When drinking is like a box of chocolates
Chocolate has been popping up in cocktails for almost as long as there have been holidays. There is mention of chocolate liqueurs as early as the 1600s in France, and in this country, a beverage known as “chocolate wine” was popular during the 1700s.
But in the past decade, it has been doing so without modesty. Where once it was a subtle additive by way of chocolate liqueurs such as Baileys Irish Cream or Bols Crème de Cacao splashed among the bourbons and rums, the much beloved cocoa is now alive in all kinds of infused spirits, including wines and beers. A variety of chocolate bitters can now add a final zing to any drink.
A variety of these can be found in, or ordered through, area liquor stores.
At the Hilton Galveston Island Resort, for example, there are a number of chocolate cocktails ranging from a German Chocolate Cake Martini using Malibu rum, Frangelico and Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, to a Chocolate Sangria, made with ChocolatRouge Dark Red wine and pomegranate juice. The hotel also has a cocktail that features Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, cold brew coffee and mole bitters.
“You can really do whatever you want to do with these,” said Joshua Jones, owner of Preamble Lounge & Craft House, 20801 Interstate 45 in Webster. “A lot of people hear chocolate and immediately think they are going to get a sweet drink of some sort. And you can do the super holiday froufrou something, but what I like is the classic cocktail. It’s not sweet and you can taste the real chocolate.”
At Preamble, Jones chooses to infuse his own liquors, and there’s no type of liquor that hasn’t been tried.
“We’ve used baker’s chocolate and we’ve used the actual bean,” Jones said. “It all depends on what kind of drink you’re after.”
Jones also has discovered the versatility of chocolate bitters, which bring not only the herbal punch that bitters bring but the rich flavor of unsweetened chocolate. One drink the bar serves is called Box of Chocolates — a nod to the line in the movie “Forrest Gump.” Like the drink, that line goes, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
One of the pioneers in this movement was none other than famed chocolate-maker Godiva Chocolatier. While it had long had several liqueurs on the market, in about 2010, the company introduced the Godiva Chocolate Vodka. This is a 60-proof ultra-premium vodka that’s actually infused with chocolate. It’s not too sweet, very smooth and can be served straight or in a cocktail, such as — and especially — a martini.
Just a note, for the martini purist who must have gin: There are a number of chocolate-infused gins on the market now, too. A good example is England’s Ely Gin Company, which promotes its dark chocolate gin as a perfect mixer. As with many chocolate-infused spirits, there’s no sugar added, leaving a flavor similar to that of unsweetened chocolate blended with the botanicals of good gin.
Van Gogh Vodka is a company that seems to have a notion that if it’s edible, it can be infused. In 2002, it came out with a versatile Dutch chocolate vodka, which it suggests be sipped or mixed into dessert cocktails.
There are other brands of chocolate vodkas on the market as well, but for the adventurous, one can make this at home. Simply pour 25 ounces of good-quality vodka over one cup of unsweetened, good-quality cocoa in a sealable container. Seal it, shake it and store it in a dark place at room temperature. At the end of a week, shake it again. At the end of two weeks, shake it again. At this point it should be ready to drink, but it can be left to infuse for up to four weeks. Strain it through a coffee filter into another container, and it’s good for whatever the two of you have planned.
As always tends to be the case with cocktail enthusiasts, however, the popularity of chocolate-infused vodka only begat a whole parade of infusions.
Bourbon and chocolate would seem to have a natural affinity for one another, and that wasn’t overlooked by a number of upstart distilleries across the country. Prichard’s of Tennessee, for example, has released its Double Chocolate Bourbon, a very not-sweet whiskey aged for 12 to 24 years, then infused with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Company’s single-origin cacao beans.
Kings County Distillery, a relatively new maker in New York, happened to be just around the corner from a chocolate manufacturer, and that gave the owners the idea of making a chocolate bourbon from their moonshine. The distillery worked out an arrangement to haul off the chocolate company’s discarded cacao husks, which it then let soak in its bourbon while it aged. Kings County Chocolate Whiskey is not only surprisingly affordable but one of the more highly rated chocolate spirits on the market.
Probably one of the most surprising — or not — marriages of spirit and chocolate is the one with tequila. Several prominent tequila makers began bottling versions of infused tequilas several years ago. They’ve met with wary but complimentary receptions.
Two of the more common ones are from Mar Azul Tequila and Tanteo Tequila. Of the two, Mar Azul is the dressiest with a beautifully designed bottle. It’s also the priciest. Using natural cocoa beans in the process along with 100 percent agave tequila, the result is more a sipping product than a mixing one. Tanteo is meant to be sipped or mixed and offers myriad cocktail options, including margaritas and tropical drinks.
And what says Christmas in Southeast Texas better than sipping chocolate margaritas and tropical drinks while toasting the plastic snowmen?
Box of Chocolates
Created by Preamble Lounge in Webster
1 ounce aged Jamaican rum
1 ounce cognac
1 ounce sweet red vermouth
1⁄6 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Shaved bitter chocolate and one Luxardo cherry for garnish
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Do not shake. Sprinkle the shaved chocolate on the top and add one cherry on a pick.