I love traditions. Not only do they mark the passage of time, they can sometimes make the world feel a little bit smaller. There is something about celebrating and gathering, with friends and strangers, that is unifying, don’t you think?
One of my favorite autumn traditions is the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Every year we gather with friends, family, and crowds of strangers to watch hundreds of hot air balloons fill the New Mexico skies. Rather than watching for yellowing leaves, siting hot air balloons in the sky around here is the first sign that fall has arrived. It lasts for a week and it seems like every year at least one of our fiesta attempts is foiled by wind or rain. This year, weather spoiled our first trip, but we didn’t let our soggy boots keep us from making a second attempt.
Every year, we get up at the ungodly hour of 4 AM, bundle everyone into coats, and head into the crowds gathering downtown. We console ourselves with thermoses filled with delicious New Mexican Hot Chocolate and are rewarded by the glow of the dawn patrol balloons just before the sun rises. Once the sun comes up, we wander among the balloon as they take flight.
This year was Rory’s first year, a family milestone. I have pictures of all of my kids as babies at the balloon fiesta, and every year since then. It’s a tradition I grew up loving and I’m passing it along to my little ones.
The hot chocolate, along with warm breakfast burritos, is a crucial part of our balloon fiesta tradition. I’m not convincing any of my family, friends, or children to leave their cozy beds for a cold dark crowded morning without that extra special hot chocolate. Once everyone’s got a warm cupful in their hands and in their bellies, the colorful mass ascension of more than 600 hot air balloons takes care of the rest. It’s so worth all the trouble.
This hot chocolate is extra special New Mexican Hot Chocolate, which means it’s got a bit of southwestern spice and flavor mixed in with all that dark chocolate cocoa. It’s the good stuff. Good enough to get everyone out of bed at 4 AM, which is saying something in this family of late risers.
This New Mexican Hot Chocolate is best enjoyed under an early morning rainbow of balloons, but if that isn’t in the cards, it also tastes pretty good around the breakfast table or by the fireplace on a chilly evening too. Drink up! It is difficult to judge how spicy the chocolate will be until after the spices have infused the milk overnight. Wait for at least four hours before adjusting the spices to avoid making the hot chocolate too spicy (I've made this mistake before!). Recipe adapted from the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum.
New Mexican Hot Chocolate
It is difficult to judge how spicy the chocolate will be until after the spices have infused the milk overnight. Wait for at least four hours before adjusting the spices to avoid making the hot chocolate too spicy (I've made this mistake before!). Recipe adapted from the Santa Fe Folk Art Museum.
Hot air balloons fascinate me. And I’ve no doubt that my kids would love this. If only we didn’t live half way around the world :).
The chocolate looks delicious too.
The balloons are so fantastic – definitely one of my favorite parts of living in New Mexico.
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar says
All the spices in this are fabulous! This sounds delicious.
Erik Dryden says
The hot chocolate and the balloons look amazing! I tell you, one of these days I’m going to end up moving to New Mexico.
October in New Mexico is a good month!
Thalia @ butter and brioche says
I am a massive fan of spiced hot chocolate so I can imagine how good this New Mexican hot chocolate would have tasted. Great recipe, thanks for sharing it!
Kimberly Espinel (@TLPlantation) says
4AM! You’re right, at that time of the day only hot chocolate will do 🙂
The hot air balloons look lovely. What a great thing for kids to witness live.
Thanks for sharing these stunning pictures and lovely recipe 🙂
I know – it’s so early, but so worth it in the end! Thanks Kimberly!
April @ Girl Gone Gourmet says
I used to live in ABQ and I always loved Balloon Fiesta – seeing your photos brings back great memories! I especially miss the breakfast burritos — nothing like enjoying coffee and a breakfast burrito while waching the morning ascension. Oh, and the hot chocolate looks amazing, too!
I came to your site today via Aimee at Simple Bites. I had already decided that I was making your Moroccan Butternut Chicken Curry for dinner, when I noticed the New Mexico Hot Chocolate! I crew for Giggles and Grins, a large red balloon with a boy clown face on one side, and a girl clown face on the other. You can believe I’m going to take this to Fiesta next year! Come see us … the Pilot is a sucker for little kids! We are always on the North end of the field across from the porta-potties (a very handy place to be when drinking gallons of hot coffee to keep warm!)