Valentine’s Day is a day of hearts, flowers, wines, romance, and boxes and boxes of chocolates. Chocolates are among the most popular gifts to give on Valentine’s Day, making local favorites like Esther Price, Winans and Signature Confections very happy. We like our chocolates as truffles, bars, bons bons, dips, and any number of creative ways. The people that discovered chocolate, the early Mayans and Aztecs, would be completely baffled by how we use chocolate. Xocolatl, or “bitter water” in Nahuatl (Aztec), was fermented and drank, usually by the upper classes. They would also thicken up the drink on occasion with corn and chilies, turning it into porridge. The Spanish were the first to add milk and sugar to it to sweeten it and turn it into the chocolate that we know and love. They were still drinking it until the 17th century, when the chocolate candy craze hit Paris. For a thousand years, chocolate was a beverage. And in this modern era of craft beers, flavored spirits, and experimentation, you can make it a drink for your Valentine’s Day celebration.
Pairing wine and chocolate is something that people have built whole festivals around. Godiva has even wisely added a page to their website to help you start off, and give you tips on what to look for when you pair it yourself. Putting the two together into one drink is something that is fairly new to the drinking scene. ChocoVine came out of the gate strong in 2009 with high ratings, and it has maintained them since. The people I know that have tried it have had nothing but good things to say about this blend of red wine (they use Cabernet grapes) and Dutch chocolate. In the same category is ChocolatRouge, another blend of chocolate and red wine, this time using California red wines. These are fairly inexpensive bottles, and their richness great to use as a dessert or treat. Their websites also suggest you can use them in cocktails.
The craft beer movement has encouraged experimentation with a full range of flavors, from savory to sweet, fruity to earthy. The chocolate end of the spectrum is full with delicious porters and stouts, using the already deep flavor of a well-roasted malt to enhance the chocolate added to the brew. The first one, and still one of the better ones, is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Southern Tier makes and utterly delightful stout, Choklat, that is a must taste for the chocolate lover. Stouts are a great winter warmer, which has the Brooklyn Brewing company bringing out their Black Chocolate Stout at this time of year. One of the richer chocolate beers is Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, which has a very strong and smooth chocolate taste. In 2001 Rouge Ales released their Chocolate Stout around Valentine’s Day and have not looked back. They followed up this award winning beer with a Double Chocolate Stout, which ramped up the chocolate flavor to satisfy the sweetest tooth. This is a very small sampling of some amazing chocolate beers in the area.
For a very long time, if you wanted to add chocolate to a cocktail, you were reaching for the crème de cacao. It comes in two varieties, white and dark, and is base liquor infused with chocolate, sometimes a hint of vanilla. It is not something that is the star of the show in a cocktail, more of a supporting actor to the other flavor that is going on. It was not until the explosion of the craft cocktail movement that the options for how to add that chocolate flavor grew.
Godiva Chocolate Liqueur is the most popular of the new wave of chocolate liqueurs. Creamy and thick, it is more reminiscent of Irish cream and holds a great deal of flavor. It comes in White Chocolate and Original Chocolate, depending on what you are in the mood for. One (very appropriate) cocktail you can make with the liqueur:
2 oz. vodka (chocolate, if you prefer)
1 oz. espresso
1 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz. coffee liqueur
Chill a martini glass. Pour all of the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, and shake it until it is foamy. Strain the ingredients into the chilled cocktail glass. You can add chocolate syrup inside of the glass as a decorative element, or rim the glass with cocoa powder.
While you are looking for good chocolate liquor to use, you may want to take a look in the vodka aisle. Since Absolut kicked off the flavored vodka party in 1986, there has been an explosion of flavored vodka. That explosion had not fully made it to chocolate, as there are very few pure chocolate vodkas on the market. Pinnacle has a Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Whip Cream flavors, but they are not true chocolate. For true chocolate, you have three options. If you are someone who is very particular about your vodka and the environment it comes from, 360 offers a Double Chocolate flavor. Three Olives makes some innovative flavors, but kept it simple and sweet for their chocolate vodka. Three Olives will also be the one that is easiest to find. It is a great brand. Van Gogh, while their Rich Dark Chocolate vodka has some great flavors and a darker color, it is harder to find in the stores. It is also the most expensive of the three. That chocolate martini you are making will benefit from any of these fine vodka selections, and either kick off or end the night in fine fashion.
Boxes of sweets are not the only way to being chocolate into the holiday. Beer, wine and cocktail lovers can also drink in some chocolaty goodness to celebrate being with a loved one. Belmont Party Supply can help you select a few beers to enjoy the evening with, and Arrow Wine has the full selection of chocolate infused liquors mentioned. They also have Piece of Cake’s Chocolate Cake liqueur, and chocolate infused whip cream for a garnish to your drinks. If you are looking to try chocolate in the way the ancient Mayans and Aztecs enjoyed it, Dogfish Head has it taken care of. Using flavors taken from samples discovered in 1200 year old pottery, Theobroma has a unique chocolate and chili flavor to it. It is very difficult to find, but if you can, it is a treat. There are plenty of great Valentine’s Day festivities for you to enjoy in the Dayton area, and a wide variety of ways to get your chocolate fix at any of them. Enjoy the day…and your chocolate!