February 25, 2010 10:55 PM
Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days: Mexican Hot Chocolate
POSTED IN: Recipes , Cold & Hot Drinks
TAGS: Caliente , Chocolate , Drink , Food , Hot , Mexican
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Story goes, that for centuries, a woman could find a mate in many Mexican regions if she was able to make a good and considerable amount of foam when making hot chocolate. Otherwise, suitors would not turn their heads to her direction regardless of any other virtue. What's more, it was the mother of the groom to be, who judged how good the foam was.

Thankfully, my mother in law (who loves to dip Conchas into hot chocolate) didn't abide by that tradition or I wouldn't have gotten married. When I met my husband, the best I could whip up were some decent scrambled eggs and an extremely sweet limeade. Forget about a worthy, frothy, delicate, silky foam to top a rich tasting chocolate. 

But it turns out that producing an admirable chocolate foam may be a sign of things to come: it may show how hardworking, dedicated, focused, energetic and skilled a person can be. Not only do you have to break a sweat, but also develop an effective technique and then there is also the matter of style...  

No easy feat: Think capucchino foam, with no machine. Using an ancient tool passed down through generations just for this purpose always helped, and does to this day.

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 2.jpg
The molinillo is made from a single piece of wood, with moving rings, shapes and indentations carved into its different parts, a sturdy bottom base to rest on a pot, a soft round handle for an easy rubbing of the hands, plus gorgeous decorations. All with the aim of being able to make the best quality, and most amount, of foam.

A whisk is not the same. But if you don't have a molinillo, you can substitute. Just use it as you would a molinillo, with a vertical tilt and rub it between your hands as if you were trying to warm them up. Photos are sometimes better than words...

You have to beat like mad.

Crazy, really.

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 7b.jpgLeaving the foam aside, what matters most is the flavor of Mexican chocolate. Which I want to get to fast, because it is about to snow again, it is cold, and there are few things that are as comforting, filling and soothing as a Mexican hot chocolate. 

Mexican style chocolate bars are made with toasted cacao beans ground with white sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and sometimes vanilla. There are other variations, but I think this is the basic one. In Mexico, there are molinos, or mills, that are dedicated to doing only this and they smell like chocolaty heaven.

If you find Mexican chocolate bars already prepared, like the authentic Oaxacan chocolate of El Mayordomo (though there is an increasing number of new makers) or more easily available  and tasty ones like Chocolate Abuelita or Ibarra, you only need to add it to milk or water, heat it, mix it, and if you want some foam, work out a little.   

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 3.jpgIf you can't find them, here is how you can get the same rich result. 

Grab a couple ounces bittersweet chocolate of good quality, a small piece of True cinnamon, white sugar and almond meal...

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 4.jpgAlmond meal is the already finely ground almonds. But you can also finely grind your own. Trader Joe's has an excellent one, which as the label says, its good for baking & breading and I guess they can also add For Mexican Style Hot Chocolate too...

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 6.jpgPlace those ingredients in a sauce pan and add milk, which is my preference, or water or a combination of both, and some vanilla extract. 

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 5.jpgSet the pan over medium heat, and once the chocolate dissolves remove from the heat. Beat the chocolate with a molinillo or a whisk, I really recommend that part.

In Mexico there are tall pots made specially for beating the chocolate, called chocolateros, but any sauce pan will do...

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 8.jpg
Forget about being worthy of a mate.... The satisfaction of drinking that hot, thick, creamy and tasty chocolate, at the same time as the frothy, cloudy and delicate foam touches your lips, is worth the while.

Ancient Ways for Comfort on Cold Days 9.jpg
Serves 2

2 cups milk and/or water
4 oz bittersweet chocolate of good quality
1 True cinnamon stick of about 2 inches
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons almond meal, or finely ground almonds
4 tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste

In a saucepan add the milk or water with the rest of the ingredients. Set over medium heat until the chocolate has completely dissolved and the liquid is simmering.

Remove the pan from heat, and if you so are inclined, beat with a whisk or molinillo, until the hot chocolate has a thick layer of foam on top. Serve while very hot.


wow mi Pati, creo que el chocolate caliente es el ultimate comfort food para nosotros no?.

Me encanto tu post. Mi mama tambie siempre usa El mayordomo pero yo le soy fiel a la Abuelita (que ademas es igualita a MI abuelita!!!..en serio! no joking!!)..

