Reminiscent of hot chocolate from the days of the early American colonies, this Colonial Hot Chocolate recipe incorporates the traditional warm spices for an old-fashioned, nostalgic, and absolutely delicious flavor!
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What we know as chocolate today is dramatically different from the chocolate 150+ years ago. For most of chocolate’s history, which goes back thousands of years, it wasn’t edible on its own. It wasn’t until 1823 that technology found a way to separate cocao butter from the nib and it took another century beyond that before tempering techniques were perfected. So up until relatively recently chocolate was very crude in both its texture and flavor and wasn’t something that was eaten plain as a snack or candy like the glossy, smooth chocolate bars we buy in the store today.
During the time of Colonial America, chocolate came in large, rough, one-pound bricks and the only way to consume it was via shaving it off into hot liquid where it would steep and require continually stirring in order to keep the chocolate solids suspended. Early hot chocolate would have had a very grainy mouthfeel and it wasn’t until much later that the means of turning it into refined cocao powder would be discovered. Sugar and exotic East Asian spices were added to make the hot drink more enjoyable as well as add to its claimed health benefits. In addition to the purported health benefits of chocolate itself (it was sold in early apothecaries as a “cure all” for many ailments), it was believed that these spices had medicinal benefits of their own.
Once these chocolate bricks started being imported to the American colonies, hot chocolate became wildly popular. So much so that Thomas Jefferson predicted it would overtake tea and coffee in its popularity. He wrote to John Adams in 1785: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.”
Favorite spices to add the the hot chocolate of Colonial America included cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, nutmeg, and sometimes a pinch of red chili powder. Orange rind commonly made their way into the mixture as well. Our Colonial Hot Chocolate recipe incorporates these delicious, warm spices for a rich, old-fashioned, and nostalgic flavor.
Colonial Hot Chocolate Recipe
Let’s get started!
Pour the milk in a small saucepan and add the star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, salt, and orange rind (if using). Slowly heat the milk until it is very hot and steaming but not boiling (should take at least 5 minutes to give the spices time to infuse the milk). Have the chopped chocolate ready to add.
Note: You can reduce the amount of chocolate used if you prefer though the hot chocolate won’t be as thick or rich. (For an extra rich hot chocolate be sure to also try our Parisian Hot Chocolate.)
Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, dark chocolate, and red chili powder (if using) and whisk until melted. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and simmer for another 5 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent scorching.
Pour into mugs and if desired serve with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder and ground cinnamon.
Colonial Hot Chocolate
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 ounces dark chocolate , finely chopped
- strip of orange rind (optional; if using add it in the beginning with the whole milk)
- pinch of red chili powder (optional for a little kick)
- Pour the milk in a small saucepan and add the star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Slowly heat the milk until it is very hot and steaming but not boiling (should take at least 5 minutes to give the spices time to infuse the milk). Add the brown sugar, vanilla extract, and dark chocolate and whisk until melted. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and simmer for another 5 minutes, whisking constantly to prevent scorching. Pour into mugs and if desired serve with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder and ground cinnamon.