Chocolate is the perennial favorite. But I’ll be honest there aren’t too many chocolate spirits or liqueurs that I really like. Some of the big, well-known chocolatiers have tried to develop sipping liqueurs with all the dark allure of their very fine chocolate products. But they’ve missed the mark. Too sweet. Too light and just not my thing. Of course there’s Creme de Cocoa. But you have to be careful, some of them are so bad they should be illegal. There are good brands out there though. I like Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao. It’s based on a 19th century recipe, the Tempus Fugit and really replicates the original by sourcing its cacao and vanilla from Venezuela and Mexico. But at it’s core I simply prefer Creme de Cocoa as an ingredient in a drink, even when it’s as good as the Tempus Fugit.
You’re not going to see making a chocolate martini either. Talk about destroying to things that are perfect all on their own. Chocolates and Martinis!
So how would I incorporate chocolate into booze? Well I’d infuse it.
But rather than choose something neutral, like vodka. I’d pick a partner that could compliment very bitter deep dark cocoa. I’d pick bourbon. Which might surprise you. However, ancient Aztecs ground cocao beans with spices to make a special drink reserved for royalty and the gods. This bitter beverage, known as xocoatl, was a little spicy and and a little bracing. Just like good bourbon.
However, please don’t just break up a Hershey bar and plop into the bourbon. You’ll end up with a mess. Choose cocao nibs to do the job of bringing those subtly dark bitter chocolate notes to your glass this Valentines Day. Cocao nibs are pieces of cacao beans that have been roasted and hulled. They’re used in making chocolate and may be purchased in specialty markets and online. Look for the plain ingredient as opposed to the chocolate covered snack style. Because just like the candy bar I mentioned, you’ll end up with an undrinkable boozy mess.
As I said I chose to infuse for my Valentine sipper. But whatever base spirit and flavor infusions you choose– the general idea remains the same. The key to success with infusions is to experiment and taste as you go. Most infusions need two or three days in a dark place to attain the right flavor profile. But some flavors like seeds and nuts will take longer– others shorter. Most notably chili peppers. These may only need a few hours to get fiery hot. As I said this is an easy process to master. There are no special tools other than a clean, sealable container. and whatever ingredients you choose. There is also no special skills and almost no ‘wrong’ way to do this. Though I will say, especially with anything pulpy or vegetal a dark, room temperature place, such as a cupboard or pantry is best. Most things should be sliced, chopped or lightly crushed to assist in the transfer of flavor. All the infusions should be well-strained before use. A fine meshed sieve, double-lined with damp cheese cloth works for most infusions, though ground spices may need to pass through a coffee filter to remove as much of the particles or sediment as possible.
To make this Cocao Nib Infused Bourbon add 1 (750ml) bottle of bourbon and 1⁄2 cup cocao nibs to a large jar. Cover and let infuse for 3 days then, working in batches, strain the liquor through a coffee filter to remove any particulates. Then sip with your sweetie. Happy Valentines Day. GREG