Día de los Muertos is the perfect time of year for Mexican hot chocolate. This recipe is a twist on the classic plain chocolate caliente; it’s spiced with chile guajillo, which lends a mildly spicy flavor and an earthy and fruity bouquet to this traditional beverage.
Champurrado is Mexico’s answer to hot chocolate. There’s this place in Mexico City where my suegro loves to eat. It’s a little family-owned restaurant called Merendero Las Lupitas, and he’s friends with the owner.
Las Lupitas is situated on a corner in Coyoacán facing the Plaza Santa Caterina, in a two-story white building with these beautiful, dramatic thick cobalt blue accents around the windows. They have a heavy, rustic wooden door, and inside there’s colorful papel picado strung across the ceiling. Lots of local art adorns the walls.
What I love about this place is that it’s so traditional. The menu is pretty basic and the atmosphere emits a feeling like you’re eating in a relative’s home. Even the placemats, dishes and furniture are very modest. But don’t be fooled by all the simplicity–each dish on the menu packs as much satisfaction as that of a fancy restaurant, minus the attitude and the cost.
Among the number of delicious, traditional items on the menu there, my suegro almost always orders a mug of atole at the end of his meal.
Atole is a hot drink, made with a nixtamal (corn) base from dissolving masa in water, sometimes with piloncillo, and heating until it becomes thick. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs type drink that’s guaranteed to keep you warm. It can come in many flavors; vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are most typical.
You can usually find quickie versions in a powdered packet in the grocery store, and they taste OK if you’re in a bind and can’t make the real deal. But the packets typically use powdered cornstarch as a thickening agent, so they lack the depth and flavor produced by using real masa as the drink’s base. The chocolate version is called atole de chocolate or champurrado….