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Back to Basics – Spicy Hot Chocolate

By Jiri Kaloc

What would you fuel your race with if you competed in the first Tour de France in the early 1900s? There were no sports drinks, no energy bars or gels, not even feeding stations. It turns out that one of the most popular drinks that riders carried around with them was a simple bidon full of hot chocolate. In this article you’ll learn how to make it yourself too.

Cakes don’t hurt, it’s the climbs

Maurice Garin, the first ever winner of the Tour de France recalled consuming the following items in a 24-hour race: 45 cutlets, 19 litres of hot chocolate, 8 cooked eggs, 7 litres of tea, 5 litres of tapioca, 2 kilos of rice, lots of strong red wine, coffee, champagne, and oysters. Sounds crazy, right? It seems like most of those things would slow him down rather than give him energy.
There is a famous quote by Eddie Merckx, one of the most successful riders in the history of competitive cycling, that might explain how riders thought about nutrition back then: “It’s not the pastries that hurt, it’s the climbs.”

Recipe: Spicy Hot Chocolate

If you want to fuel a ride today, you can select from a wide range of energy drinks with varying amounts of carbohydrates, caffeine, and minerals and they come in almost any flavour. But to experience the early days of cycling competition, you need a recipe for the good old spicy hot chocolate. Here it is:


• 1/3 cup honey
• 4 cups milk
• ¾ cup cocoa powder
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1 tsp cardamom seeds
• 1 tsp cinnamon, grated
• pinch of salt
• 1 tbsp ginger, ground
• ½ tsp nutmeg, grated
• 4 fennel seeds
• 10 cloves, whole
• 4 peppercorns
• 4 tbsp unsweetened whipped cream


1. Using a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, combine the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, nutmeg, fennel seeds, and ginger.
2. Heat the milk over medium heat, and whisk in cocoa, the spice mixture, honey, and a pinch of salt.
3. When milk is just starting to steam, turn heat to low, and steep for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Heat mixture back to steaming, add the vanilla extract, and strain into mugs.
5. Garnish with a tablespoon of unsweetened whipped cream and serve.

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