Caffeine is used by more people on the planet then all other substances combined and yet is completely over looked here at DF! So through out the month of April be on the look out for a whole slew of articles from growing coffee to blending your own energy drinks, an in depth experiment with the tea so potent the Russians have a special word Zarkavah to distinguish it from tea that isn't a drug substitute in gulags. All this and more comming next month!
For a start, here's a potent little brew to play with. Enjoy.
Aztec Style Gruel: A Speculative Adventure in a Lost Culinary Tradition.
There used to be Aztec cookbooks, but the damn Spaniards took care of that and burned every piece of literature they found. We do have some descriptions and ingredient lists though, so those were a good start, other admixtures will also be discussed. The following is a casual look at getting started, more technical discussion will be posted later.
Cacao nibs: If you aren't thrilled with the nibs you have, you can try soaking them for a few days in water, or roasting or both. Grind up 3/4ths of your nibs to a powder.
Milk: while water is more authentic, milk does such a fantastic job it's worth using. You can cut it with water, but for a decadent treat add in some heavy cream.
Grain: Corn meal would be the standard, but Amaranth and Quinoa are delightfully healthy alternatives for a brew rich in minerals. For added flavor you can toast all or some of the grain. Rice would seem to be a workable option, though I have not tried it. Fresh corn is excellent.
Seasonings: Achiote (annato) is an amazingly over looked as a spice and often simply used as a coloring agent (deep gold), yet when pan fried and ground, achiote seeds have an incredible bouquet of flowers and incense. It's cheap and amazingly versatile, I see it holding a good future in making sweets. Use liberally
Chili peppers Though it can be argured they belong down with the potent admixtures, their importance in the pallet means they can not be over looked. This gruel should have a kick to it. I like chipotle peppers, go for the small red ones not the larger tobacco colored ones Goya sells. Dried peppers are idea, either leave whole and strain, or better yet crush and add directly.
Vanilla Of all the 25,000 orchids in the world only one species, the Vanilla orchid holds any economic interest besides as a collectors piece. Fresh vanilla beans can be packed in fine quality sugar (Sugar in the Raw is excellent) and stored for a few weeks to create an easy to use flavoring agent.
Honey, Agave Nectar, Sugar, These were traditionally not sweet drinks, though Honey was a common ingredient. Keep it light on the sugar.
Allspice, Cinnamon, Mace, Nutmeg, Clove, Cardamon (green and black), Ginger, Black Pepper, Grains of Paradise, Long Pepper, Citrus Rind, Lavender, Sweet Wood Ruff, Tonka Bean (well worth searching for, not a legal food additive due to blood thinning properties but hardly dangerous)
Potent admixtures used through out history:
Kola nut, coca, psilocybe mushrooms, chili peppers, guarana, Bee Pollen, cannabis, opium
A delicious lunch: Whole milk with some heave cream, a handful of cacao, a good pile of achiote, tonka bean, nutmeg, coca, kola nut, guarana, quinoa, bird chilies, nutritional yeast, dollop of sour cream. All ingredients into the pot, cook on low stirring constantly, don't let boil, Cook at least 20 minutes, maybe more depending on the grain (amaranth is going to need at least 40+). Yellow and rich this was particularly energizing (not surprising given the vitamin and alkaloid profile), achiote and tonka being the core of the flavor, the cacao residing as a single note in a buttery soup of delight.
I'm tired, I'll come back and go into further discussion on textual evidence and a deeper look into the preparation. This should give ya a good start.