El Moro

Chocolate Bar, 1915 Park Avenue, 314-421-2626

Earth to drinkers: It's cold outside.

Not that you would know. You're too busy putting the moves on the honey in the booth -- your loins are way, way too hot -- to worry about what's happening to all the little kitties and bunnies outside. They're freezing, man, and there you are, on the move, too desperate for a little warmth of your own to worry about the cute critters.

They'll survive, of course. But will you? Short answer: No, of course not. Long answer: Yeah, at least long enough for one more cup of hot cocoa.

Ah, sweet, sweet chocolate, without alcohol. Remember when the night was filled not with a fancy booze-infused drink but with a cup of thick hot chocolate? Remember how your mommy would pamper you? Remember the comfort? The existential bliss? How the little marshmallows would sit on top and gradually morph into mush?

Just because you're older doesn't mean that hot chocolate doesn't taste just as good, doesn't mean that that feeling is necessarily in the past. The Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square offers six different hot-cocoa concoctions, one of which will make you tingle (unless you're one of those freaks who doesn't like chocolate, in which case, go ahead and kill yourself now).

Meg Prindable, the Bar's manager, will help you decide. She's a good person to get to know if you like the brown stuff, because she knows what's what and can cater to your desires. On a recent visit -- it was three frickin' degrees outside -- she recommended an interesting drink. We're too refined to call the drink weird, so we'll call it "bold, daring, shocking."

El Moro: It's spicy, the product of the smoked chile that's added to Ibarra chocolate (an exquisite Mexican brand) and milk. Yes, spicy chocolate milk -- and it's not nearly as odd as it sounds; chocolate and chile complement each other surprisingly well. It's served sans marshmallows, but the froth on top makes up for it -- and insulates the liquid below, so be careful, or you'll burn your tongue as you always do with hot chocolate.

Skeptics will probably make the assumption that recalls Ralph Wiggum's classic line from The Simpsons: "It tastes like ... burning." But it doesn't. It tastes like chocolate, with a kick.

El Moro's spice lingers in the mouth if you take your time between sips. Take a big (careful) swig, swallow and then let the saliva gather in your mouth. You'll feel a funny, tingly sensation as the buds try making sense of the liquid that just passed through. But once they're on board, hold on and enjoy, because it's damn good.

It'll warm your loins more effectively than hitting on the hottie at the bar, and you won't have to gamble on humiliation or rejection. El Moro loves you -- yes, it's true -- and you'll hit the hay not filled with dizziness but with an incredible chocolate-induced clarity, always a wonderful experience.

 
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