The secret to making the best hot chocolate

Tearing open a packet of cocoa mix and swirling it into hot milk might be easy, but there are a few tricks for transforming that mug of comfort into something truly awesome.

Americans often consider hot chocolate something relegated to children; a frothy chocolate drink piled high with marshmallows, whipped cream, and sprinkles. But, for millennia, people from all over the globe imbibed, and actually found that drinking the stuff was the most desirable way to start the day (via CBS News).

The history of chocolate can be traced to the ancient Mayans, and even as far back as the ancient Olmecs of southern Mexico. But the Mayans were not nibbling on Kit Kat bars. Instead, throughout much of history, chocolate was revered and enjoyed as a bitter beverage (via History). In fact, Aztec ruler Montezuma II drank chocolate 50 times per day and had thousands of pitchers on standby for members of his household (via Chocolate.org).

One thing's for certain: Montezuma was not using a chalky powdered mix to prepare his cacao cocktails. Cacao beans were scented with vanilla and spices and ground to the consistency of honey; a cherished concoction that dissolved on the tongue (via Cacao-Chocolate.com).

Unwrap a candy bar for the ultimate hot chocolate

The Kitchn stresses that you cannot get a great mug of hot chocolate from a powdered mix, but rather a bar of good-quality dark chocolate. Hot milk melts the confection, creating a sweet, rich, decadent drink.

The Takeout adds that, if you use quality chocolate and whole milk, you can ditch the cocoa powder altogether. The ratio is about three ounces of chocolate for every eight ounces of hot milk. Once the milk is hot, add broken up pieces of the chocolate and whisk until the mixture is smooth and frothy. Another trick? Steep a whole cinnamon stick in the milk first for added warmth and depth of flavor.

Good chocolate is not the only essential ingredient for the ultimate mug of joy, however. Food 52 proclaims that high-quality milk is important, too. The flavor of milk from a small, regional farm is completely unlike milk from a large institutional dairy farm that adds stabilizers to its product. And, when heating the milk for hot chocolate, it should be steaming, not boiling, or it will scald and change the consistency.

The grand finale? Although Montezuma did not add marshmallows and whipped cream to his 50 cups of cocoa, few things are better than watching the two melt into a steaming cup of hot chocolate, adding lightness, creaminess, and a touch more sweetness (via Insider).