Hot chocolate is just one of those things we all look forward to during the holidays and colder months. Nothing warms up a chilly winter day better than a cup of hot, frothy chocolate (perhaps with tiny marshmallows?). According to the Dairy Council of California, antioxidant-rich hot cocoa can help “prevent cardiovascular disease and help the body fight against free radicals that can damage cells.” During wintertime, you’ll be fighting a lot of free radicals and looking for a great excuse to warm up with a cup for something delicious.
Where did this wonderful drink come from? You may be surprised to learn that an ancient Mesoamerican people (yes, this quintessential winter drink developed near the Equator) called the Olmec likely invented chocolate, beginning with a drink similar to what we now call hot chocolate. They ground their harvested cacao, mixed it with water, and called it xocolātl, which the Olmec found had several health benefits, including boosting energy and mood. The original chocoholic was Aztec ruler Montezuma, who “was known to demand cacao beans from conquered peoples and supposedly drank goblet after goblet of hot chocolate every day in a display of power and opulence,” according to the History Channel. Because of its benefits, the beverage was given to members of the military to boost their stamina all the way up through the end of the nineteenth century.
Whether you’re just snuggling up by the fireplace, looking for an appropriate winter pick-me-up, or hosting a holiday gathering, hot chocolate is a sweet way to warm up inside and out. No wonder it’s one of the most iconic beverages of the season. But why not kick it up a notch? Naturally, such a quintessential beverage has spurred many variations.
Just a few tips before we cross over to the extreme: thou shalt not use powdered mix, but rather solid, dark (yes, dark) chocolate. If thou art a diary drinker, then whole milk is best, but if not, almond trumps soy. Doth thy liquid bubble with heat? Now is the time to add your chocolate. Dost thou prefer thy hot cocoa thick? Use cornstarch. (We swear!) Now, go forth, make merry, and drink up!
Chai-Spiced Hot Chocolate
If you are a fan of creamy and spicy chai, then this hot chocolate is right up your alley.
Chocolate Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate)
What goes better with heat than a little bit of spice? The addition of chili powder and cinnamon in this recipe adds an extra kick to every cup.