A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from November 29, 2007
Mexican Chocolate or Mexican Hot Chocolate (and “molinillo” or “little mill")

Mexican chocolate (or “Mexican hot chocolate") has been served in the Americas since before Europeans arrived. Mexican hot chocolate is a popular treat in Texas (especially San Antonio and South Texas) around Christmas and New Year’s, often served with buñuelos (pastries).

Mexican chocolate is cooked with cinnamon, milk, sugar, salt, and sometimes nutmeg and cream. The chocolate is traditionally ground with a “molinillo,” or little mill.


Gourmet Sleuth
Mexican Chocolate
Mexican chocolate is made from dark, bitter chocolate mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and sometimes nuts.  The end result is a “grainy” less smooth product.  Chocolate is frequently purchased in “disks” although it is also available in bars and syrups.

Gourmet Sleuth
Mexican Molinillo
The molinillo [moh-lee-NEE-yoh] is the Mexican chocolate “whisk” or “stirrer”.  It is made of “turned” wood and it is used to froth warm drinks such as hot chocolate, Atole, and Champurrado.

History and Lore
This tool was actually invented by the Spaniard colonists in Mexico around the 1700’s.  Prior to the invention of the molinillo, chocolate was froth by pouring it from one cup to another.  The first molinillos were made to fit into a container with the handle extending out of the top.  The molinillo was then rotated between the users two hands placed palm-sides together.  The twisting motion frothed the chocolate.

European Adaptation
The Spanish explorers were so enamored with the flavor of chocolate that they took it back to Spain where it became the the Kings’ Official Drink in the New Spain and Europe.  Around the end of the XVIII century(1780 - 1800) , Europeans started preparing chocolate with milk and sugar to create what we know today as Hot Chocolate.  In fact the drink became so popular many of the leading European porcelain manufactures such as Limoges in France began making specialized pots and cups just to serve chocolate.

Wikipedia: Hot Chocolate
Hot chocolate, hot cocoa, drinking chocolate or just cocoa is a beverage, usually served hot, typically consisting of chocolate or cocoa powder, milk or hot water, and sugar. While nomenclature varies, drinks described as hot cocoa generally do not contain cocoa butter, while drinks described as hot chocolate may contain cocoa butter.

The beverage became popular in Europe after being introduced from what is now Mexico in the New World.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Mexican chocolate, chocolate flavoured usually with cinnamon, almonds, and other spices; a hot chocolate drink made with these ingredients (in quot. 1847 prob. not as a fixed collocation).
1847 Boston Daily Advertiser 29 May 2/4 Speaking of chocolate, one does not know what the perfection of chocolate is, until he comes to Mexico. The *Mexican chocolate is a fine, rich, spicy drink, scarcely imitated in other countries.
1851 E. S. WORTLEY Trav. U.S. 205 Mexican chocolate..is nectar and ambrosia at once… Coffee at Mocha would surely seem nothing, or positively nauseous, in comparison.
1935 Ladies’ Home Jrnl. Apr. 92/2 The Mexican chocolate is made as follows: While the milk and chocolate are boiling, sticks of cinnamon are added [etc.].
1973 S. MORGAN Saga Texas Cookery 24 [If] Mexican chocolate..is not obtainable, use the same amount of sweet chocolate..and add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the mixture.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

(Oxford English Dictionary)
molinet, n.
[< French moulinet (1611 in sense 2; 13th cent. in Old French as molinet in this sense; 1623 in sense ‘quick circular motion made with a stick’; only attested from 1680 in sense 1) < moulin (see MILL n.1) + -et -ET1. Cf. MOULINET n.]
A small stick for stirring chocolate into hot milk or water. Now hist.
1648 T. GAGE Eng.-Amer. xvi. 106 The Chocolatte..is stirred in a cup by an instrument called a Molinet, or Molinillo.
a1685 M. EVELYN Mundus Muliebris (1690) 11 A Tea and Chocolate Pot, With Molionet, and Caudle Cup.
1699 B. E. New Dict. Canting Crew, Molinet, a Chocolate Stick.
1936 Burlington Mag. Oct. p. xxiii/1 A chocolate pot..(1686)... The lid has a small cover through which the molionet was inserted.

How We Cook in El Paso
tested recipes compiled by the Ladies of the Robert E. Lee Chapter, U. D. C.
El Paso, Texas
1909
Pg. 75:
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE

December 1909, Confectioners Journal, “Hot Soda Recipes,” pg. 101, col. 1:
Chocolate Mexican.—The way they serve it in Mexico.  One egg, one and one-half ounces chocolate syrup, one teaspoonful sweet cream, one-half teaspoonful cinnamon, one-half teaspoonful salt; shake well; strain in a cup; add one cupful of hot water.  Top with a spoonful of whipped cream.

