Kitchen & Cooking

How to host an outdoor cocoa party

This COVID-friendly gathering is the perfect solution for winter hangouts.

Hot cocoa will keep you warm at this outdoor gathering. Credit: Getty / julief514

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As temperatures drop and the days get shorter, you’re probably wondering how to keep up those safe outdoor gatherings. Well, look no further than an outdoor cocoa party to lift your spirits and give you an excuse to indulge in as many marshmallows as you’d like (in case you needed an excuse). We’ve rounded up all the gear you need, plus we’ve got recommendations for truly stellar cocoa for almost every palate.

The cocoa

hot cocoa
Credit: Getty / milarka

Get creative with your hot cocoa—add special marshmallows or maybe a fun garnish.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth like me, you’ll probably be happy with any cup of hot chocolate. But if you’re looking to get extra festive, or maybe make these beverages for grown-ups only, we’ve got a few options for you.

Make it classic

My mom swears by the recipes on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa container, and the Favorite Hot Cocoa listed on here makes a really great basic cocoa. You’ll need milk, sugar, hot water, vanilla, a pinch of salt, plus your favorite marshmallows to top it off.

Make it festive

This recipe for Peppermint White Hot Chocolate from popular cooking blog Gimme Some Oven is garnished with crushed candy canes, giving it major holiday vibes.

Make it boozy

Treat yourself to a fancy hot chocolate mix, like this Godiva Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa, and add your favorite tipple. Try adding coffee liqueur for a traditional take, or opt for peppermint schnapps to make your beverage taste like a straight up candy cane.

The gear

gear
Credit: Cresimo / Food52

Mugs and a carafe are the most important pieces of gear for an outdoor hot cocoa party.

Carafe

This item is the key to any outdoor cocoa party. Keep your cocoa hot with this sleek, portable 3-liter carafe from Amazon ($39.95).

Mugs

Make sure you’ve got the appropriate drinking vessels for your cocoa! We love this set of four minimalist mugs from Food52 ($45) because they’re sturdy and will likely complement your existing mug collection. If your cocoa party is happening somewhere other than your yard, opt for a BYO mug party!

Patio heater

For all those folks in colder climates, make sure you’ve got a patio heater for your outdoor cocoa party. (Alternatively, you could build a big ol’ bonfire, but if you live in the city this might not be an option.) We recommend this Hampton Bay Patio Heater available from Amazon for $315—consider it an investment in a more enjoyable winter.

Chairs

Sure, you could invest in a patio furniture set if you haven’t already (like this highly-rated patio set from Walmart), or you could buy a few folding chairs so you can host your outdoor cocoa party anywhere. We like this oversized comfy camping chair from Amazon for $89.99.

Blankets

Whether you want to cozy up with a blanket, or spread it on the ground for a picnic-style party, it’s a good idea to have a few of these on hand this winter. We love this waterproof outdoor blanket from Amazon ($39.99) because it’s durable and super easy to wash if you happen to, I don’t know, spill some of your cocoa (oops!).

The ambiance

ambiance
Credit: That Cheese Plate / Solo Stove

Elevate your hot cocoa party with personal cheese plates, a cozy fire pit, and more.

String lights

These are essential to outdoor ambiance year-round. We like these Hampton Bay Outdoor String Lights from Home Depot ($49.97).

Snacks

Don’t forget the snacks! I love pairing salty with sweet, so my ideal munchies for a hot cocoa party are crispy potato chips or crunchy nuts, which also happen to be individually packaged and therefore COVID-friendly. If you’re feeling crafty, make these portable (and personal!) cheese plates by Marissa Mullen, author of That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life.

Fire pit

This one is definitely optional, but if you can’t get your hands on a patio heater you should consider a fire pit. The Solo Stove is a great smokeless option (and yes, it really is mostly smokeless!), and if you’re looking for a fire pit that doubles as an outdoor stove, we recommend the BioLite FirePit.

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