With a dollop of whipped cream or simmered over a hot stove using semi-sweet cocoa chips, hot chocolate is one of the most popular drinks in America. The history of the beverage runs deep. For thousands of years, chocolate has been transformed into beverages – starting with the Olmecs, who are considered the oldest civilization of the Americas (1500-400 BC).
The Mayans hailing from the Chontalpa region also consumed drinks made with cacao beans. Interestingly, their form of currency made quite a tasty drink. Roasted cocoa beans, water, and a little spice made what was known as ‘chocolatl’.
Spaniards drank a mix of ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and peppers. After heating the ingredients, they started to add sugar. When the hot chocolate recipe made its way to England, milk became a part of the beverage and it was consumed as an after dinner treat.
Hundreds of years later, the powdered version hit market shelves and now anyone can make hot chocolate using milk or water. If you’re interested in trying out a few international variations, consider the following hot chocolate recipes:
Italian Hot Chocolate
Also known as Cioccolato Caldo, this beverage becomes wildly popular during the fall and winter season. Some people make the drink so thick that it is the same consistency as pudding and has to be eaten with a spoon. The key to making Cioccolato Caldo is to use high-quality chocolate.
Ingredients: 5 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 6 ounces finely chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao solids), and 2 cups milk
Instructions: Over low heat, add cocoa powder, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of milk into a small saucepan. Heat the mixture until the sugar melts and there are no lumps. Stir well. Bring to a low boil while stirring constantly. Add the remaining milk. Turn off the heat and add chopped chocolate – stirring until smooth. Pour into cups.
Irish Hot Chocolate
Ingredients: 2 cups milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 6 ounces very finely chopped semisweet chocolate, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and 2 teaspoons whiskey
Instructions: Combine milk, cream and cocoa powder in a medium heavy saucepan. Warm over medium heat while stirring to dissolve cocoa. Add chopped chocolate and stir until it is completely melted. Bring ingredients to simmer (but do not boil). Increase heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes – stirring occasionally. Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla. Continue to stir to allow it to cool before pouring into cups. Each cup receives 1 teaspoon of whiskey (stirred in).
Mayan Hot Chocolate
Ingredients: 2 cups boiling water, 1 chile pepper (cut in half with seeds removed), 5 cups light cream (or whole or nonfat milk), 1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise), 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks, 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or 3 tablets Mexican Chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey, and 1 tablespoon grounded extra fine almonds or hazelnuts
Instructions: Over medium-heat heat, add chile pepper to boiling water in a large saucepan. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove the chile pepper and strain water. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick over medium heat – until bubbles form around the edge.
Reduce the heat to low and add chocolate and sugar (or honey). Occasionally whisk until the chocolate melts and sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat and remove the vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Next, add the chile-infused water (small amounts at a time). Taste-test along the way to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong. If chocolate is too thick, use a little more milk to thin out. Serve in small cups with grounded nuts and whipped cream on the side.