Cocoa is the Perfect Drink for Cozy Evenings
Chocolate has been served as a beverage for a long and rich history that dates back to ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica. The Mayans and Aztecs are believed to have been the first to consume chocolate beverages, and they made a drink called xocolatl, which was made by grinding cocoa beans and mixing them with water, spices, and cornmeal, and poured from a height into a cup to create foam. This drink was highly prized and was consumed by the royalty, and it was also used in religious ceremonies as well. Cacao has maintained use its ceremonial into the 21st century in some communities.
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the what is now called the "Americas," they were served this chocolate beverage and loved it. They brought it back to Europe, where it was initially consumed by wealthy people because imported cocoa beans were expensive. Over time, cocoa became less expensive and available to more and more people, and hot chocolate became more popular as a drink among people of all social classes. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was often served at breakfast as a way to start the day.
Salted Caramel Cocoa
1 cup hot water
¾ cup raw cane sugar
⅓ teaspoon vanilla
A few cranks of freshly ground sea salt (optional)
Pour water into a pan and bring it up to a simmer. Stir in cane sugar, vanilla, and sprinkle in salt (if using). Bring to a low boil and boil for 12 to 20 minutes until it reaches a light brown color.
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons hot water
6 tablespoons half and half, whole milk, or rich oat milk
1 ½ teaspoons caramel syrup (see above)
Broken candy cane pieces for garnish
Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water to dissolve the cocoa in a mug. Heat half and half, whole milk, or rich oat milk on low (30%) in the microwave in a microwave-safe container for 30 to 60 seconds. Froth the half and half, whole milk, or rich oat milk with an electric frother. Pour about three-quarters of the froth into mug with cocoa and lightly stir. Top with the remainder of the froth and garnish with peppermint pieces.