How far would you go for the perfect mug of cocoa?

A map of the best places in Fairfield County to buy hot chocolate

They can be stout, short, tall, chipped, or Hands-on-Pottery-painted, bought, gotten as a gift or made in art class: favorite mugs come from all sorts of places and in all shapes and sizes.

But as any tongue worth its taste buds will tell you, it isn’t the mug that’s important. It’s what’s inside it.

While tea lovers boast of the soothing and healing properties their drink has, and coffee enthusiasts argue there is no picker-upper quite like a cup of joe, there is one winter beverage whose deliciousness places it high above the rest.

One drink—comparable to a warm and loving hug from the world’s softest, biggest brown teddy bear—cannot be denied as superior, according to Staples students.

Evan Horrowitz ’15 considers himself an aficionado of hot cocoa. Or as he calls it, “nectar of the gods.”  Whether he is having a good day, a bad day, or an okay day, a cup of cocoa can always improve Horrowitz’s mood.

“A cup of hot cocoa helps me get through any nonsense,” Horrowitz said.

While the traditional simplicity of cocoa itself is inviting, a squirt—or entire can—of whipped cream or a handful of marshmallows can make all the difference. And adding a personal twist doesn’t have to stop there. Make every mug special by experimenting with different toppings.

Horrowitz took an unusual route when experimenting with his cocoa one day, and discovered a surprisingly delicious garnish—just a pinch or two of orange zest.

“While it won’t truly add anything to the flavor profile of this venerated beverage, its pungent oil adds a tropical bouquet to the drink that is undeniably tempting,” Horrowitz said.

Others are drawn to the distinctive comfort and warmth that a little spice can provide. A sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon can provide a pleasant surprise.

“I sometimes will put a cinnamon stick in my cocoa to change it up,” Bridget van Dorsten ’15 said.

Peppermint, caramel, and chocolate shavings can also embellish the traditional brew.

And what would a delicious drink be without a little something on the side?

“I’m definitely a sweet and salty gal. So with hot cocoa I like pretzels,” Lexy Iannacone ’15.

Others advocate for croissants or other pastries, perfect for eating on the side or dipping in your drink a la churros with café con leche.

Feeling a craving yet? According to Staples students, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, the Sherwood Diner, and the Coffee an’ Donut Shop are all Westport locations to stop by on the way to or from school. And for those of you who like to make your own, Trader Joe’s Signature Sipping Chocolate is reportedly fantastic.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump over to Norwalk is Chocopologie and Knipschildt Chocolatier, both renowned by Staples’ cocoa aficionados.

Or, if a bit of a drive or train ride isn’t an issue, stop by Jacques Torres, Pret-a-Manger, or Eataly in New York City.

Whether you’re traditional, zesty, spicy, sweet and salty, in a rush or a homemade kind of person, there’s a cup of cocoa out there that’s a mug match made in heaven.