It’s winter, and we need some mezcal to keep us warm. It is very common throughout traditional mezcal producing regions to enjoy a sip or two of mezcal before heading out when temperatures drop. While it’s mostly seen as a cute excuse to have a little nip, it also makes sense as it fires up the circulation of the body and provides a little bit of warmth from the inside out. For this pairing we’re keeping it cozy with traditional warming flavors of corn, chocolate, and agave.
I’m hard pressed to think of a mezcal that wouldn’t be a perfect pairing alongside a steamy mug of champurrado, but the iconic Vago Elote takes it to another level. The family’s own heirloom corn infuses the flavor of their espadin based mezcal, creating layers of sweet earthiness that play with spicy and sweet roasted notes in each sip. An instant classic, the Vago Elote offers a taste of place in a deep way, letting us savor centuries of tradition in each sip.
Champurrado is similarly steeped in tradition that you can taste. One of the most common varieties of atole, the lightly sweet warm drink thickened with corn masa that has been enjoyed in Mexico since before it was Mexico, champurrado is the chocolatey version. Often enjoyed as or with breakfast, or alongside pan dulce, champurrado is as iconic as other traditional favorites like tamales and pozole. I prefer to enjoy my mezcal neat on the side, making this an exclusively drinkable pairing, but adding a splash of mezcal directly into your champurrado also works if you want to make it a boozy version more like spiked hot chocolate or a hot toddy.
While very simple to make, it may take a few trials (and errors) to get the technique down for creamy and thick champurrado. Mexican women make it look easy, and there have been many laughs in my household over my failed attempts to make atole- some worse than others, so don’t feel bad if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time or two. As with any traditional recipe, there are many different tricks and tips, and these are mine- but feel free to use (and share) your tried and true methods. I make my atole with water, but many people like to add milk, especially when making the chocolatey champurrado version. And remember, all ingredients are to taste, so feel free to play around with the quantities of sweetener and chocolate to get your preferred flavor.
- 500 grams masa flour
- 6 liters of water, divided into 5 liters and 1 liter
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 cone piloncillo, or other sweetener, to taste
- 500 grams mexican chocolate, or to taste
- Pinch of salt
Heat 5 liters of water in a large pot with the cinnamon sticks and piloncillo and let simmer to extract cinnamon flavor to your preferred taste. Working quickly, turn the heat down so it is just below simmering, meanwhile combine the masa harina with the remaining liter of water in a blender and blend just to combine- add it to the pot and let the mixture simmer, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to simmer and thicken as the masa cooks, whisking regularly to avoid clumps. Add in the chocolate and a pinch of salt and stir until it is melted and thoroughly combined. Adjust for sweetness and chocolate flavor. Serve warm.