Xocolatl / Chocolate

Part 3 | The War of Independence and the French Intervention (READ: Part 2)

The Mexican War of Independence began in 1810 with the grito “Viva Mexico” and lasted almost fifty years. During this time, the French invaded, and while many more serious things occurred during that time, we can say that chocolate drinking in Mexico was never the same after the French occupation.

Duke Maximilian and his wife Charlotte set sail in 1863 from Europe after having been prevailed upon by Napoleon III into saving Mexico from Juarez. They were young, romantic and this was to be a great adventure. Max and Carlota, as she renamed herself in honor of her new country, spent the time on board ship writing a guide to court etiquette. However, this volume was not immediately put to use. The new Emperor and his wife arrived in Mexico and were horrified by their accommodations in the old Palacio Nacional. The royal couple and their entourage retreated to Chapultepec Castle, then being used as a somewhat shabby military college, and set about refurbishing it with Aubusson carpets, fine furniture and Limoges china.

If the accommodations were less than satisfactory, the food was deemed inedible. All, that is, except the chocolate, which they found to be a “delightful drink,” and they probably served it in this very dining room. In Limoges china cups, of course!

The French were the ones who introduced the addition of milk to the beverage, and that’s the way you’ll find it served to this day even in Oaxaca, the hometown of Benito Juarez, the man who defeated Maximilian. In this picture, we see it as it is often served with pan de yema, a brioche-like bread also dating from the French occupation.

Chocolate a la Carlota

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar (Carlota would have preferred white sugar, but piloncillo, or brown sugar, would have been more available)
  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger, chopped (the size of M&Ms)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Off the heat, stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon with a wooden Mexican molinillo or wire whisk until frothy, about two minutes. Pour into your finest china cups!

READ: Xocolatl / Chocolate, Part 4