Winter's Favorite Drink: Hot Chocolate

A warm, rich chocolatey drink topped with whipped cream and a dash of chocolate shavings is perfect after a cold day in the snow or on ice. Hot chocolate is divine. It hasn’t always been what it currently is in its familiar form, but it’s always been a celebrated drink in all of its forms over the centuries, and is a cozy drink today. 


Research shows as early as 500 BC the Mayans were the first to be drinking their chocolate. The cocoa plants grows well in tropical environments, and from the seeds mixed with water and two other common ingredients: cornmeal and chili pepper, they made an unsweetened chocolate drink. With exploration, eventually cocoa beans made it to Europe in the 1500s. It was drunk cold and unsweetened, but became popular in England and Spain among the aristocracy and upper class. 

Eventually, this drinking chocolate caught on, and in the 1700s instead of coffee shops there were chocolate houses. Chocolate remained very expensive, and chocolate houses were only for the wealthy. Eventually the recipe continued to develop, and mixing milk into the chocolate drink became more popular. Makes sense since the British have been adding milk to their tea for centuries. Heating it and drinking it warm, instead of cold, also caught on. Hot chocolate was used for a long time to treat stomach and liver issues. 

It continued to evolve, yet most cultures have a version of hot chocolate that deviates slightly from another location. Americans generally drink the powdered version mixed with water. It is sweet, yet fairly thin. A step up would be made from chocolate syrup and steamed milk at a local cafe or coffee shop. Other countries like Spain and Italy feature thicker “sipping chocolate” that has some heft and richness to it. 

To get specific with hot chocolate terminology “hot chocolate” tends to be made with chopped or grated dark, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and stirred into warm milk and sweetened with sugar. “Cocoa” is a similar version made with cocoa powder, hot milk or hot water and sweetened with sugar (or not!). And with instant hot chocolate, the guesswork has been taken out of the recipe, and the pre-mixed powder (a mix of powdered milk and sweeteners) can be simply stirred with hot water. Interestingly enough, mixes vary widely between brands, countries and cultures. 

Though hot chocolate is commonly thought of as a warm treat in the US, hot chocolate in many other countries are a regular drink consumed with breakfast. A great way to start the day! Hot chocolate is Old World Christmas’ drink of choice because it’s mostly consumed in winter, and to us winter means Christmas. To honor our favorite drink in our favorite season we have a festive hot chocolate ornament in a cheery red polka dotted mug. To make it extra festive, add a candy cane ornament to it! Hot chocolate isn’t the only drink we feature. We have a huge collection of coffee drinks and drinks reserved for adults! If drinks aren't your thing, then check out our entire collection of Christmas ornaments. However you choose to sip, don’t neglect the magic a nice, creamy mug of hot chocolate provides, even to the biggest of kids. 

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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