Brillat-Savarin put it best. "Chocolate," he pontificated, referring to the hot beverage, "is one of the most effective restoratives. All those who have to work when they might be sleeping, men of wit who feel temporarily deprived of their intellectual powers, those who find the weather oppressive, time dragging, the atmosphere depressing; those who are tormented by some preoccupation which deprives them of the liberty of thought; let all such men imbibe a half-liter of amber chocolate, using 60 to 72 grains of amber per half kilo, and they will be amazed." The amber referred to by Brillat-Savarin was ambergris, a musk-like product from whales that was also (and in a few cases, still is) used in perfumes. Such chocolate is, of course, no longer available.
Although it's difficult to argue with Brillat-Savarin's opinion about the restorative powers of hot chocolate, it's doubtful that the French gastronome would either recognize--or approve of--the versions that are popular today. The 20th-Century concocter usually starts with cocoa powder, rather than the block chocolate that Brillat-Savarin preferred. In place of the ambergris, which the Frenchman considered a requirement for success, many hot-chocolate aficionados now prefer to add such spices as cinnamon or cloves, or other beverages such as rum or Sherry, to add zest to this warm and comforting drink. A dollop of frothy whipped cream is almost de rigueur . For those times when your equilibrium needs restoring, we offer on Page 12 some tempting ways to perk up a cup of hot chocolate.