NOTHING IS MORE SATISFYINGLY DELICIOUS after coming in from the cold than a mug of hot chocolate with a stick of cinnamon and puffy marshmallows bobbing up top. The earliest known recipe dates to Mayan times, around 500 BC, when “drinking chocolate” was made from coco seeds, cornmeal, and chili peppers boiled in water until foaming, then chilled and served cold from large vessels with spouts. So prized was drinking chocolate that these vessels were such prized possessions that they were buried with the dead.
The beverage had changed little by the time Cortez, the Spanish explorer, returned from the New World in the 16th century. Still served cold and very bitter, drinking chocolate gained popularity in the court of King Charles V of Spain—but soon someone reasoned it might be better to cut out the chili peppers and rather than cold, serve the drink hot and sweetened. By the 18th century, “chocolate houses” had become popular throughout London, England after Dr. Hans Sloane, president of the Royal College of Physicians, returned from a trip to Jamaica with a recipe for mixing chocolate with milk. Not only was it delicious, but until very recently, hot chocolate was considered an effective treatment for stomach and liver ailments. Not a bad idea…
So popular is hot chocolate as a winter beverage today that there are vending machines that dispense the deep, rich, satisfying brew. We, however, stick to the tried-and-true recipes you make at home—and here are FIVE.
BASIC OLD-FASHIONED HOT CHOCOLATE
Makes four cups
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup white granulated or Demerara sugar
3-1/2 cups of whole milk
½ cup of heavy cream (not whipping cream)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a double-boiler, or a saucepan that sits in a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate, then add the sugar, milk, and cream. Stir gently with a whisk until the mixture is blended and bubbles gently until it is hot. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and stir in thoroughly. Serve immediately in warmed-up cups or mugs. Top with marshmallows, if desired, or whipped cream that you’ve made beforehand with whipping cream, and serve with a cinnamon stick, or simply sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.
GRASSHOPPER HOT CHOCOLATE
To the basic recipe above, add 2-ounces of crème de menthe, a half-ounce of crème de cacao, and a shot of peppermint schnapps.
BAILEYS HOT CHOCOLATE
To the basic recipe add 2-ounces of Baileys Original Irish Cream. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle shaved chocolate over the cream.
EXTRA CHOCOLATEY HOT CHOCOLATE
Simply substitute three-ounces of 85% cacao dark chocolate for the two-ounces of unsweetened chocolate and substitute brown sugar for the white. Prepare as directed.
ITALIAN HOT CHOCOLATE
1-1/2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 heaping teaspoons of brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon of confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon of instant espresso powder
2 ounces of 85% cacao dark chocolate
Prepare and serve as you would the Basic Hot Chocolate Recipe, above.
NOTE: Each half-cup serving has about 225 calories