Winter has always been my favorite time of year, in large part because of the holiday season. Watching Christmas movies during December has been a family tradition since I was a baby, but one movie has always been my favorite each year — The Polar Express. There are so many things I love about the movie, from the music to the (admittedly slightly unnerving) animation.

But my sweet tooth has always been gripped by one particular part — the hot chocolate scene. As our main characters are snuggled in their vaguely 1950s-style pajamas on the way to the North Pole, the conductor comes out to announce the hot chocolate has arrived. All of a sudden, a group of classically-dressed chefs and waiters burst out into a musical number as they dance down the train car aisle, serving the kids the creamiest cup of hot chocolate. Wanting to figure out what hot chocolate could possibly be worth an entire musical number, I tasked myself with trying to recreate it.

First things first…do NOT use hot chocolate mix.

I want to make it clear that hot chocolate mix absolutely has its time and place.

When I am halfway through binge watching my Christmas movies, I want my hot cocoa fast. But in the event where you want to take the time to make a really good cup of hot chocolate, we’re going to put the cocoa mix back in the cupboard and take out our good chocolate.

Use solid milk and dark chocolate for that rich color.

As the children on the Polar Express have their extravagantly-presented hot chocolate, it has a really warm chocolate color. It is nowhere near as dark as a cup of French hot chocolate that uses only dark chocolate, but still looks deeper of a shade than your typical milk chocolate. For that reason I used a one to three milk to dark chocolate ratio. Chop up your chocolate into small pieces to help it melt evenly.

For a thick consistency, combine heavy cream and milk.

In my opinion, the perfect cup of hot chocolate has to be rich and creamy — luckily the chefs on the Polar Express seem to agree. When the sweet treat shoots out of the fanciest hot chocolate server I’ve ever seen, you can see it is a very creamy consistency swirling around in the children’s mugs. To thicken up our hot chocolate, add heavy cream in addition to milk for the base. Add a quarter cup of heavy cream to every cup of milk you use.

Upgrade it with some whipped cream.

One thing that even as a child always felt missing when I dreamed of trying the hot chocolate from the Polar Express was whipped cream to top it. I’m sure adding whipped cream would have made the serving process on the train much more tedious so I will give the benefit of the doubt. But since we are making a much smaller batch, I recommend going the extra mile in adding whipped cream.

Polar Express Hot Chocolate

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:10 mins
  • Total Time:15 mins
  • Servings:2
  • Easy


  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup chopped milk chocolate
  • 2/3 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • Whipped cream optional
Sophia Martin
  • Step 1

    In a small pot, heat milk and heavy cream over medium heat. Stir in cocoa powder and sugar, and whisk until small bubbles emerge at the surface. Add in vanilla and salt.

  • Step 2

    Add in the chopped chocolate a little bit at a time, allowing it to melt. Serve in your favorite mug and turn on the Polar Express!