Here's Where The Concept Of Mint Chocolate Came From

Chocolate easily pairs with all manner of sweet and savory ingredients, from peanut butter and bananas to marshmallows, oranges, pretzels, and even cheese. Whether used in candies, cakes, cookies, ice cream, or dessert cocktails, chocolate's versatility allows it to meld with just about anything. There is one special ingredient, however, that creates an incomparably cooling, mysteriously refreshing, and pleasantly nostalgic sensation when mixed with chocolate: mint.

Mint chocolate has become an iconic flavor profile all its own. Candy brands like Andes, Junior Mints, York Peppermint Pattie, and Frango have developed loyal followings. Thin Mints are the best-selling Girl Scout Cookies of all time. Mint chocolate chip ice cream constantly ranks among the most popular varieties, according to The Food Channel and The Infatuation. Mint chocolate is a flavor so widely loved that National Chocolate Mint Day is celebrated each year on February 19. So, where exactly did the idea to mix mint and chocolate come from?

Mint chocolate has ancient origins

Blending mint with chocolate has been a concept for centuries. Thousands of years ago, the Mayans and Aztecs worshipped chocolate — literally. Far before chocolate was considered the sweet confection it is today, it was seen as a gift from the gods and was mainly consumed by the elite during spiritual ceremonies, per History. However, cacao's strong, acidic taste didn't go unnoticed by everyone. According to chocolate brand Sense Ecuador, when chocolate was chiefly sipped rather than eaten back in the day, Europeans added sugars and herbs and spices such as cinnamon and mint to alleviate the beverage's bitterness. Over time, the fusion of mint and chocolate became customary, and as cultures' palates further developed, it was incorporated into sweet treats and other menu items.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream, specifically, has a more concrete origin — and perhaps surprising to some, it's a relatively young product. According to Jeni's Ice Cream, in 1973, a culinary student in England named Marilyn Ricketts entered a contest in which the winning creation would be served at Princess Anne's wedding. Ricketts whipped up mint royale, which was crowned the grand victor. Her innovative mint chocolate ice cream was such a hit at the ceremony that the recipe quickly made its way to ice cream parlors around the world.