City Bakery’s annual Hot Chocolate Festival

As its name suggests, the City Bakery is a well-known spot to pick up some of New York’s best croissants, muffins and other pastries. But during the month of February, the shop at 3 West 18th Street turns its focus to a drinkable sweet treat — hot chocolate. This Saturday will be the last day of the City Bakery’s Annual Hot Chocolate Festival.

Maury Rubin, the bakery’s creative director, said the idea for the festival came about in the winter of 1991.

“I was in a very experimental mood in the kitchen,” Rubin said. “I made five to six different flavored hot chocolates and invited a group of City Bakery customers one night to come and taste them all. They did, they liked, and the City Bakery Annual Hot Chocolate Festival was born.”

Each day in February, the bakery features one of the more than 20 hot chocolate varieties developed by Rubin. While some flavors are more familiar, including cinnamon and espresso, there are plenty of options for more adventurous eaters.

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Some, like the Lemon Hot Chocolate, include ingredients not commonly paired with chocolate, and others have whimsical names like White Chocolate Waltz. Rubin said what he calls the “friendliest” flavors — think milk chocolate and caramel — tend to be the most popular with his customers.

No matter which flavor you choose, each order of the City Bakery’s hot chocolate is served in a white bowl perfectly sized to cup between your hands. You can — and should — add a homemade marshmallow to your cup. The enormous confection floats like an iceberg on top of the drink and is a perfect treat once you have had your last sip.

Sipping is definitely the best way to enjoy this drink. It is so deeply flavored and rich that it would be a shame to finish it too quickly.

Rubin claimed that he is unable to choose a favorite type of hot chocolate from the festival this year. However, he did call out the two flavors made with beer, one with porter and other with stout, as being particularly interesting and delicious.

“They’re like my children, so I’m very impartial,” Rubin said.

While the festival is ending on February 28, there is still time to taste some of Rubin’s creations. On the last day, the City Bakery will hold a Festival of Flavors.

“I come back around to offer the flavors that I’ve heard the best feedback on, or flavors I thought were special that more people need to taste,” Rubin said. “There will be three to four at least that rotate throughout the day.”

Even if you do not make it to the City Bakery before February is over, do not worry. You can get a cup of their delicious original hot chocolate any day of the year, so there is plenty of time to indulge as you wait for spring to finally arrive.

Email Kendall Levison at [email protected]

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