Mayan Hot Cocoa

This is Mexican-style hot chocolate, as you saw in the movie Chocolat. After I saw the movie, I experimented for several weeks and came up with the recipe.

Cocoa was used by the Aztec and Mayan as a sacred drink. Xocolatl or chocolatl was brewed with various spices and drank unsweetened as part of ceremonies. This recipe uses pure cocoa and several spices, including chili peppers. The flavor is very rich and aromatic, like a dark perfume. It's also unsweetened. Some may prefer it sweeter; just add more sugar. Makes four mugs of hot cocoa.

Heat 4 cups of milk in a doubleboiler at medium-low. If you don't have a double boiler, then put a small pot inside a larger pot. If you don't have two pots, then stir it constantly.

While the milk is warming up, mix the following in a new bowl.

  • ½ cup cocoa (use Peets, Scharffenberger, Valhrona, Starbucks, or similar.)
  • 1 tsp unbleached flour
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 3 crushed cloves (put the cloves on your cutting board and crush them with the flat of your kitchen knife)
  • ¼ tsp chili peppers (crushed, the same way as the cloves)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (loosely crumbled)

To mix all this: Sift the cocoa powder and flour. Add a bit of milk and stir the cocoa/flour mix until it becomes a paste. Slowly add milk and continue to stir. It should turn into a paste. If you add milk too fast, you get clumpy cocoa. If that happens, use a hand blender to smoothen it. Finally, when all the cocoa and flour are a paste (no more dry flour,) add the remaining spices (sugar, nutmeg, cloves, peppers, and cinnamon.)

Add the cocoa/flour/spices mix to the hot milk in the doubleboiler. Stir constantly to keep it from burning. If you want it thicker, add some corn starch. Add as much corn starch as you like.

When the cocoa is ready (it takes only fifteen minutes until it's nice and hot,) use a slotted spoon to scoop the cloves and cinnamon off the top and add:

  • 2 tsp powered sugar. If you want it sweeter, add more powdered sugar.
  • 1½ tsp vanilla

Serve in heavy mugs. If you like, you can put whipped cream on top, add small marshmallows, or add a stick of cinnamon (for stirring.)

Shopping List

  • Quart of milk
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (use Peets, Scharffenberger, Valhrona, Starbucks, or similar. (Visit and search for cocoa.)
  • 1 tsp unbleached flour
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp powered sugar
  • Small marshmallows
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 3 cloves
  • Chili peppers (You use red peppers, Chili Ancho, New Mexico peppers, etc. You can find these at any Mexican grocery shop.)
  • 5 cinnamon sticks