'Tis the season to drink hot toddies, fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la. I love the holiday season, and Larimer Square has always been one of my favorite places to get in the spirit. It's at the epicenter of my winter memories: When I was a kid, the holidays weren't complete until we made our annual pilgrimage to the then-tourist mecca to see the decorated trees and the lights strung across the street and listen to awful, piped-in Christmas music. Although I miss my traditional downtown ten-minute ice skate (originally next to May D&F on 16th Street, then at Larimer Square, now available in Cherry Creek North), I believe I've found a replacement rite that's just as likely to end with me on my ass, but with less damage to my tailbone. My newest holiday tradition is Rioja's Bourbon "Spiked" Hot Chocolate ($6), perhaps the best and richest hot chocolate in the history of the world. Rioja considers this drink of Callebaut chocolate, cream, Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and spices part of its dessert menu; throw in an extra shot of Jim Beam ($5.50), and it's a holiday hot toddy with a truffle back. Actually, a three-truffle back: chocolate, hazelnut and caramel. Rioja itself is quite a gift to Denver's discriminating diners, a wonderful mix of traditional and modern, with exposed brick walls, an inviting copper-topped bar and hand-blown glass decorations that sparkle like ornaments on a tree. After plenty of Jim Beam and rich hot chocolate, the sugarplum fairies dancing in your head may feel like they're in a mosh pit bouncing to Slayer, but dance they will.
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