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Mexican Hot Chocolate and a Molinillo

October 25, 2009


A few years back, some friends showed up at my house with Mexican chocolate blocks, ancho chilies, vanilla paste and a molinillo, and my conception of hot chocolate has never been the same.

Ibarra chocolate blocks, available online or at Mexican grocers, form the base of the drink but the real charm comes from the chilies. The concept harks back to the Aztecs, who considered chocolate a gift from the gods and drank cold, bitter mixtures of cocoa and chilis. Emperor Montezuma – my kind of chocolate lover – drank his in golden goblets that were thrown away after a single use.

It wasn’t until the Spanish arrived on the scene that the drink became sweet and hot, and all the rage in Europe. Somewhere around that time the molinillo came into being, a wooden Mexican whisk designed for the sole purpose of frothing hot chocolate. Held between two hands and spun back and forth, it creates a thick froth for the rich, spicy cup of chocolate.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Makes 2 cups

2 cups whole milk
6 sections Ibarra chocolate blocks
1/2 vanilla fresh bean (optional, but so delicious*)
1/4 tsp. ground chili (preferably ancho chili; do not substitute chili powder**)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
whipped cream to top

With a sharp knife, gently slice vanilla bean from end to end, using the tip of the knife to scoop out the beans.

In a small saucepan, warm milk, chocolate, vanilla, chili, cinnamon and salt over medium-low heat until chocolate is dissolved.

Froth with a molinillo (or a hand blender) until a thick foam appears. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with ground chili. Serve hot.

* Since vanilla beans are expensive, you can substitute extract, but using the real thing gives the drink an added richness and depth.

**Chili powder sold in the U.S. typically has other spices mixed in. Make sure to add pure chili. Another option is to grind your own, and strain out the pieces before serving.


21 Comments leave one →
  1. peasepudding permalink
    October 26, 2009 7:10 am

    Sounds delicious and something I will try once we get back into our cooler months, beautiful photography!

  2. October 26, 2009 3:31 pm

    Wow. Your photos are lovely. I love Mexican hot chocolate. Thank you posting this recipe and the history behind this drink.

  3. October 26, 2009 11:16 pm

    Wow, that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of hot chocolate! Love the photos!

  4. October 26, 2009 11:58 pm

    Incredible. I’ve just discovered your site. I’m blown away by the composition and the contrast in your images. My kind of photography! I love how you used seeds to slightly continue the line of the peppers on each side here. Great stuff!

  5. October 27, 2009 10:12 pm

    beautiful photos!

  6. Liz permalink
    October 27, 2009 10:16 pm

    If one doesn’t have a molinillo😦 is there another way of properly frothing? I tried whisking but it didn’t give the same effect.

  7. Liz permalink
    October 27, 2009 10:42 pm

    Talley – Thanks for the nice comments! The scattered seeds kind of happened by accident as I was laying out the peppers, and I liked the look so I went with it.

    Liz – I’d maybe try a hand blender? Or, if all else fails, you can just top it with extra whipped cream and enjoy it that way!

  8. October 28, 2009 1:25 am

    Beautiful photos.

  9. October 29, 2009 8:41 pm

    I love your photos! The chiles swirled around the cups of hot chocolate is the most beautiful photo I’ve seen of chiles. Great job! BTW, the Mexican hot chocolate looks delicious.

  10. November 2, 2009 7:57 am

    This is one of my favorite posts! Really creative photograph!

  11. November 4, 2009 3:42 am

    I’ve never had mexican hot chocolate – your pics make it look delicious though!

  12. November 5, 2009 5:04 am

    Your photographs are just beyond cool!
    That’s it. I probably already mentioned this but i want to take a photography class from you.
    And yay for Mexican chocolate. Zee best!

  13. HK Hummel permalink
    November 21, 2009 3:14 am

    I’ve made this recipe twice in the last week and I love it. You’re right: the vanilla makes a big difference. (I don’t have a molinillo, but I used my electric milk frother and it worked well too).

  14. November 23, 2009 3:25 am

    Stunning!!! and I do love mexican chocolate!!

  15. November 25, 2009 4:56 pm

    This is my favorite way to drink chocolate! Although my mom always skipped the chilis. My dad and grandma in the other hand loved the spicy version. Great pictures!

  16. December 5, 2009 4:48 pm

    Congrats !!:-) The picture here is as unique and beautiful as the recipe. The moment I had seen this, it set to my heart. Would love to have a cuppa this way.

  17. December 27, 2011 4:20 pm

    Looks fantastic and can’t wait to try this yummy tasting recipe. I used the recipe for my winter tailgating party inspiration – Thanks for sharing!


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