17 October 1916, Daily Alaska Dispatch, pg. 8 ad:
Hot chocolate with whipped cream and wafers...15c
(...)
Mexican hot chocolate...15c
(Luncheonette—ed.)

Your Mexican Kitchen:
A Compilation of Mexican Recipes Practicable in the United States
by Natalie V. Scott
New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons
1935
Pg. 268: 
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE
1 square chocolate
4 tbsps. of boiling water
3/4 cup of milk
sugar (to taste)

Put the boiling water in a saucepan, and add the chocolate. When the chocolate has melted and begins to thicken, add the milk and sugar. When this in turn comes to a boil, beat it until it is foamy.
There is an ingenius chocolate beater, often highly decorated, a molinillo, in general use in Mexico, and no Mexican chocolate is acceptable that is not foamy.

22 April 1938, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Let’s Have a ‘Different’ Breakfast Sunday,” section 1, pg. 19:
Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Place in saucepan three ounces chocolate, broken in small pieces; one-half cup sugar, one-half cup water, one four-inch stick cinnamon, broken in fourths; boil together two minutes, stirring constantly. Add one-eighth teaspoon salt, one quart whole milk, scalded, and bring to boiling point. While still on fire beat vigorously with a rotary egg beater. Serve very hot from chocolate pot.

29 October 1939, San Antonio (TX) Light, magazine, pg. 19, cols. 1-3:
Hot chocolate of the Mexican or “mulled” variety is a grand beverage for an older group, while cocoa will be fine for the younger sets.
(...)
How to Make the Mulled Mexican Hot Chocolate: 2 squares grated bittersweet chocolate; 1 cup cold water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon vanilla, grains salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 3 cups milk, 1 egg white, 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream. Blend chocolaate with water in double boiler and simmer over low heat, 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Add cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Dissolve sugar in 1 cup milk, and add. Scald remaining milk and add. Beat egg white until stiff, then fold in cream. Add to hot chocolate, removing immediately from heat. Beat with “muddler” or egg-beater until well blended and frothy. Serves 6.

7 January 1940, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, magazine section, pg. 1, col. 1:
They are delightful with the native foamy chocolate. Cinnamon and sometimes almonds are ground with the chocolate, which is made with water and beaten with a long wooden stick with loose rattles at the end, called a molinillo. 

27 January 1948, Modesto (CA) Bee, “Give Hot Chocolate New Flavors” by Katherine Kitchen, pg. 6, col. 3:
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Visitors to Mexico are intrigued with the whirling “swiggle” sticks which whip the chocolate into a froth and often, too, they like the spicy flavor of the Mexican beverage. Both these tricks are easy to achieve—just make hot chocolate in the usual manner, then add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt for every 4 cups of milk. Just before serving, beat vigorously with a rotary beater until every cup is topped with foam. Makes six servings.

The Texas Cookbook
by Arthur and Bobbie Coleman
New York, NY: A. A. Wyn
1949
Pg. 234:
Anyone interested in taking a few pains will be rewarded amply by getting Mexican chocolate. Mexican shops in this country carry two kinds. One they make up here into round cakes. The other they import from Mexico, where it is made up in squares, much like ours, except that the Mexican chocolate is usually better and also has the flavoring, sugar, and perhaps the eggs already in it. Then, to beat it, you can use either the molinillo, which is the wooden beater of Mexico, or a Dover egg-beater.

We recommend only Mexican chocolate, with the flavoring and sweetening in it, for the following recipe.

Mexican Chocolate
Take a 1-inch square of Mexican chocolate for each cup of milk. Bring the chocolate and the milk to a slow boil, and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Remove from the fire and beat with a molinillo or with an egg-beater until a thick (Pg. 235—ed.) foam is formed. Make only 1 cup at a time, and pour very carefully into chocolate cups.

1 November 1952, Syracuse (NY) Herald-Journal, pg. 4, cols. 6-7:
To wash all this down you take a pot of Mexican hot chocolate, which is made in part of boiled oatmeal.

27 February 1955, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg. 7B, col. 4:
Refreshments to be served include Mexican hot chocolate, tamales and Mexican candies.
(Texas Independence Day celebration—ed.)

