HOT chocolate today does not conjure the visions of exotica it did in the 16th century; the cocktail has now usurped its function. The Moscow Mule, the Singapore Sling — these are the names we now conjure with. Its decline in the glamour stakes can be blamed on the great Quaker dynasties — Rowntree and Cadbury — who promoted it and their fortunes as an alternative to the demon drink. Chocolate now finances the New Statesman, the Runnymede Trust for race relations, and legal aid in South Africa. But our gain has been chocolate's loss in terms of image. Ever since the Quakers adopted it, it has been the symbol of bedsitterland, of a kind of timidity of surburbia. No self-respecting seducer would ask someone back for hot chocolate. Chocolate was further debased by a popu- lar television advertisement in the Sixties, 'hot chocolate drinking chocolate'. This vigorous rhyme was chanted over a film of damp besweatered hearties accompanied by muddy dogs as they yomped their way home through freezing weather, their only aim in life, it appeared, to drink some hot chocolate and fall into hoggish slumber.
In fact Georgette Heyer was right and the Viennese are right. Hot chocolate should be known as the most magical of drinks, as potent in its way as alcohol, particularly when sipped fetchingly in a wrapper. Its propylamanine content in- duces a sybaritic glow of well-being apparently close to feeling in love, and its caffeine content makes for mental alert- ness. What more could one want? So, away with a beaker full of the warm south, bring me a cup from the cold north with beaded white bubbles winking at the blue and white china brim.