By Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor Published Mar 24, 2021 at 11:15 AM

This story originally ran in 2020.

For centuries, chocolate has been a classic choice for gifting.

In the 12th century Aztecs presented chocolate in liquid form, believing that cacao beans were a gift from the gods. Meanwhile, in the 18th century, Casanova called chocolate the "elixir of love" and drank it instead of Champagne. By the 20th century, chocolate was a common holiday gift. Even Queen Victoria was known to offer gifts of chocolate to her soldiers during the holiday season.

Today, chocolate is as compelling a gift as ever. And Milwaukee is rich with chocolatiers and candy makers, each of whom create their own unique style of indulgent treats.

Whether it’s a gift or a sweet treat for yorself or your significant other, this guide will assist you in narrowing in on the perfect indulgence for the holidays. Even better, you'll be supporting a small local business during these particularly challenging times.

1. Burke Candy

3840 N. Fratney St., (414) 964-7327
At Burke Candy in Riverwest, Tim Burke is a third generation operator of his family company. You’ll find numerous types of chocolate in the shop, but popular items include Burke’s salted caramels, which are based on Burke’s grandfather’s original recipe and butter toffee, which is made with a recipe passed down from Burke’s wife’s grandmother.

2. Freese’s Candy Shoppe

7312 W. Greenfield Ave., West Allis, (414) 453-5353
Freese’s Candy Shoppe has been family owned and operated since 1928 when Otto Freese opened his retail shop and soda fountain in West Allis. Today it’s a great spot to find any number of treats, though folks say their turtles are beyond compare. And if you’re looking for fairy food, Freese’s is as light and airy as it comes.

3. Indulgence Chocolatiers

211 S. 2nd. St., (414) 223-0123
4525 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, (414) 332-2749
Corners of Brookfield location coming soon
Among the new school chocolatiers in the city is Indulgence Chocolatiers, where truffles are artfully made by chocolatier Julie Waterman in flavors like balsamic fig, coconut habanero, blackberry espresso and cabernet. If you’re looking for a gift that’s uniquely Milwaukee, ask for their Milwaukee Chocolate bar, a dark chocolate sea salt bar enhanced with the image of the Milwaukee skyline. Their Walker’s Point location also offers virtual pairing classes for those who wish to explore how the flavors of chocolate pair with wine, beer, scotch and cheese.

4. Kehr’s Candies

Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., (414) 223-4305
Kehr’s has been making Milwaukeeans lives sweeter since 1930 when Pearl and B.D. Kehr opened up a retail store where they sold caramel corn and potato chips. When those items didn’t pay the bills, the couple moved into making chocolates. And the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the shop at the Public Market sells a wide variety of sweet treats, including best-sellers like chocolate covered fairy food and mint meltaways.

5. Melt Chocolates Ltd.

Lincoln Warehouse, 2018 S. 1st St., Suite 120, (414) 939-6358
Among the newest chocolatiers to open retail locations in Milwaukee, Melt features creations from chocolatier Bjorn Rogness, a craftsman who has trained with some of the best chocolatiers from Europe and South America. His creations include butter crunch toffee, chocolate-coated cacao beans and imaginatively flavored truffles in flavors like strawberry milkshake, kashmir (with Indian spices) and the mango and habanero-infused Calypso. 

6. Niemann’s Candies

7475 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 774-4940
If you’re looking for old fashioned candies made from family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, look no further than Niemann’s. This family-owned company has been making delights like barks, coconut clusters and peanut brittle since 1919. Among their most popular treats is chocolate coated almond butter toffee, which is sure to please the sweet and salty treat lover in your life.

7. Tabal Chocolate

7515 Harwood Ave., Wauwatosa, (414) 585-9996
On the other hand, if you're craving single origin chocolates from locales like Peru and Ecuador, look no farther than Tabal Chocolate. Owner Dan Bieser is among Milwaukee’s only dedicated certified organic bean-to-bar chocolatiers, and his passions lie in creating high quality chocolate directly from cacao beans. Tabal’s shop in Downtown Wauwatosa offers single origin chocolate bars, cocoa nibs and ingredients and a variety of housemade chocolate beverages. Bieser also offers chocolate subscription programs for folks who'd like regular shipments of their products. Give someone a real treat with this collection of tea bars infused with natural flavor-bombs like blueberry rooibos, peppermint rooibos, vanilla and black tea, chai and matcha.

8. Ultimate Confections

820 N 68th St, Wauwatosa, (414) 778-0636

What began as a business selling chocolate covered peanut brittle became much more for Lori Presser, who founded "Ultimate Brittle" in 1992. Over the years, as her product line expanded, she change the name to Ultimate Confections, establishing a storefront for the business in Wauwatosa in 1995. Today, customers can find the original brittle, plus scads of additional hand-dipped chocolate items including chocolate covered pretzels, oreos (pictured below) strawberries, sea salt caramels, truffles and more. 

Lori Fredrich Senior Writer & Dining Editor

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.