As the thermostat drops, hot chocolate consumption goes up. But as cafes across San Francisco dust off their bins of cocoa, a few are teasing a hot beverage that will undo your knee-jerk hot chocolate-cold weather response. I’m talking about hot butterscotch. Like a liquefied Werther’s Original, it fills your mouth with rich, round, buttery, flavor. And despite its sophisticated taste, the main ingredients are just brown sugar, butter, cream, and eggs. So simple! Unlike omnipresent hot chocolate, hot butterscotch is a hidden treasure offered at just a few spots around town. Here are three places to find it—all of them served with marshmallows on top.
At 20th Century Café, pastry chef and owner Michele Polzine’s first menu item was hot butterscotch. “It’s basically a hot beverage version of the butterscotch pudding that I used to make at Range,” says Polzine. “People went nuts for that.” For the drinkable treat, Polzine adds a “magic rum” to punch up the flavor. I had my husband pick up her hot butterscotch and her hot cocoa for a taste comparison, and by the time I got to them, the butterscotch was almost gone. Enough said. $4
Pastry chef Lori Baker is adding hot butterscotch to the menu at Baker and Banker just in time for the temperature drop this weekend. Baker enriches her version with a hit of Dewar’s scotch and serves it with house made scotch-spiked marshmallows and olive oil fleur de sel biscotti for dipping. “The marshmallow and biscotti make for a more sophisticated flavor profile,” says Baker. $10
Finally, at the Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley, hot cider, hot chocolate and hot butterscotch just went on the menu. The latter is made with Straus organic milk and butterscotch sundae sauce. We recommend topping it with the housemade marshmallow fluff, which the bartender will gladly toast for you. Slide in Monday through Wednesday between 4 and 7 p.m. and you can get the drink for $3.50, a dollar less than the regular price.