Hot Chocolate

When it’s wet, grey, and cold outside, curling up with a cup of hot cocoa can be the most comforting experience.

Chocolate in church
In 1569, Pope Pius V decreed that cocoa was a beverage, and therefore permissible during lent. He thought it thoroughly unpleasant, and therefore not a risk of moral harm. Not everyone in the church agreed with him, though. In the mind-1650s Bishop Don Bernardino de Salazar threatened to excommunicate the ladies of his Mexican congregation because their habit of drinking chocolate in church interrupted his sermons. The ladies switched congregations, and the bishop died soon after—supposedly from a poisoned cup of chocolate.

Makes one cupful
Takes 5 minutes

3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put some water on to boil. While you’re waiting, put all the ingredients in the bottom of a mug. When the water is ready, cover the mixture with hot water and mix the ingredients together into a syrup. This helps prevent little pockets of cocoa powder from floating to the surface of your drink. Then fill the mug the rest of the way. Stir and enjoy!

Here are some well-loved variations on the theme of hot cocoa:

Bulk hot cocoa: Fill a container with a 3:2 ratio of cocoa powder to sugar (or adjust it to taste). That’s really all there is to it! A 1/4 cup measure makes a good scoop for transferring it to your glass.

Chocolate orange: Add 1/4 teaspoon orange extract. It’s like drinking a chocolate orange.

Con leche: Replace water with your preferred plant milk. Heat the milk until steam is just rising off the surface. Continue with the instructions as described above.

Fruit at the bottom: Replace the sugar with 1/4 cup of jam or marmalade. The fruit at the bottom will be somewhat bland, but that’s because it gave a little complexity to your hot cocoa. Stir well!


black and white illustration of a cinnamon stick

Mexican hot chocolate: Add ground cinnamon or be extra-fancy and ostentatiously use a grater to grate some cinnamon fresh from the stick.


Mint: Carefully add mint essential oil. We use 10–20 drops. For a more natural flavor, steep mint leaves in the hot cocoa like you would to make mint tea.

Mulled cocoa: Add mulling spices.

Red cocoa: Annatto grows in the same forests as cacao and has been used in Mayan cocoa beverages as far back as 800 AD.

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