger in their Parisian brasserie style seating against the wall.

Owner Mark Warmuth and cafe manager Alex Farewell-Prisaznuk working out details of the new Swing’s Coffee

Stay tuned for exact dates: they aim to welcome customers the first week of February in a soft-open capacity with reduced hours while they get their new staff up to speed, with a hard opening towards the end of that week.   

UPDATE: Swing’s Coffee is NOW OPEN at 640 14th St NW, Washington DC.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Stay grounded,



Travel Tuesday: Philadelphia

Philadelphia- home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Will Smith. An easy two and a half hours out of DC, I’m surprised I haven’t made my way here too often. However, with a couple friends now in the area, I really have no excuse. I traveled up for the long weekend with coffee on my mind and adventure in my heart, and I’m already looking forward to my next visit.

Elixr Coffee Roasters

Elixr was my first coffee stop on this trip to Philly, and it came highly recommended. I ordered a croissant with an Ethiopian pour over on the Chemex which was delightfully floral. Every single wall in the cafe was decorated differently which was fun, and the place kept buzzing with people coming to work, catch up with friends, or simply pick up some coffee before heading out to Center City (their downtown). My friend also really enjoyed her chai latte.


Cafe Ole

Walking around Old City, we stumbled into Mediterranean coffeehouse Cafe Ole for some good conversation with friends. I enjoyed a Mexican hot chocolate while others at the table snacked on hummus and grape leaves. While small, the cafe had a cozy feel and perfect for tucking away for a little while.


Menagerie Coffee

We loved the decor in Menagerie Coffee, just down the street from Cafe Ole. It remained fairly busy late in the day on Saturday. However, it seemed understood that everyone was there to work, resulting in a quieter environment. I enjoyed a cappuccino which was the perfect temperature and a tasty little pastry that was able to tide me over before indulging in a Pat’s cheesesteak (whiz witout) for dinner.


Anthony’s Italian Coffee & Chocolate House

While waiting for our brunch reservations in the Italian Market, we hopped over to Anthony’s for some coffee and sweets. My Italian Market Reserve was absolutely divine, and my friend loved her hot chocolate. We also splurged on some gourmet chocolate pretzels…well worth it. I’ve been dreaming about them ever since.


La Colombe Fishtown

Philadelphia is the home of La Colombe, and while I didn’t make it to the first store in Rittenhouse Square, I did make it to the humongous location in Fishtown. It was packed midday Sunday and included food such as pizza and draft beers on the menu.


ReAnimator Coffee

ReAnimator has two locations in North Philly, and though I intended to go to the one in Fishtown, I ended up in Kensington. It was quiet, and the large windows allowed the perfect amount of sunshine in. I ordered a V60 pourover of their Colombian which wasn’t only delicious, but only $3 (instead of $5) because I happened to stop in during their daily Happy Hour when all pourovers are only $3. What a lovely surprise!


Johnny Brenda’s

Johnny Brenda’s is actually a bar and music venue, but they also roast their own coffee. How cool is that? I enjoyed a Castaway which was their cold brew coffee, condensed milk, and Sailor Jerry Rum. It tasted like tiramisu in liquid form, and I couldn’t drink it fast enough. Shout out to the super nice bartender who kindly charged my phone behind the bar so I could find my way home!


While I was able to cover a lot of coffee ground in 48 hours, there’s still much more to go. I came with a long list of recommendations, and I look forward to returning soon and checking more off the list. What’s your favorite coffee house in Philadelphia?

Keep caffeinated,


Ice Ice Baby – Drinking Iced Coffee in the Winter

Yesterday the high in the District was 70, a perfect day for an iced latte. And so what did I treat myself to? An iced (Milky Way) latte, of course! However, for so many of you, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside…you can be on an excursion in Antarctica and still order a cold brew. Why is that? It intrigues me. When it’s cold outside, all I want is a roaring fire and a hot cup of coffee cradled between my hands.

Enjoying an iced Milky Way latte on a warm January day

I’ve come up with a few hypotheses about why some people drink iced coffee 365 days a year, even when it’s freezing outside. First off, maybe it just tastes better to some. Different temperatures can bring out different flavors in the coffee bean, and maybe some people prefer how flavors express themselves when coffee is brewed cold or poured over ice. Another guess is that people who drink iced coffee during the cold months are typically hot-natured. I’m no scientist, but this seems plausible. Can anyone speak to this? Also, you can simply drink iced coffee faster than hot coffee because you don’t have to wait for it to cool off (or worry about burning your tongue). Get it in the body quickly so the caffeine can start kicking in…I am all about that! Finally, for those who might be a little more health conscious, iced coffee is better for you in some ways. When coffee is cold brewed, it’s less acidic, making it better for your stomach and teeth.

This iced latte from A Baked Joint is calling my name…

Winter in DC is magical, especially when we get snow. However, in a couple months as winter turns into spring, two of my favorite things return: baseball and iced lattes. Until then, I salute those of you strong enough to brave the cold with an iced coffee in hand.

What do you like to drink when it’s cold outside? Sound off below!

Keep caffeinated,


P.S.- Stay tuned, because as the weather gets warmer we’ll post about different ways you can brew iced coffee at home!