We may not see a lot of snow in the Valley, but Las Vegas winters certainly pack enough chill to send us in search of something to warm our belly and bones. Few beverages hit the spot like hot chocolate, and for those seeking out this drinkable cocoa treat, we offer you two versions: one healthful and one sinful.
For the health-conscious consumer craving a piping-hot chocolaty fix, nobody in town delivers like The Juice Standard (4555 S. Fort Apache Rd., 2530 St. Rose Pkwy. and in The Cosmopolitan, juicestandard.com). While the local chain is best known for its cold-pressed juices, during the chilly months, customers in the know can warm things up with three steaming drinks made from organic raw cacao powder. According to co-owner Marcella Williams, “It’s loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants” that eliminate free radicals, and which many believe help mitigate cancer risks and promote heart health. That powder is mixed with house-made cashew cream to begin the process of creating your drink. Next to be added is alkaline water, which has a pH of 9.0 and is believed to be better for hydrating because it’s more easily absorbed. A touch of raw agave adds a little sweetness without using sugar.
Before the mixture is steamed, your mixologist will add one of three ingredients, depending on what taste and health benefits you’re looking for. CBD(C) ($8; not available at The Cosmopolitan location) features CBD oil, a hemp extract that contains no intoxicating THC, but is still believed to have many of the health benefits of cannabis. While it doesn’t impart a very strong taste, there’s still a bit of a hippie vibe to it.
If you want something a bit more refined, go with L’Orange Cream Cacao ($6, $7 at The Cosmopolitan location), which adds a touch of orange peel extract for a mild fruity touch. But on those coldest of winter days, your best bet is unquestionably Some Like It Hot ($6, $7 at The Cosmopolitan location). This drink relegates sweetness to the back burner, and instead blends the mild bitterness of the raw cacao with the kick of cayenne pepper. In addition to bringing the heat, the pepper will alleviate the sinus congestion that is far too common this time of year while boosting your metabolism in the process.
As you bar-hop your way down Fremont Street on a chilly winter’s evening, there are plenty of places to stop for a strong cocktail and to get out of the cold. But none may feel more appropriate for the task than Park on Fremont (506 Fremont St., parkonfremont.com) thanks to its semi-psychedelic hunting lodge motif of brightly colored taxidermy fowl and a mounted deer head adorned with chrome firearm antlers. If tracking tourists and hipsters were a winter sport, this would most certainly be the spot to recharge in the midst of a long hunt. So it seems appropriate that in addition to the obligatory craft beer and cocktails, the menu offers traditional hot chocolate with a dash of “cheer,” served in a folksy mug.
A nod to those who (perhaps a little too) eagerly await their local nonprofit’s cookie season every year, the bar staff has created a wintry treat called the Dirty Girl Scout ($8). And while the name is an homage to Thin Mints, the flavor profile is a bit more complicated—much like the thoughts that run through your head when you realize the title of the drink is still a bit of a turn-on, even at your advanced age.
The drink begins with an ounce of Stoli Vanil. Next comes half an ounce each of peppermint schnapps and Avión’s tequila-based espresso liqueur. The booze is then floated on a hearty cup of house-made hot chocolate that is topped with whipped cream and garnished with a fresh mint leaf. The result is guaranteed to warm your insides, and provides a nice little buzz in the process. And of course, should you drink too many, you can pay a return visit to The Juice Standard the next day to rehydrate in a more healthy manner.