"Chantico(TM) drinking chocolate is a decadent, premium chocolate beverage that is dramatically different from hot chocolate," said Michelle Gass, senior vice president of Category Management for Starbucks. "Imagine drinking a melted truffle and you're close to the Chantico(TM) drinking chocolate experience. Our expertise is in handcrafting premium beverages from the finest ingredients. With Chantico(TM) drinking chocolate, we're introducing our customers to the pleasures of drinking chocolate -- transforming the way consumers think about chocolate, just as we transformed the way consumers experience coffee." (from a January 5, 2005 Starbucks press release.)

There's another word for this so-called "drinking chocolate": hot chocolate. In Italy they simply call it "ciocolate." What is "dramatically different" from hot chocolate is the horrible, insipid crap people in the United States have been drinking for years and calling hot chocolate.

It is not possible to make good hot chocolate from cocoa powder. Most commercial hot chocolate powders like Swiss Miss are just cocoa power, sugar, and powered milk (so you can mix it with water instead of milk). But even if you use unsweetened cocoa powder and mix it with sugar and whole milk, you're not getting a good hot chocolate experience. You're not even getting a Chantico(TM) drinking chocolate experience: You're getting inferior hot cocoa. (This is not to say that there aren't good American chocolate drinks. Egg creams, chocolate milk, and Yoohoo are all awesome.)

The situation is so dire that when you say hot chocolate, people think you mean this tasteless dishwater. So we're stuck with this horrible and inelegant term "drinking chocolate." I hate it and won't use it, but it'll probably catch on. update: Various people have pointed out that "drinking chocolate" is a term used for hot chocolate in the UK. I think the term's main utility, though, is to distinguish hot chocolate from various mix-based chocolate drinks and from misnamed hot cocoa. Cadbury's "Drinking Chocolate", I point out, is made from powder. I'll have to try it, but I fail to see how a chocolate drink made from powder can be considered hot chocolate or even "drinking chocolate." I've had a number of so-called gourmet hot chocolates made from powder and they all taste the same as Swiss Miss.

Here is how to make hot chocolate: melt some proportion (to your taste) of sweetened and unsweetened baking chocolate in whole milk on the stovetop. (I prefer a more bitter drink. Hot chocolate, through the ages, has been more of a stimulant-type drink than a dessert-type drink, although the latter is primarily how people see it today. It's especially silly of Starbucks to name their sugary Chantico drink after the Aztec goddess, as to my knowledge the Aztecs didn't sweeten chocolate, and even added chile peppers to it.) It might help to chop the chocolate into tiny bits. Vary the amount you use depending on how rich you want it. You can use cocoa power and sugar to thin it out without losing all of the rich taste, if you want, but more than half of the chocolate should come from melted solid chocolate.

yclept points out: technically, of course, the beverage made with cocoa is not "hot chocolate" at all. It's "hot cocoa." It can be quite good as well, but needs to be made with whole milk, high quality cocoa powder, not too much sugar (preferrably dk. brown), and if desired, a bit of vanilla or brandy and some cream. And served very hot. It's a different experience, and *not* to be confused with hot chocolate at all.

This is true. Because of the proliferation of "hot chocolate" powders, the distinction between hot chocolate and hot cocoa has been blurred. I'm going to have to try hot cocoa with brown sugar.