350-Year-Old Recipe for Icy Chocolate Drink Found

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The same aristocratic line that that lent its namesake to the sandwich may have a claim on the Mocha Frappuccino, too.

A researcher in the United Kingdom says she has discovered a 350-year-old recipe from the Earl of Sandwich for a chilled chocolate dessert that would have been similar to the frozen drinks sold at coffee houses today.

"It's not chocolate ice cream, but more like a very solid and very dark version of the iced chocolate drinks you get in coffee shops today," researcher Kate Loveman, of the University of Leicester, said in a statement. "Freezing food required cutting-edge technology in 17th-century England, so these ices were seen as great luxuries."

In the 1660s the Earl of Sandwich, Sir Edward Montagu, collected recipes for iced chocolate treats — long before his great, great grandson, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, was credited with inventing the sandwich. [7 Perfect Survival Foods]

In her research, Loveman found a recipe for a chocolate delicacy that the Earl himself concocted: "Prepare the chocolatti [to make a drink]… and Then Putt the vessell that hath the Chocolatti in it, into a Jaraffa [i.e. a carafe] of snow stirred together with some salt, & shaike the snow together sometyme & it will putt the Chocolatti into tender Curdled Ice & soe eate it with spoons."

Chocolate was first advertised around 1640 in England as an exotic drink that could cure illnesses and act as an aphrodisiac, but it was eyed with suspicion for decades.

There were warnings that hot chocolate could cause insomnia, excess mucus, or hemorrhoids, while "unwholesome" iced chocolate could damage the stomach, heart, and lungs, Loveman explained. But chocoholics like the Earl devised superstitious countermeasures — involving more chocolate.

"Sandwich thought the best way to ward off the dangers of eating frozen chocolate was to 'Drinke Hott chocolatti ¼ of an houre after' it," Loveman said in a statement.

Chocolate sellers popped up across London in the 1650s, and by the 1690s, there were even elite chocolate houses that catered to aristocratic clientele. As the treat started to become an established part of the culture, chocolate ads also sprung up that should look familiar today.  

"Today's chocolate promoters, like some in the 17th century, often find cause to highlight women, pleasure, and sexuality," the researcher said.

"In the 17th century, however, the fact that frequent chocolate consumption might make you 'Fat and Corpulent' was an attraction, something advertisers now prefer to keep quiet about."

The research is detailed in the Journal of Social History.

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