Drink of the Elite

The Cup of Chocolate
Detail from "The Cup of Chocolate," by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier (1728-1806); Oil on canvas; Château de Versailles, Réunion des musées nationaux

Just as chocolate was the drink of the copper-skinned, bejeweled and feather-clad Mesoamerican elite, so it was with the white-skinned, bewigged and overdressed ruling class of Europe. Chocolate entered Europe as an expensive drug in the medical system of the day. Its soothing nature and mild stimulatory kick soon turned it into what might be loosely termed a recreational drug.

And it was a drug taken in liquid form. Until the invention of a specialized hydraulic press in 1828 paved the way for the solid chocolate we know and love, chocolate was always a drink. It was commonly mixed with water or milk, with flavorings such as vanilla, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice and chilies.