When you miss a place that’s far away, sometimes the easiest way to go back is to eat something that reminds you of that spot. But what if the taste you long for requires ingredients that are out of season or are impossible to locate in your hometown? A sensory craving that crescendo’s to the point of aching is all it takes to create a proxy recipe.
A proxy recipe—a term I’ve just made up to explain this odd phenomena–is one that recreates a sensory memory with disparate ingredients that have very little to do with the original moment that inspired it. Because when you’re desperate, substitutions are important. Ever since leaving Ixtapa Mexico, I’ve been craving grilled, handmade tortillas and fresh-from-the-tree guacamole drizzled with limes. Though avocados may be available here in Los Angeles, there’s a cold, hard rain that’s pounding our city and I don’t quite feel up to faking the warm weather of Mexico in this bone chilling weather. Those sun-kissed flavors just wouldn’t taste the same in the cold.
But as the rain-battered trees paw the panes of my windows, I consider other flavors that evoke sandy beaches and tropical markets. For me, that’s rum, chocolate, and sweet fruit. In a flash (of lightning, it turns out) inspiration strikes: my proxy recipe is born.
Wrapped in a heavy blanket with a hot mug of cinnamon-laced Mexican chocolate with aged rum and Maraschino Liqueur to soothe me, I could almost imagine myself back in Ixtapa. Thank goodness I happened to have a box of Ibarra Mexican Chocolate (a sweet chocolate laced with cinnamon and covered in coarse sugar) in my pantry at the moment I came up with this cocktail.*
Poquito Mas Mexico: Mexican Hot Chocolate with Aged Rum and Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
Makes two drinks
3.3 oz tablet of Ibarra Mexican chocolate
2 ½ cups milk
4 ounces aged rum or dark rum (I used Havana Club Aged Rum)
2 ounces Maraschino Liqueur
Simmer the milk, being careful not to let it boil. Meanwhile, break up the tablet of Mexican Chocolate into pieces. Add the pieces of chocolate to the hot milk and stir until melted and fully combined.
Turn off the heat and pour into a bowl large enough to hold the liquid without it coming to the top. Add the rum and the maraschino liquor. Using a whisk (or a wooden “molinillo,” if you have one), froth the milk by spinning the whisk between your hands. Or, if you’re in a rush, put a small amount of the warm liquid in a blender and pulse it. After frothing, pour into two warm mugs and serve immediately.
*If you don’t have access to a Latin market in your town, you can find Ibarra Chocolate (a Mexican chocolate laced with cinnamon and course sugar) online at MexGrocer.