Molinillo - Mexican Chocolate Whisk (Stirrer)

oaxmol2sm.jpg

About

The molinillo [moh-lee-NEE-yoh] is the Mexican chocolate "whisk" or "stirrer". It is made of "turned" wood and it is used to froth warm drinks such as hot chocolate, Atole, and Champurrado. This tool is still handmade today using a wood lathe and it is still used for preparation of hot chocolate.

Molinillo History And Lore

This tool was actually invented by the Spaniard colonists in Mexico around the 1700's to assist with the preparation of a hot chocolate like drink.  The chocolate that was made by the Aztecs was simply roasted beans, ground on a metate and with some seeds and flavorings.  The resulting chocolate was thick, grainy, and had a nasty habit of separating.  That is why the Aztecs would keep pouring the mixture from one pot to another; to keep the chocolate mixed.  Today, chocolate includes emulsifiers that keep the chocolate from separating.  

Then Came The Spaniards

The Spaniards thought the whole business of all that pouring back and forth was quite uncivilized; thus the invention of the molinillo (stirrer).  Earliest versions had a simple ball or square at one end of a long handle.  Later they got more elaborate with rings and movable parts that helped the stirring process. The molinillos were made to fit into a container with the handle extending out of the top.   The molinillo was then rotated between the users two hands placed palm-sides together.  The twisting motion frothed the chocolate.   Later specialized pots would be invented to hold the molinillo.


molinillo hueco

mexican molinillo (3 styles, available at Gourmetsleuth.com)

European Adaptation

The Spanish explorers were so enamored with the flavor of chocolate that they took it back to Spain where it became the the Kings' Official Drink in the New Spain and Europe.  Around the end of the XVIII century(1780 - 1800) , Europeans started preparing chocolate with milk and sugar to create what we know today as Hot Chocolate.  In fact the drink became so popular many of the leading European porcelain manufactures such as Limoges in France began making specialized pots and cups just to serve chocolate.

porcelain chocolate pot with wood stirrer
photo: french Louis XVIII chocolate pot

The photograph above is a nice example of a chocolate pot design that dates back to Louis XVIII still made today in France by the Pillivuyt Company. The chocolate ingredients are placed in the pot.  The "molinillo" (called moulinet in France or a moussoir which means froth-maker) is placed in the pot and then the cover is placed over the handle of the molinillo.   With the cover in place, the user holds the molinillo between his two hands and with a rubbing motion froths the liquid.  The pot is held from the top and side handle to pour the chocolate into cups.

Mexican Chocolate Song

The Texas State Libary and archives commission brings us the Molinillo Chocolate Song. "Children in Mexico often drink chocolate with breakfast. They stir it with a special utensil called a molinillo which is held between the palms and rotated back and forth. During the chorus of this rhyme, children rub their palms together and pretend to "stir" the chocolate with a molinillo."


Spanish English 
 Bate, bate, chocolate Stir, stir, chocolate 
 Tu nariz de cacahuate Y our nose is a peanut
 Uno, dos, tres, CHO! One, two, three, CHO!
 Uno, dos, tres, CO! One, two, three, CO! 
 Uno, dos, tres, LA! One, two, three, LA! 
 Uno, dos, tres, TE! One, two, three, TE! 
 Chocolate, chocolate! Chocolate, chocolate!  
 Bate, bate, chocolate! Stir, stir, the chocolate!  
 Bate, bate, bate, bate Stir, stir, stir, stir
 Bate, bate, CHOCOLATE Stir, stir, CHOCOLATE!

Old Molinillos

This is from our collection of older molinillos.  The older pieces tend to be more detailed than most of the newer.  Some had color applied, others ivory-like details.  
All images © gourmetsleuth.com

molinillo with color decoration
molinillo with color accents - photo by gourmetsleuth.com

molinillo with ivory accents
molinillo with ivory accents 

molinillo with square top
this molinillo has a slightly square shape.

molinillo decorated with bucket and hand
the end of the molinillo forms a hand and a little bucket is attached with wire
 

Mexican Chocolate

Mexican chocolate is distinctively sweet and most typically flavored with cinnamon and nuts.  The chocolate has a grainy texture and is predominantly used for making hot chocolate.  The thick disks are chopped coarse and added to hot water or milk then frothed with the molinillo.

mexican chocolate disc
mexican chocolate, formed into a disk

 

Colombian Molinillo

The Colombian style molinillo is more simplified than the Mexican version in fact it looks more similar to the early Aztec chocolate frothers. 

colombian molinillo

First Posted:   Jan 17, 2001  
 
 
author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.