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Upping Your Hot Cocoa Game

The holidays are all about treating yourself. This holiday season, take your hot cocoa game to the next level with these ideas from other countries.

woman in cozy sweater holding mug of cocoa with cinnamon stick

A History of Hot Cocoa

Like most things today, hot cocoa didn't start out as hot cocoa. The use of cocoa began as medicinal and ceremonial. Once it began being used outside of those reasons, only the wealthy would consume cocoa. As a beverage, cocoa dates back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. It was consumed by mixing the ground cocoa beans with water, spices, and flowers, then pouring the mixture back and forth between vessels to blend it and make it frothy.

The Spanish conquerors brought cocoa back to Europe in the 16th century, where it went through changes in production and preparation. Missionaries were some of the first to experience cocoa and how it was prepared. On their return, they likely shared what they learned about the drink and other ways cocoa was prepared. For centuries, cocoa was only consumed as a beverage and was as popular as coffee and tea. As it became more popular in Spain, it began to evolve. But it wasn't until the mid-19th century that cocoa began to resemble what we know today.

Hot Cocoa Evolves

As cocoa became more popular, it was available in colorful tins and touted as a health beverage. It was even marketed as "bean to cup," a precursor to today's drive for farm-to-table/bean-to-bar and other "direct to consumer" foods.

Hot Cocoa Today

Everybody loves hot cocoa during the holidays. These days, there are many ways to enjoy your hot cocoa. Mass-produced cocoa like Swiss Miss, Godiva, Nestle, and Ghirardelli are easy to come by and make a tasty cup of cocoa when mixed with hot water or milk. Less well-known hot cocoa brands are abundant, and you just might find something unique that fits your taste palate more than the typical brands. Brands like Abuelita, usually found in the International Foods aisle at your local grocers, provides a more traditional Mexican hot chocolate experience with cinnamon added to the cocoa pucks.

Hot Cocoa Around The World

Whether you choose to use a widely available cocoa mix or something a little off the beaten path, you can prepare your hot cocoa as you typically do, or you can be a tad adventurous and try it the way it's made in other countries.


Mayan Hot Chocolate is a hot version of the original cold cocoa (which was brewed like beer!) that was enjoyed with cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.


1 cup Milk
3 tbsp Instant Hot Cocoa Mix
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 pinch Cayenne Pepper


Blend hot cocoa mix, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper together in your serving mug. Heat your milk to just under boiling (careful not to scald your milk!) and slowly pour over the cocoa mix. Stir with a small whisk until everything dissolves. Enjoy while still hot.


Earthy and spicy are the two terms that come to mind when talking about Indian cuisine. The hot chocolate isn't any different. Whether you choose milk, dark, or white chocolate, the addition of traditionally Indian spices makes this mug of hot cocoa so tasty.


12 ounces Milk (can use non-dairy)
1 1/2 ounces White Chocolate
8 Black Peppercorns
6 Cloves
4 Allspice
1 stick Cinnamon, 4"
2 pods Green Cardamom
1/2 clove Nutmeg
1 Star Anise
4 slices Ginger Root, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract


Crush peppercorns, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a mortar and pestle. Do not grind them to a powder. Crack open the cardamom pods and add them to the crushed spices. Add crushed spices, cardamom pods, and ginger slices to a small saucepan with the milk. Heat until just scalding. Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow milk and spices to cook for around 5 minutes. Don't let the milk boil. After 5 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and cover. Allow to sit and steep for around 45 minutes. Strain the milk to remove the spices and add to a clean pan with the white chocolate and vanilla. Heat on low temperature, stirring constantly, until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat and pour into serving mugs. Top with whipped cream, a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg, and a stick of cinnamon.


The French don't do anything that isn't fully decadent, and their hot cocoa is no different. Be ready for this extraordinarily rich hot cocoa.


1 cup Whole Milk
3 ounces High Quality, at least 70%, Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 pinch Sea Salt
Whipped Cream, optional


Add milk to a medium saucepan and heat until bubbles start to appear. Add salt and chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is fully dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Lower the heat and simmer for around 3 minutes while whisking continuously. Whisk in the brown sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat and transfer to serving mugs. Top with whipped cream.


This has to be the most unique of the hot chocolate recipes we've found. But if you like sweet and savory combined, you might enjoy this one, Colombian Hot Cocoa Con Queso. Let us know what you think!


1 cup Milk
1 tbsp Sugar
1 1/2 ounces Dark Chocolate Bar, chopped
1 ounce Mozzarella Cheese, cubed


Heat milk in a medium pot until warm, stirring constantly. Add the chocolate and stir until it melts. Add the sugar and continue to stir constantly while bringing the mixture to a low boil. Remove from heat. Add a few cubes of mozzarella cheese to the bottom of your serving mug. Pour the hot cocoa into the mug and let sit for 2-3 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

What is your favorite hot cocoa recipe and from where did it originate? We'd love to learn more!

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