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Shakespeare & Beyond

The "American Nectar": William Hughes's hot chocolate

With January well underway, we’re delighted to share a toasty treasure from the Folger’s collections: an early modern recipe—and a wealth of information about its origins—for hot chocolate. Hot chocolate, brought to Europe and Britain from the Americas, was hugely successful in the early modern period, and it hasn’t lost its appeal since.

This begins a series of posts on early modern recipes from the Folger vaults, each associated with a well-known chef or food influencer, that we’ll be sharing in the months ahead. Four of the recipes, including this one, have been developed by Marissa Nicosia, based on a recipe from the Folger archives; Nicosia is an Assistant Professor of English at Penn State Abington and author of the blog Cooking in the Archives: Updating Early Modern Recipes (1600-1800) in a Modern Kitchenwhere you can find even more information about these adaptations. A fifth recipe, associated with Hercules, a chef kept in slavery by George and Martha Washington, is by Michael Twitty, the James Beard award-winning author of The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South.

When pirate botanist William Hughes wrote about his adventures with plants in the Americas, he devoted an entire section of his book The American Physitian (1672) to “The Cacao Nut Tree,” which he distinguished from all other American plants. Hughes paid particular attention to the properties and the preparation of chocolate. In the opening of the section “Of the making of Chocolate into Drink,” he calls the beverage “the American Nectar.”


[…] Warme chocolademelk werd gezien als Amerikaanse nectar. […]

Merkwaardig (week 3) | — January 20, 2019

[…] about the hot chocolate recipe and need to give it a try, the Folger people have got you covered. Head over to their blog, make a few cups, and spend a few minutes exploring a few of their other […]

Hot chocolate. The Columbian Exchange. And pirates. | History Tech — January 28, 2019

I do something like this when I make hot chocolate … but I add peppermint oil… just a drop. MMMMMM…..

bonnie jay — February 1, 2019

I do something like this when I make hot chocolate … but I use cashew milk and I add a drop of peppermint oil… MMMMMM…..

bonnie jay — February 1, 2019

[…] the great hunt for the perfect seed cake began! Instead of turning to printed sources as I did for Hughes’s Hot Chocolate, May’s Brisket, and Woolley’s Marmalade, I dove into recipe […]

Seed cake inspired by Thomas Tusser - Shakespeare & Beyond — March 12, 2019