Spring is here, but that doesn't mean you have to stop drinking hot chocolate. Davneet and I both come from cultures that appreciate spicy food, so of course we love Mexican hot chocolate. I usually add my own cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne to hot cocoa. But I recently decided to try Mexican hot chocolate as opposed to hot cocoa.
Hot chocolate or drinking chocolate is made from actual chocolate, which contains cocoa, sugar, and cocoa butter, among other ingredients. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which does not contain cocoa butter and is therefore less fattening but also less creamy and delicious.
Anyway, I purchased two brands of Mexican hot chocolate: Abuelita and Ibarra. Both are prepared by dissolving 1 disc of chocolate in 4 cups of milk, over medium heat. As implied, the chocolate discs include sugar and cinnamon, so no additional ingredients are needed.
Traditionally, a molinillo (that crazy wooden stick pictured above) is used to mix the hot chocolate and make it frothy. If you don't have a molinillo, a regular whisk works just as well.
I found a molinillo online at Dean & Deluca for $14. But I decided to check out our favorite Mexican grocery store, Reyna Foods, in the Strip district first. Theirs was only $4.50, so of course I bought it.
Before we had a chance to open either of the hot chocolate packages, Davneet decided he preferred Ibarra over Abuelita. Abuelita lists "Artificial Flavor" under its ingredients, whereas Ibarra's list contains the word "Cinnamon". He also didn't like the fact that Abuelita is manufactured by Nestle. When you think of traditional Mexican cuisine, you don't think Nestle.
To make sure he was objectively judging the two brands, I gave Davneet a blind taste test, placing two unmarked cups of hot chocolate in front of him. After a few sips from each cup, he of course chose the Ibarra. He thought the Abuelita was more chocolatey but tasted more watery at the same time. He thought the Ibarra was both creamier and spicier.
I agreed that the Ibarra was better overall. I've been putting a disc of chocolate in my coffee pot and brewing half a pot of coffee. When the coffee's done, the chocolate isn't completely dissolved yet, so I whisk inside the coffee pot until it's uniform. Then I drink it with equal parts milk. It's delicious.