Few holidays capture the imagination like El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. From November 1 (All Saints’ Day) through November 2 (All Souls’ Day), families throughout Mexico and Central America build elaborate altars to lay out the favorite foods of their dearly departed. Platters of rice and beans, moles, tortillas, tamales, calaveras (candy skulls) and brioche-like pan de muertos dusted with sugar welcome the spirits home — albeit for a brief time — before the food is shared by family and friends.
Atole, a hot beverage thickened with fresh corn masa, corn flour or cornstarch, is a holiday staple, though it’s enjoyed for breakfast year-round. Traditionally sweetened with unrefined cane sugar, or piloncillo, and flavored with fruit, a chocolate version called champurrado is served at Christmastime. This atole de calabaza is made with fresh pumpkin slowly cooked with aromatic spices like anise, allspice and clove. While the Day of the Dead is a time to reflect on the past, this richly textured drink will keep you looking forward to the crisp fall days ahead.