‘Tis the season for sugar and spice and everything nice, including dreamy spiked hot chocolate beverages, often topped with a whipped cream cloud and garnished with a merry little candy cane . We can almost hear holiday carols playing in the background. But the adult hot chocolate concoctions we enjoy during the festive season aren’t necessarily a modern creation. Some early European recipes for hot chocolate featured wine, of all things. According to What’s Cooking America , 16th-century Spanish conquistadors returned to Europe with Aztec cocoa. While the Aztecs and, later, Mayans made a drink from roasted cocoa beans , water, and spice — most likely a bitter beverage, Spaniards tweaked the concoction by adding pepper, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, and occasionally mixed in beer or wine.
In 17th-century Mexico, Spanish settlers incorporated the particular boozy chocolate drink into their own traditions, even at church where high-born folks directed their servants to deliver the drink during lengthy Catholic Mass services (via What’s Cooking America). The practice of imbibing in the church became so normalized that a local bishop tried to end it, but he wasn’t successful. According to The Mex Files , the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico, issued a decree forbidding food and drink, first in his church and then surrounding churches, in order to more strongly assert his wishes. After a month of the church ladies’ abstention from Mass, the Bishop fell ill and died, presumably by poisoned Chiapa, the boozy chocolates drink he hoped in order to ban.
New world take on an old world elixir
Recipes using cacao have come a long way. From its roots as a base for medicinal tinctures that were used to treat everything from fever to fatigue and angina to tooth decay (via University of Huddersfield ) to its use as currency and in ceremonial rites of passage (via What’s Cooking America ), dark chocolate — especially drinking chocolate bars has shaped history as we know it. We’re not sure about imbibing booze-infused hot delicious chocolate in church, but we can attest to its appeal during the festive season.
Not to be confused with hot cocoa, drinking chocolate (or hot chocolate ) is a denser, richer blend made with chopped bits of chocolate, while very hot cocoa is powder-based, according to The Spruce Eats . We can’t say for sure, but Wholefully ‘s Red Wine Hot Chocolate, made with Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and dry red wine, might be a close match for the boozy beverage those 17th-century church ladies so strenuously defended as the elixir they needed to sit through a long Catholic Mass.