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I know that pre-Colombian chocolate was less sweet and more bitter, but I can't find a recipe for it. That fact probably means that it doesn't taste great, but I'd like to try it anyway.

The closest I've come was a recipe for "how the Spaniards transformed Montezuma’s favorite spicy beverage with the addition of alcohol."

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I don't have a definitive answer, but on a recent tour of a chocolate factory, we were given some Aztec style drinking chocolate, and it was simply water, cocoa powder, and a little red chilli. It was quite bitter but no more than, say, coffee. It was in fact very similar to iced coffee. – ElendilTheTall Nov 12 '13 at 8:07
That is exactly how they had it @ElendilTheTall. – GdD Nov 12 '13 at 9:49
The thing is that the variety of chocolate that they used is probably extinct, destroyed by the push to commercialize an easier to grow variety. The other version, while harder to grow, produced better flavor. It's a shame! – GdD Nov 12 '13 at 9:56
@ElendilTheTall, was the drink at room temperature? I assume that the Aztecs did not have access to ice. – kuzzooroo Nov 12 '13 at 12:48
It was cold, probably because of health and safety rules about leaving things at room temperature. – ElendilTheTall Nov 12 '13 at 16:05
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Chocolate recipe was different for rituals or medicinal purposes. The recipes talk about adding some of the following: vanilla, powdered chilli, flowers as gueyncaztle, mecasuchil, maize as filler, honey, tlacoxoshitl..

Here is the recipe for Mexican hot chocolate from Food and Feasts with the Aztecs, Imogene Dawson (p. 29). It is adapted for modern kitchens:

Mexican hot chocolate Ingredients 1/2 lb semisweet cooking chocolate 4 cups milk 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 drops vanilla 1. Break the chocolate into small pieces. Put the pieces in the top of a double boiler or into the heatproof bowl.

  1. Fill the bottom of the double boiler or a large saucepan with cold water. Then bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down so that the water continues to boil gently.
  2. Put the container with the chocolate over the one with the boiling water. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate until it has melted.
  3. Measure out the milk and pour it into another saucepan. Heat the milk gently but do not let it boil. Pour the melted chocolate into the hot milk.
  4. Add the cinnamon and the vanilla to the mixture and bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Turn the heat down and whisk the mixture for 2 minutes until it is foaming.
  6. Pour the chocolate into mugs and use the small whisk to whisk the chocolate again, so that there is foam on the top of each mug.

Montezuma dined with Cortes and his Spanish Officers. At this meal the Mexica/Aztec king reportedly drank chocolate from cups of pure gold. Hernán Cortés then wrote:

These seeds which are called almonds or cacao are ground and made into powder, and other small seeds are ground, and this powder is put into certain basins with a point... and then they put water on it and mix it with a spoon. And after having mixed it very well, they change it from one basin to another, so that a foam is raised which they put in a vessel made for the purpose. And when they wish to drink it, they mix it with certain small spoons of gold or silver or wood, and drink it, and drinking it one must open one's mouth, because being foam one must give it room to subside, and go down bit by bit. This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else"


I recommend you to read Chapter 8 "From Bean to Beverage", page 100 on the book–180 on the PDF– of History, Culture and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti & Howard-Yana Shapiro

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The first recipe doesn't sound very traditional to me. The aztecs surely didn't have conched baking chocolate full of refined sugar, so the best product to start with is probably pure chocolate liquor, not semisweet chocolate. And the idea of milk being traditionally used clashes with my preconceptions, I don't think of the aztecs as cattle breeders. I would have assumed that mixing milk and cocoa is an European invention. – rumtscho Nov 13 '13 at 11:38

According to Marcy Norton's Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World, in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, as well as afterwards, chocolate was eaten as a frothy drink, and spiced with chili. She doesn't give a specific recipe, but the book is a really great study of not only the foodways but cultural context of the consumption of these native American products, which can help one to understand how one might try to approximate the early American chocolate. Of course, as @GdD has pointed out the exact species may be extinct (or at least it has continued to evolve under the anthropogenic selection of commercial breeding) but we can try to approximate it.

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