(credit: Amy Cavanaugh)

by Amy Cavanaugh

You’ve been to Big Star for awesome tacos and other Mexican dishes, now swing by the Wicker Park joint for champurrado, a warming chocolate drink. CBSChicago.com recently caught up with Justin Large, chef de cuisine at Big Star, to learn how to make the drink at home.

CBSChicago.com: What exactly is a champurrado?

Justin Large: It’s not something we invented, it’s a very traditional drink found throughout Mexico. It’s Mexican drinking chocolate thickened with masa. We chop up Mexican drinking chocolate and mix it with milk. Then we whip masa with water, then add that to the chocolate milk. We slowly cook it until it’s just thickened up, flavor it with cinnamon and sweeten it with brown sugar. There’s not a ton to it, but it’s simple and good.

CBSChicago.com: Are there any tricks to making it?

JL: Not really, it’s as simple as it sounds. It’s really comforting and warming, and great in the winter. Sometimes we like to gussy it up with a shot of bourbon or rum. Any of the shots of the day will work, so you can go with whatever bourbon you’re in the mood for. Right now I like Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. It’s got sweet spices like cardamom. We went down to Kentucky and visited the distillery and chose this barrel. They bottle a lot of Kentucky Spirit, but this barrel can only be found at Big Star.

CBSChicago.com: How long will the champurrado be available?

JL: It’s available through the winter until the weather warms up. We offered it last year too but did it a little differently. We roasted hazelnuts and pureed those and added them. But since people have nut allergies we decided not to do it this year. But you could do it at home, since it’s a great way to add some extra depth.

CBSChicago.com: Where can you find the ingredients?

JL: You can use different kinds of chocolate. We use a brand called Abuelita, which is a Mexican drinking chocolate. You won’t have to hunt hard for any of the ingredients, and you can probably get everything at Jewel.



3C Fresh Masa (dough used to make corn tortillas)
6C Water
6C Milk
20 oz Mexican drinking chocolate
10 3” cinnamon sticks
15 oz/wt brown sugar


1. Blend masa and water to make slurry.
2. Heat milk and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat to melt chocolate. Add cinnamon and steep.
3. Add slurry and sugar to milk mixture. Heat until the mixture is thickened and strain.

Yields one gallon.

Amy Cavanaugh, CBS Chicago