I am the first to admit to having mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. This year, they may be more mixed than ever. The last time we raised a glass to this particular saint, we didn’t know we were also marking one of the last toasts before Covid would take over so much of our lives.
But we’ll always have chocolate. Prominently displayed on this occasion, it does signify comfort and satiation — things in short supply these days. As luck would have it, rooting around my little pantry a few days ago, I ran across a package of Mexican chocolate. I knew it would serve nicely as the starting point for a Valentine’s Day drink.
Mexican chocolate is quite grainy, as the cacao in it is minimally processed, and the sugar not tempered in. It can be spicy. Mine has a nice touch of canela, Mexican cinnamon. It usually comes in a tablet, and it’s meant to be melted into milk for a frothy hot chocolate. I drank quite a bit of it, growing up in South Texas. I have fond memories of its lovely smell inviting me into the kitchen on what passed for winter afternoons.
When I mentioned to my friends Katie Reed and Josiah Mayo, the founders of Chequessett Chocolate, that I was thinking about a chocolate cocktail, they told me they were one step ahead of me. With the good folks at South Hollow Spirits, just down the road, they told me, they’d come up with an amaro chocolate liqueur. In Italy, an amaro —Valentine’s Day doubters may appreciate that the word amaro translates as “bitter” — is traditionally drunk after a meal as a digestivo.
Their collaborative invention got me partway to the perfect boozy hot chocolate drink I was after. But while adding amaro chocolate liqueur to my Mexican hot chocolate was fantastic, I decided my drink needed an additional kick to take it over the top. Enter a rich amber, wooden-cask-aged rum. (There does happen to be one distilled at South Hollow. Use it or any dark rum. Just don’t choose a spiced one for this drink.)
You can find chocolate mexicano at well-stocked grocery stores, or you can substitute a good bittersweet chocolate from the baking section, plus a pinch of cinnamon. (I don’t want to do too much Truro bragging, but the folks at Chequessett have a good Mexican drinking chocolate, too, ready to go in powdered form.)
Whichever type of chocolate you use, make sure to froth the hot chocolate with a whisk or even an immersion blender after heating it with the milk. That’s the extra step that will make this bittersweet dessert-in-a-mug extra special.
Mexican Hot Chocolate With Rum and Amaro
For one drink
8 oz. whole milk
1 oz. Mexican chocolate in tablet form
or 4 Tbsp. Mexican drinking chocolate powder|
1 to 1.5 oz. amber rum
A healthy splash of amaro chocolate liqueur
Heat milk in a small saucepan and add chocolate. Stir to dissolve the chocolate. Take pan off heat and add rum and amaro. Whisk vigorously to froth, and pour into warm mugs.
Then, as per the rules of the pandemic, propose a toast to the love you’re with.