Pink and red hearts, dinner, flowers, cards…all of the trappings of the perfect Valentine’s Day. The only thing that is missing is the chocolate. Last year, people bought 48 million pounds of chocolate, spending somewhere around $1.6 billion dollars on the sweet confection. Local favorites like Esther Price, Winan’s, Pure Madness, and Signature Confections look forward to this holiday, as it is the third largest holiday for buying chocolate of the year.
It is a little hard to believe that chocolate candy has only been around for 400 years.
Chocolate, while having a history that reaches back to the Aztecs, was enjoyed mostly as a bitter beverage by the ancient people of Mexico. It was not until the Spanish got a hold of it that it gained its sweet characteristics by adding milk, sugar, and a little cinnamon. That is what Europe fell in love with. Chocolate candies were made, but not common on incredibly good. The process to turn cocoa into the chocolate we enjoy by the heart shaped box was developed by John and Richard Cadbury (yes, of the crème egg fame) in the late 19th century.
That box of chocolate you have? Why not add a nice cocktail to it? Here are five options for you to explore:
1 oz. gin
1 oz. crème de cocoa
1 oz. light cream
Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Shake well, then strain into a rocks glass.
The Alexander (and its cousin the Brandy Alexander) is a popular classic cocktail, first seen in 1915 in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin. Gin was hugely popular at the time, and this delightful mixture uses the sweet chocolate and cream to balance the spices in the gin.
4 oz. tequila
1.25 oz. agave nectar
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, heat milk with cocoa powder, cinnamon stick, agave nectar and salt, whisking constantly until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking gently until it’s completely melted. Remove cinnamon stick. Whisk until smooth. Spilt the tequila between two mugs, then fill the mugs with the chocolate mixture. Garnish it with whip cream and enjoy.
Tequila and chocolate have very similar histories; both started out as native drinks in Mexico, and both were altered by the Spaniards using European technology to better reflect European tastes. This is a rich and spicy treat perfect to warm up with on a cold night. Or to make with someone special.
Chocolate Strawberry Martini
1 oz. vanilla vodka
1 oz. strawberry liqueur
1 oz. chocolate liqueur
Cocoa powder, for garnish
Set a cocktail glass into the refrigerator to chill. Pour all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake briefly. Spread the cocoa powder on a small plate. Moisten the rim of the glass, and gently run the rim through the powder. Pour the mixture into the chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.
This is a cocktail with many, many, many variations, from the very simple to the incredibly complex. I would suggest Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and strawberry schnapps for an incredible flavor and mouth feel.
From Russia with Love
1/2 ounce Dark Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1/2 ounce raspberry liqueur
Coco nibs, for garnish, optional
In a Champagne flute, pour the Godiva and the raspberry liqueur (Chambord is a great choice). Top with chilled Champagne. Sprinkle on a couple of nibs if you like.
What is Valentine’s Day without a little something special? Champagne is perfect for any celebration, and adding a little chocolate and raspberry can only enhance the enjoyment. It is an original from the famous Russian Tea Room in New York.
1 oz. dark creme de cacao
1/2 oz. Irish cream
1/2 oz. Frangelico® hazelnut liqueur
1/2 oz. light cream
Pour creme de cacao, irish cream and frangelico liqueur over ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass. Top with light cream, stir and serve.
Sometimes you don’t want fancy chocolate. You want something comforting, nutty, and satisfying.
Author Karl Petzke once commented that “Chocolate symbolizes, as does no other food, luxury, comfort, sensuality, gratification, and love.” Is there a better sentiment to describe this Valentine’s Day staple? Cheers!