Chocolate has been around for a good 3,000 years. For most of that time, it was used as a beverage. When it was introduced to Europe in the 16th Century, the French, Germans, Dutch, and English found uses for it in cakes and desserts. Sometime in the 19th Century we started eating chocolate and that evolved into the heart shaped boxes with chocolate truffles wrapped in red ribbon that we give each other in February.
But let’s go back to the origins of chocolate and its use as a beverage. In the last millennium B.C., the ancient Mexican tribe of the Olmec discovered Cocoa beans. They developed a process to make the Cocoa beans into a beverage. This information was passed unto the Mayans, the Toltec, and, eventually, to the Aztecs. The Cocoa bean became so important that it was used as a form of currency. The Aztecs used the chocolate beverage in every facet of their life, including religious rituals.
When the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, they tasted chocolate beverages and exported them to Spain. In the 17th Century, chocolate, as a beverage, spread to France and Italy. In the 18th Century, chocolate was beginning to be used as an ingredient in cakes and desserts. Finally, in the 19th Century individuals such as Conrad van Houten, Rudolphe Lindt, Jean Tobler, and Henri Nestle developed the processes to make chocolate candy.
Chocolate continued during this period as a social drink for adults and children. But adults did add ingredients to make it an adult beverage. The classic “spiked” hot cocoa was common and here is a recipe for it:
Adult Hot Cocoa
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons of cognac or brandy
In the 1990’s we entered the “chocolate craze” when chocolate liqueurs became the rage. The Chocolate Martini became the vogue. To make a Chocolate Martini is fairly simple. Here is a simple recipe to follow:
Classic Chocolate Martini
2 ounces of vodka
½ ounce chocolate liqueur
½ ounce white crème de cacao
Dark chocolate syrup
Lightly drizzle the chocolate around martini glass that has been chilled in your freezer. Mix the remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shaken- not stirred- vigorously and strain into the martini glass.
Chocolate liqueurs are very popular today and are used in many cocktails. If you wish, you can buy a number of high quality chocolate liqueurs, like Godiva, for your cocktails. Or you can make your own. Here is a basic recipe to your own chocolate liqueur:
Chuck’s Classic Chocolate Liqueur
4 ounces of chocolate extract
½ ounce of pure vanilla extract
4 ounces of vodka of choice
½ ounce simple syrup
To keep the chocolate extract in suspension and to make the liqueur thicker, you may want to add glycerin in small amounts (1 teaspoon) to the mixture. All the above ingredients can be adjusted to your personal taste.
Since the 1900s, chocolate is being added to everything when it comes to alcoholic drinks. In Europe, a company is combining the great taste of Dutch Chocolate with fine French Cabernet wine. It is called ChocoVine. Chocolate and red wine do go well together and now we may be able to buy this product in Maine someday.
If you are traveling to Portland, Oregon, stop in at the Shallon Winery in Astoria, Oregon. They are producing a Chocolate & Orange whey wine in the style of a liqueur. This is a heavy & rich Chocolate Orange Wine that can be consumed straight or over anything. It is like drinking a chocolate truffle. It is not cheap. A 375 ml bottle will retail at the winery for $32.00.
If you do not want to make your own liqueur, you can buy a Choc-tail Sipper. The people at Bridgebrands Chocolate in San Francisco have developed a line of chocolate straws for alcoholic drinks (only in San Francisco!). The straws have all natural chocolate beads inside the straw that gives an immediate hit of cocoa flavor. Try Shipyard with the straws and you have cocoa pale ale. Sip red wine with the straws and you get that blend of chocolate with red wine. Have a cocktail party, give your quests these straws, and I am sure you will create a new imaginative cocktail. American ingenuity is wonderful !
Enjoy your Valentine Day and drink your chocolate!