I’ve discussed one Mexican holiday in this column before: Cinco de Mayo. That article somewhat casually dismisses the cultural appropriation involved with American celebrations of the holiday, and I regret not drawing a stronger line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. I’m going to be more careful, here.
Dia de Los Muertos is actually made up of multiple days, starting on October 31st and ending on November 2nd. These dates were set by the Catholic Church after appropriating the originally-pagan holiday from local cultures (something the Catholic Church has historically been very good at), in order to have the celebration coincide with the Catholic festival of Allhallowtide.
Dia de Los Muertos is probably best known in the States for the ornately painted skulls used both as decorations and makeup (photo by Montecruz Foto). These decorations can be stunningly gorgeous, and while it’s a natural reaction to want to take part, it’s really not a time for random people to wear gaudy outfits, get drunk on bad margaritas, and eat nachos.
The holiday is supposed to be a day of remembrance and prayer for deceased loved ones. As such, despite the frequently gorgeous visuals and festival-like atmosphere, a certain level of respect needs to be observed. With that in mind, if we’re going to appreciate another culture through drink, then let’s do it with a real Mexican recipe.
Which brings us to Mexican Hot Chocolate. Simple to create, using only a few basic ingredients that are readily available in grocery stores, it’s nonetheless a rich, delicious experience. This is the right time of year for it, too; October is transitioning into November, and it’s cold up here in the northeast. We could use some sweet, warming beverages … especially if they include a shot or two of agave liquor (which secretly plays beautifully with chocolate). If you’re lactose-intolerant, it’s acceptably traditional to make this drink with water instead of milk. Slightly less traditional, but killing two birds with one stone, you could replace both the milk and the almond meal with almond milk, which is the route I like to take.
Now, if we were really going to do this right, we’d need a molinillo with which to whip the coffee into frothy goodness. I, alas, do not have one, so I had to use an Aerolatte. I hope the good people of Mexico will forgive me as I raise my glass to them and try to honor their holiday. Salud!
- 2 Cups 2% Milk
- 4 oz. Mexican Chocolate (Taza is easy to find, Ibarra is made in Mexico)
- 2 oz. Anejo Tequila (Arta)
- 1 oz. Mezcal (Ilegal)
- 4 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
- 4 Tbsp. Almond Meal
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
Chop or crumble chocolate into small pieces. Combine milk, chocolate, brown sugar, almond meal, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar and chocolate are incorporated into the mixture and it’s at a desirable temperature. Remove pan from heat, add liquors, and beat to a froth. Pour into a ceramic mug. Makes two servings.
Items in parentheses are what I used when making this drink, and are included as recommendations.
 Thanks, Wikipedia