5 February 1956, Corpus Christi (TX) Caller-Times, American Weekly, pg. 27, col. 2:
MEXICAN CHOCOLATE
(Makes 4 or 5 servings)
4 cups milk (2 cups evaporated milk diluted with 2 cups water)
2-inch stick of cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar or 6 tablesp. honey
4 squares (4 oz.) unsweetened chocolate

Heat milk with cinnamon to boiling point. Add sugar or honey. Remove cinnamon stick. Pour milk into 1 1/2-quart mixing bowl. Add chocolate, each square cut in about eight pieces. Beat to a stiff froth with egg beater (the molinillo, or little mill, is used in Latin countries). Serve with doughnut twists or French crullers. 

6 December 1956, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, pg. 5, col. 1:
Sure to please almost any palate is Mexican Hot Chocolate, as delicious a concoction as one could serve.

For 5 cups, melt 2 squares unsweetened chocolate in top of a double boiler over hot water.

Combine 2 tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and add to melted chocolate. Stir until blended. Mix in 1/2 c. boiling water. Bring to boiling point and boil 1 min. or until smooth.
Scald 4 c. milk and add to the chocolate mixture along with 6 marshmallows. Beat with rotary beater until marshmallows are dissolved. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly to prevent a skin from forming on top.

Stir in 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. 

5 January 1958, San Antonio (TX) Light, “Old Fashioned Swizzle Stick,” section E, pg. 1, cols. 1-2:
Despite dozens of new-fangled electrical gadgets, most Latin-American families still prefer a hand-operated device called the molinillo for making hot chocolate.

The device is nothing more or less than a chocolate beater, made of a solid piece of ebony and carved with niches and loose rings.

It’s used to make the hot chocolate frothy before serving.

The molinillo has been used in San Antonio for the past 75 years. And Maria Mirales, 123 S. Laredo, said she sells more than 20 dozen a year.

The beater is operated by twirling it between the palms of the hands. It’s also used to whip eggnog.

22 January 1959, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, “Mexican Chocolate Is Frothy, Sweet,” pg. 16C, col. 5:
Mexican chocolate can usually be found in South Texas. It comes in rounds, marked off in quarters and is sweetened.

For each cup of heated milk, add one of these sections. When dissolved, pour into a jug and then, with a molinillo (little wooden mill which is twirled between the hands) beat vigorously until it foams.

If American sweet chocolate is used, flavor it with cinnamon. An egg beater or portable electric mixer can be used to beat the chocolate.

MEXICAN CHOCOLATE
(1/2 oz) sweetened chocolate
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk

Mix all ingredients together in the top of a double boiler. Cook over boiling water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate melts.

At this point beat with a rotary beater until chocolate is frothy. Makes 1 serving.

1 September 1960, Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, “Hot Chocolate Frother Is Called Molinillo In Mexico,” section 2, pg. 2, col. 1:
In Mexico, when you hear the whirl of the hot chocolate frother, which they call a molinillo, you can expect to catch the delicious scent of cinnamon in the air. Cinnamon gives just that bit of tingle which the richness of sweetened chocolate demands.

This is a favorite waker-upper and snack at 5 p.m., after the siesta, for the Mexican dinner isn’t served until 8 p.m. or even later.
(...)
The Mexicans love the pale buff-colored, mild-flavored Ceylon type of cinnamon, whereas we to the north overwhelmingly prefer the somewhat more pungent cassip cinnamon. U.S. demand for the more “cinnamon-y” cinnamon has been so firmly established by tradition that Americans rarely see the Ceylon variety. We import a relatively small amount of it and most of that is re-exported to Mexico.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unflavored cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground nutmeg
1/2 cup water
1 egg white, unbeaten

Combine sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend in water. Boil 1 minute. Beat milk and egg while together until blended and stir into the syrup. Cook until hot (do not boil), beating constantly with a rotary beater. Serve hot. Yield: 5 servings.

10 April 1961, Lima (OH) News, pg. 13, col. 3:
MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE
(First Prize Winner)
1 quart milk
1 stick cinnamon
3 tablespoons ground coffee
2 squares sweet chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat milk to scalding with the cinnamon and coffee. Strain and add the chocolate which has been melted in the boiling water. Heat again to the boiling point, remove from heat. Add vanilla, salt and serve hot. Serves 8.
MRS. ZINA C. JACOBS
212 N. Church, McComb

Fryingpans West
by Sam Arnold
Boulder, CO: Pruett Press
1969
Pg. 36:
Early visitors to the Southwest found the Mexicans enjoying a thick type of hot chocolate. It had both a different consistency and flavor than they had encountered elsewhere.

