Brought to you by Hershey's
The second best thing to eating chocolate is drinking it. National Hot Chocolate Day observed on January 31 is rich in flavor as well as history. The cold winter is the perfect time to warm up and enjoy a steaming cup of your favorite chocolatey deliciousness. The options are endless! You can top your mug with whipped cream (no need to be conservative here), marshmallows (try using a kitchen blowtorch to really take this next-level), cinnamon, or even drop in a square (or 5) of your favorite chocolate and savor the melty goodness.
Hot chocolate dates back to the Mayans as early as 500 BC. Thought to have been an integral religious component in the Mayan culture, chocolate was even referred to as “G-d food”. All in favor of bringing that back, say aye. Despite the shared sacredness, early hot chocolate iterations were far less sweet than today’s version - consisting of cacao paste mixed with water, cornmeal, and chili peppers that were stirred until it became frothy.
Like other culinary delights adopted worldwide, it traveled from Mexico to Europe during Cortez’s explorations in the 16th century. Not surprisingly, the beverage became an instant favorite among Spanish royalty, who began enjoying it hot, sweetened, and devoid of chili peppers. Hot chocolate remained a carefully guarded secret, until 100 years later when it was introduced in London. The English further tweaked this wonderful drink, adding milk and opening “Chocolate Houses” (presumably, like utopian Starbucks’), where the prohibitively expensive treat was served to the upper class. They even began using hot chocolate medicinally to cure stomach & liver ailments.
Finally, in the 19th century, hot chocolate evolved to become the cherished drink which no snow day or coffee shop is complete without.
Hot Chocolate vs Hot Cocoa
What’s the difference? Is there one? While the terms “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” are often used interchangeably, the two beverages are different. Hot chocolate is a warm beverage made from ground chocolate, heated milk or water, and sugar. Hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar.
The sole difference between the two drinks is the cocoa powder, made available in the early 1800’s by the Van Houtens, a Dutch father and son that developed a process to separate the cocoa solids from the butter, and in turn make those fats soluble in water.
Try these tips for the ultimate indulgence. Make any day a little sweeter - with Hershey's.
Tip #1 - Ditch the Packet
Store-bought hot cocoa mixes are great in a pinch, but nothing compares to boiling good-quality chocolate on the stovetop. Use your choice of milk, but for ideal creaminess use whole milk.
Tip #2 - Add Chai
Be transported from your kitchen to India with a dash of masala chai added to your cup. Like a Chai latte, but better. You can buy pre-mixed tea bags, a store-bought concentrate, or make a blend from scratch using black tea, ginger, and other spices.
Tip #3 - Just a Spoonful of PB
Add a spoonful of peanut butter to your mug, because the only thing better than chocolate on its own is when it’s joined by its BFF- PB.
Tip #4 - Spike It (alt: Irish Cream)
For the 21+, try warming 2 ounces of stout beer or any alcoholic beverage of choice, and adding it to your hot chocolate. Top with a splash of heavy cream for a Bailey’s-esque treat.
Tip #5 - Mexicano
For a truly authentic experience, pay homage to hot chocolate’s Mexican origins by adding to taste chili powder, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. It will have added health benefits, and a kick like no other.