The first time I had Mexican hot chocolate, was at a coffee house in Austin, Texas. The concoction was slightly grainy, but still creamy. Rich and complex, it ruined me for traditional hot chocolate. Its combination of bittersweet chocolate and a hint of spice transform simple hot chocolate into something much more sophisticated. The Aztecs and Maya are known as the creators of the drink and used it communally for celebrations and other gatherings. This spirit of sharing makes an already delectable treat, even better. One of the keys to the beverage is using a small wooden whisk, or molinillo, to whip it into a froth. If you can stand to whisk for 10 minutes, you’ll be rewarded for your labor. When I make it at home, I use a tweaked version of an Ina Garten recipe.
Combine 2 cups of heated whole milk, 1 ½ teaspoons of light brown sugar, 4½ ounces of bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or Aztec chocolate, for which you would omit the sugar, cinnamon and cayenne), ½ teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of ground cayenne pepper. Get to frothing until the chocolate is melted and the beverage morphs into a foamy and creamy perfection before your eyes. You may want to reheat it a touch before serving. Pairs well with a friend and conversation.