On the Chocolate Trail

Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes

As temperatures drop, these three historical recipes for drinking chocolate beckon with rich warmth.


This very unusual, rich, layered drink of chocolate, coffee and cream, a specialty of Turin, Italy, connects us with memories of the earlier days of women drinking chocolate at the time of Mass. Bicerin is still served at a café owned by women since at least 1763.


¾ cup whole milk or cream

3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped or shaved

1 cup espresso or very strong coffee

Lightly sweetened whipped cream, flavored with vanilla or cinnamon or both, to taste

Instructions: Warm the milk or cream slowly over low heat in a double boiler, stirring frequently, until steaming; be careful not to scorch it. Add the chopped chocolate to the steaming milk. Stir slowly over low heat, not allowing the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat. Pour ¼ cup of the warm chocolate into each of four heatproof glasses. Using the bottom of a tablespoon held against the side of the glass to create a separate layer, pour ¼  cup of espresso into each glass. Again using a tablespoon, pour an equal layer of whipped cream over the top of each drink. The cream should be hand-whipped to a consistency just thick enough to float on top of the drink.

Quantity: 4 servings

Mexican Hot Chocolate:

This version of Mexican hot chocolate roots the Catholic and Jewish story of chocolate drinking in the Inquisition in New Spain or Mexico. Hot chocolate nurtured priests, broke the Day of Atonement fast of Jews, and featured in the rites of pre-Columbians.


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

4 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (or to taste)

1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or to taste)

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Melt the chocolate in a large bowl over a simmering pan of water. In a separate heavy saucepan, heat the milk and cream on low until hot, but not boiling. Add 3 tablespoons of the hot milk to the chocolate in the double boiler and mix well. Stir the rest of the milk mixture, sugar, chile powders, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla into the chocolate. Whisk chocolate briskly for 3 minutes, over the double boiler to thicken. (Note: To make it less spicy, use less chile.)

Quantity: 8 servings

Curaçao’s Hot Chocolate:

The three-hundred-year-old Jewish community of Curaçao customarily drinks this hot chocolate at the circumcision of a newborn baby boy.


1 –  12 ounce can evaporated milk

12 ounces brewed coffee

3 ½ tablespoons cocoa

4 tablespoons sugar (or to taste)

Dash of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

Instructions: Place coffee, cocoa, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a saucepan, mix well, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add evaporated milk and cool to drinking temperature. Beat the egg well, add some of the cocoa mixture to the egg, then combine all. To spice it up add a dash of pepper, cardamom pods, orange rind, additional vanilla, espresso, or cinnamon.

Quantity: 4 servings

For further information about the stories connected to these drinks and other contemporary and historical recipes, please see On the Chocolate Trail.


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