2 quarts milk or water
¼ cup achiote seeds
12 blanched almonds
12 toasted and skinned hazelnuts
2-3 vanilla beans split lengthwise, seeds scraped out (Maricel prefers Mexican vanilla eans from Papantla)
¼ ounce dried rosebuds (sold as rosa de Castilla in Hispanic markets)
Two 3-inch sticks of true cinnamon (soft Ceylon cinnamon sold as canela in Hispanic markets)
1 tablespoon aniseed
2 whole dried árbol or serrano chiles
8 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped (Maricel prefers El Rey Gran Samán or Chocovic Ocumare)
Pinch of salt
sugar to taste
1 tablespoon orange blossom water (optional)
In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk (or water) with the achiote seeds over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and let steep until the liquid is brightly dyed with the achiote, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, grind the almonds and hazelnuts to the consistency of fine breadcrumbs using a mini-chopper or Mouli grater. Set aside.
Strain the warm milk through a fine-mesh sieve and return it to the saucepan. Add the ground nuts, vanilla beans and scraped seeds, rosebuds, cinnamon, aniseed, and chiles and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat; add the chocolate and salt and stir until all of the chocolate is melted. Taste for sweetness and add a little sugar if desired, together with the orange-blossom water. Strain again through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer the chocolate to a tall narrow pot and whisk vigorously with a Mexican molinillo (wooden chocolate mill). Or try using an electric molinillo to make a spectacular frothy head. Serve immediately.