17th Century Hot Chocolate

I spent some time today working on my sleeves (which are so close to being done!) and a whole lot of time making hot chocolate for Yule tomorrow. I did a bunch of research and found two mid-17th-century recipes for delicious cocoa.

New World

This recipe is from a 1652 English document, but it describes the “traditional” drink of the “Indians” of South America, and was known to Europeans in period. The original recipe was informed by a more modern version both because it would have made a HUGE volume (easy enough to adapt) and because it assumed that the maker would start with fresh ingredients, dry them, and powder them at home. This is not something that can be done same-day, so I needed an idea of quantites for dried ingredients.

For our super-batch, we used:
10 cups water
5 cups 100% unsweetened cacao powder
3 1/4 cups cane sugar
5 tsp chili powder (enough to cause a warm feel, but not enough to taste spicy)
2 1/2 tsp allpice
2 tbs cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove

Mix the dry ingredients in a large pot. Slowly stir in 10 cups of HOT water and allow to mingle for 30 minutes over a low heat. Mix well, then stir occasionally. After 30 minutes, add additional chili or sugar to taste. The original document noted that different local women made it different ways, including adding almonds, orange flower water, or anise, and enjoying different levels of sweetness.

Old World

My new world recipe is a 1672 Italian drink. Most early European hot chocolate was consumed at breakfast, so this would probably have been a breakfast drink, although it’s VERY rich and makes a great dessert.

We made two super-batches, each of which starts with:
4 liters of red wine. We used Carlo Rossi Sweet Red, but the original calls for claret
4 oz 100% cacao powder (half a normal sized tin)
10 egg yolks
2 cups sugar

Pour scrambled egg yolks into a cold pot. Slowly stir in wine until reaching a consistent color (ours was a dark pink at this point). Warm wine just to boiling. Lower heat to a moderate to low heat, and carefully stir in cacao and sugar until dissolved. Delicious warm, and I suspect it would be good chilled also. One batch was left as-is, and to the other was added cinnamon and vanilla in honestly pretty random quantities. The cinnamon was probably about a tablespoon, but the vanilla got away from me and I ended up pouring more in than I meant to, and I’m not really able to estimate how much it was. It’s tasty in any case, so feel free to experiment.


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