According to Aztec legend, the god of wisdom, Quetzacoatl, came to earth with the cacao tree and taught the people how to ferment and drink the fruit of the pods. It was said to induce a euphoria, opening the passage between heaven and earth.
One holiday season while working 60 hour weeks at the adult pop shop, a friend gave me a tin of Mexican drinking chocolate. The ingredient list was chocolate and canela (cinnamon). The instructions said to empty the entire can into a pan of hot milk, stir until melted and then drink. It was bitter as Jeb Bush’s campaign manager and I wanted to add some sugar to the remainder, but before I could return to the kitchen I was already heading down the rabbit hole. I don’t know if it was because my body and brain were exhausted, but the experience I had could be described as being in the presence of those Aztec gods.
My heart rate felt elevated, my head buoyant. I had to lie down on the bed. I closed my eyes and luminous blues and purples swirled behind my eyelids. I detected tingling in my scalp, arms and feet and a fullness in my belly. I had no anxiety (rare in those days) and a sense of calm. I remember thinking that this is what euphoric must mean. It reminded me of nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office, but without the fuzzy confusion or heaviness. I slept better and woke up more refreshed than a night at a Sofitel.
I spent the next day thinking of reasons this could have transpired; it wasn’t a carbon monoxide leak, I hadn’t added rum or brandy to the mix, there were no drugs in my system, etc. It had to have been this sensation the Mayans and the Aztecs enshrined on their stone walls.
I think it’s safe to say that a mugfull of mass produced hot chocolate, like NesQuick or Swiss Miss, isn’t going to induce anything except diabetes. That’s because they are packed with fillers and ‘fructose solids’ and have very little real cacao and what it does contain is low-grade (although, I loved those crunchy “marshmallows” when I was a kid). Drinking chocolate shouldn’t be part of your everyday diet, so it’d be a shame to waste that moment (and the calories) on something that leaves you unsatisfied. Invest in quality ingredients. I’m pretty sure the path to enlightenment will not include the phrase “mix with boiling water;” put those packets back on the shelf.
I’ve never been able to recreate that sensation, but I’ve still found several indulgent brands; Cadbury, Ghiradelli, Taza are some that are not difficult to find. I make an effort to acquire artisan productions when I see them. I sometimes make my own.
HOMEMADE NECTAR OF THE GODS:
Bring a pan of water to a boil. Cover the pan with a metal bowl, making certain the bowl doesn’t touch the water. If you have a double broiler – use that, but you probably don’t need me to tell you how to use it.
In the bowl add 250ml (approximately 1 cup) of whole or half fat milk and heat until it begins to bubble slightly.
Sweeten to taste. Reduce heat.
Add 150 grams of chopped 65% (or higher) dark chocolate. Stirring constantly.
Once the chocolate has completely melted, remove from heat.
Pour back and forth from two containers to obtain a frothy texture.
MAKE IT YOURS OPTIONS:
fresh ground cinnamon or nutmeg, raspberry or orange liqueur, coffee liqueur, amaretto or anisette, whipped cream, chili powder, marshmallows, chopped peppermint or cookie pieces, etc.
By the way: Did you know that dark chocolate contains fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, maganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium?
So there’s that.
*Xocolatl is the Mayan word for chocolate and translates roughly to “bitter water.”