Mexican chocolate is different in that it has both cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg in it; plus clove and egg for festival occasions such as Christmas eve.  You can make it very easily (Pg. 37—ed.) yourself and will find the spices add tremendously to the flavor.

MEXICAN CHOCOLATE
2 squares grated chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg

Cook 2 squares grated chocolate with 1/2 cup boiling water, 2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup cream, a pinch of salt, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and an egg.

Boil the chocolate in water for 5 minutes to bring out its full body and flavor. Then add milk, cream, sugar, salt, egg and spices. Cook in a double boiler for an hour, beating vigorously at 5-10 minute intervals.

That’s the old-fashioned way. If you have a blender, simply add hot milk or cream to sweet chocolate (about two cups of chocolate buds), and egg, nutmeg and cinnamon and blend for 2 minutes. I like to add just a pinch of ground orange peel.  Be sure, however you make it, to beat or blend until frothy.

31 March 1977, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section E, pg. 14:
MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE
1 quart milk
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Whipped cream
Chocolate curls

Combine milk, chocolate pieces and cinnamon in heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook just until the chocolate melts. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Beat vigorously. Serve in warm mugs topped with whipped cream and chocolate curls. Makes 1 quart.

Google Books
Texas Highways Cookbook
by Joanne Smith
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
1991
Pg. 39:
Mexican Chocolate
2 cups milk
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate plus 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt
or
1 ounce prepared Mexican chocolate (half of a 2-ounce cake)

Combine ingredients in double boiler. Heat until chocolate melts. Beat until foamy and serve in cups. For drama, beat in a pitcher with a Mexican molinillo, a wooden beater, twirling the tool between your palms Aztec style. Or use an electric blender. If you have cinnamon sticks (canela), offer those to stir the individual cups. Makes 2 servings.

Google Books
Cooking Texas Style: Tenth Anniversary Edition
by Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
1993
Pg. 31:
Mexican Hot Chocolate
Mexican Hot Chocolate has a history dating back before the Spanish conquest. Today it is enjoyed by Texans and Mexicans alike for its delicious flavor and the fun of making it. There is a special Mexican chocolate made especially for this beverage which already has the sugar, cinnamon, and almond flavoring added, but the same results can be achieved by combining them yourself.

The fun comes in the beating. The children think of it as a game, so much so that there is a Mexican song just for the occasion: “Bate, bate el cho-co-la-te,” meaning “beat, beat the chocolate.” The beater which is traditionally used is called a molinillo and has a shape similar to a tom-tom stick. It is usually delicately carved and has woodern rings around the bottom which move freely to produce the foam. The molinillo is placed into the chocolate and the slender end is held between the palms of the hands. The beater is twirled by rubbing the palms together and thus beating the chocolate. The chocolate tastes just as good when made in a blender, but it is not as much fun.

Google Books
The Food of Texas:
Authetnic Recipes from the Lone Star State
by Caroline Stuart
Tuttle Publishing
2000
Pg. 120:
BUNUELOS AND MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE
A Mexican specialty, buñuelos are thin, crisp, slightly sweet pastries sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Served with Mexican hot chocolate, they are a San Antonio tradition at Christmas and New Years.
(...)
Mexican Hot Chocolate
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons Kahlua
1/2 cup heavy cream, shipped stiff
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling
(...)
To make the hot chocolate, combine the chocolate, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat and heat until the chocolate melts. Slowly stir in the milk and turn up the heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to boil, add the Kahlua, mixing well. Remove from the heat. Pour into mugs and top with a spoonful of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Homesick Texan
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Mexican hot chocolate and a molinillo
Growing up, visits to San Antonio were always a cause for celebration. Sure, the River Walk was lovely and the Alamo was historic, but my favorite part of the trip was breakfast at Mi Tierra. Mi Tierra is one of those legendary Tex-Mex restaurants, up there with Joe T. Garcia and Ninfa’s as places Homesick Texans will wax nostalgic. This landmark housed in the old San Antonio market is festive, decked out year-round with Christmas lights, bright paintings and a big heart, not to mention the tasty food. And it’s always open, so at whatever hour you need your Tex-Mex fix, it will be waiting for you with open arms. My family used to go for breakfast, and one of its signatures for me was the Mexican hot chocolate. A silky, spicy concoction spiked with cinnamon and vanilla. After you’ve had it, you’ll never go back to Swiss Miss again.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Thursday, November 29, 2007 • Permalink