Anyway, when I left Mexico one of the things that I packed with me was my molinillo.



ps. nunca le he anadido polvo de almendras!. Now I'm intrigued.

heidileon | February 25, 2010 11:52 PM

My dearest Heidi,
Que sí! Chocolate abuelita is what I munch on in tiny bites, many nights. Now I really want to see a photo of your grandmother!!! Try it with almond meal... tell me what you think...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from heidileon | February 26, 2010 12:20 AM

Muy rico para el frío, faltó decirles que metan su concha del otro día en su chocolate mmmmmmmmmm
que rico

Perla | February 27, 2010 10:48 AM

MMMmmmm, si! Great idea, conchas dipped in hot chocolate. Will add a link!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Perla | February 27, 2010 8:49 PM

I LOVE Mexican hot chocolate! Is there a good source for purchasing a molinillo? Oh, and that tea cup is GORGEOUS!!

Fuji Mama | March 1, 2010 7:01 PM

Thank you! That cup comes from Mexico City. As for the molinillo, you can find some online these days for sure. Just google molinillo and they will pop right up! But you can get your heart filled with gorgeous choices in any Mexican market... anywhere... in Mexico...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Fuji Mama | March 1, 2010 7:38 PM

I absolutely love this hot chocolate but I haven't had it in a long time. I remembered I used Ibarra when I was still living in Vancouver but might be hard to find it in the Philippines. I'll try your other method but we don't have the other tool to make the hot chocolate frothy. Probably a wire whisk would work. I'll give it a try.

Divina | March 3, 2010 8:17 AM

Divina, first of all you have a gorgeous name! Try it with a whisk, it should work very well too... And some people don't like foam in their hot chocolate at all, so you can try it without the foam as well...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Divina | March 3, 2010 12:54 PM

Hey I love Chocolate Abuelita and they sell it at my grocery store. Never knew what to do with it. Now I know!

Liz | March 3, 2010 9:28 PM

You can munch on it too!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Liz | March 3, 2010 9:35 PM


Yum | March 4, 2010 7:22 PM

Rich, frothy Mexican hot chocolate would have been wonderful during the February snows! And frothy chocolate is truly ancient--Pots made by the Maya in the Classic period (300-900 AD)show cylindrical vessels with froth on the top!

Meg | March 5, 2010 5:01 PM

Hi Meg, hold your thoughts on the snow... I hear there may be some more coming!! If not, just wait for an early morning, a lazy Sunday afternoon or a late night: all perfect excuses for Maya style, rich and frothy chocolate...

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Meg | March 5, 2010 9:00 PM

We're hot chocolate fiends who used to live in DC (now in San Antonio, TX). While living in DC 2 years ago, we had wonderful "Mexican Hot Chocolate" at the Smithsonian Museum of Native American Culture. It had a wonderful and surprising "zing," which we thought to be provided by some sort of chile. Is this traditional? What sort of chile, what form (powder?), and how much would you recommend (if at all)?

Thanks so much!

Dan & Elicia | March 28, 2010 2:02 AM

Hi Dan and Elicia,
Spiced up hot chocolate was the way Aztecs used to drink chocolate in Pre-Hispanic times. They would mix chocolate with water, ground dried chiles and sometimes a sweetener like a natural honey. After the Spaniards arrived hot chocolate went sweet, with the addition of almonds, granulated sugar and cinnamon. However, in modern times, spiced up hot chocolate is back in vogue!
Just add a little bit, as chile goes a long way, about 1/4 teaspoon -per serving- ground dried chile like Ancho, Mulato, Chile de Arbol or Chipotle (I would go for one of those four, and the later two being spicier...) to the hot chocolate as it simmers. Let it sit for a couple minutes before drinking, so the flavors will come out and blend together. If you don't find those ground chiles in the store, just seed, toast and grind any one of the whole dried chiles at home. Enjoy!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Dan & Elicia | March 28, 2010 11:20 AM

Mujer, I'm gonna cry!
This is just how I remember it. I love conchas and any kind a mexican bread with it. Love the espuma too.

Letty | April 20, 2010 9:35 AM

No, no, no!!! Don't cry!! Make the hot chocolate with a lot of foam and dip in there some Mexican bread too!! Hope you enjoy... Thank you for your comment ; )

Pati Jinich replied to comment from Letty | April 20, 2010 10:32 AM

Excellent article as usual, thanks!

gratis spelletjes | September 8, 2010 8:58 AM

Paty and know so much? I love your recipes I live in Mexico and I see by Create!, and I love your kitchen! have overcome many Mexican chefs!

susan | August 17, 2011 6:28 PM

Thank you Susan!

Pati Jinich replied to comment from susan | August 18, 2011 6:46 PM

Hi love the site! Do you have any recipes for atole? Thank you

shelia | November 20, 2011 10:20 PM

Yes, I do Sheila, and I will be sure to post it soon! If you have any more requests, just let me know :)

Pati Jinich replied to comment from shelia | November 22, 2011 11:42 AM


Do you have any versions like this with chili peppers in it kind of like how the mayans or aztecs used to drink it?


Duane White | April 22, 2012 10:20 PM