30/30, #17: Theobroma

Back when I first started exploring cocktails, one of the most useful resources I had was Esquire Drinks and the accompanying Esquire Drinks Database, both written by David Wondrich. Along with the recipes and essays on drinks, the database had (and I’m using the past tense, because damned if I can find it after the redesign) a list of “The Rules” regarding the art and wisdom of drinking. The first, and if memory serves, last rules on the list were identical: There is no such thing as a Chocolate Martini.

Agreed, I say — but I also append the caveat that I think chocolate gets a bum rap. Chocolate was the first flavor I recall loving enough to identify as a favorite (thanks in large part to the generous hand with the ice-cream scoop deployed by my regular babysitter), and today single-estate, artisan-crafted chocolate ranks high on the epicurean scale.

But when it comes to the cocktail world, respectable uses of chocolate are in short supply. Sure, you’ve got the simple shot of green Chartreuse in a mug of hot chocolate — and if you haven’t gone that route, then you have no idea what you’re missing — and classics such as the Twentieth Century (there are others, but not many). Some contemporary bartenders are playing with chocolate — Daniel Shoemaker served me an amazing bourbon-based Last Days made with a house creme de cacao at Teardrop Lounge in Portland a while back, Jamie Boudreau has a brandy-based Green Glacier that’s pretty damn good, and I’ve heard rumblings of goings on in San Francisco — and in Boston, Avery Glasser is moving incrementally closer to getting the phenomenally good Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters onto the market.

These are good doses of chocolate love, but it’s only a start. I’m hoping to play around more with the flavor in the months to come (likely including forays into homemade chocolate liqueurs — pray for me, please) but here’s a drink I’ve been having some fun with lately.

Before I get into the recipe, an explanation: I’m trying to make this as user-friendly as possible, but for the handful of folks out there with a sample of Bittermens mole bitters and/or Jamie Boudreau’s Amer Picon replica, I used these in the original incarnation, in place of the mescal and Averna, respectively (though with a dash of the bitters instead of the teaspoon of mescal — but you probably figured that out already). Try out that formulation if you’ve got the goods; otherwise, here’s the –

Theobroma

  • 2 ounces reposado tequila
  • 1/2 ounce Carpano Antica vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Averna
  • 1/4 ounce creme de cacao (I’m using Marie Brizard, as it’s the least execrable I’ve found)
  • 1 teaspoon mescal

Assemble in a mixing glass and do that thing where you stir with cracked ice for 20 seconds or so. Strain into chilled cocktail glass; twist a piece of orange zest over the top and use as garnish.

This drink bears some relation to the Camerone. Tequila just works so well with chocolate, and in the original Picon version of the Theobroma, you have that bitter orange element playing off of — and subduing — the sweetness of the creme de cacao. The Antica contributes complexity along with a cinnamon / vanilla note, and in this version, the mescal lends a hint of fire and smoke, which gives that favorite kiddo flavor a hint of danger. At a quarter-ounce, the chocolate isn’t prominent, but neither is it hiding; with a standard cacao I’m reluctant to bump it any higher, but with something with a little more bitter-chocolate character, hell yes.

Anyway, give this a try if you have the fixins, and let me know what you think.

This drink is part of 30/30, a series of 30 drinks in 30 days — or as much as I can keep up before collapsing in a weary, booze-addled heap.

15 Responses to 30/30, #17: Theobroma

  1. Jay Hepburn says:

    Paul, I look forward to reading about your explorations of chocolate in cocktails. I’m a confirmed chocoholic, but have never found many cocktails that use the flavour well. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro’s Smoker’s Delight is worth trying:

    Smokers Delight
    45 ml Laphroaig Single Malt
    20 ml Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur
    dashes TBT Aromatic Bitters
    Shaken and strained into Rocks filled Old Fashioned Glass. No garnish.

    Good stuff.

  2. Jared S. says:

    Paul, it’s my birthday in approximately 350 or so days. Mind sending me an early birthday present of some Bittermens’? You’d be my favoritest bartender ever!!

    There are no bars in Chicago that stock them — not even The Violet Hour. So sad!

  3. stephen says:

    a great creme de cocao pairing in a drink is 30 year sweet sherry like “matusalem”. and because enough people still avoid sherry, they are affordable…

  4. davetender says:

    I was sitting around with our pastry chef last night after work, decided to try the hot chocolate and green chartreuse concoction to which he declared…

    “that’s disgusting.”

    but after whipping up a quick batch you have created two new converts my friend, I expect to see some GC desserts on the menu, thank you.

    and thanks for the 30/30, could I be the first to vote for a 60/60

  5. Paul says:

    Jay — I’ll have to give that a try; sounds incredible.

    Jared — Bittermens are in short supply, with virtually all of the samples I know of having run out (though I keep hearing about them in Boston). With any luck, you’ll be able to buy a bottle before your next birtyday.

    Stephen — y’know, I hadn’t thought of the sweet sherry combination, but now that you mention it, I’ve gotta try it.

    Davetender — I was skeptical myself, once upon a time, but good lord, what a combination.

    And 60/60!?! Jesus, are you trying to kill me!?!?!

  6. Mr Manhattan says:

    I’d been curious about the Camerone since I first saw it in the original version of LCL. However, at the time I had neither Amer Boudreau nor the Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole bitters. This post reminded me that I’ve since made Amer Boudreau and stumbled my way into a batch of usable chocolate-orange-chili bitters (long story there and the Bittermen’s is still not on the market). Anyway, I finally got to try the Camerone. Thanks!

    Michael

  7. [...] I’ve demonstrated in drinks such as the Camerone and the Theobroma (Picon version), I’m a total sucker for the combination of bitter orange and chocolate. In [...]

  8. Mike S. says:

    If you’re doing the creme de cacao version of this (and all but about 10 people in America are), do you prefer light or dark?

    Thanks!

    Mike

  9. [...] most impressively — but for now, grab a bottle online so you can try out a Camerone or a Theobroma for yourself — or, maybe, a Bittermens drink created by an actual, y’know, [...]

  10. Mark Madsen says:

    Paul –

    My bottle of Bittermen’s mole arrived today, and this was the very first cocktail I’ve made with it, using the Amer Picon replica by Boudreau. Kudos – very very tasty on a warm day outside!

    I look forward to more recipes with these terrific ingredients!

  11. [...] different cocktails in as many days. On day 17 Paul introduced an adult chocolate cocktail called Theobroma made with tequila and creme de cacao. The Camerone (another cocktail from the original LCL) was [...]

  12. [...] much I like mezcal.  I think about that a lot.  And about how well agave liquors and chocolate go together (a not entirely unexpected combinatorial triumph).  And that made me, in turn, think of [...]

  13. [...] a cocktail post a day for a month. Last Sunday he wrote about a fantastic-sounding drink called the Theobroma (theobroma cacao being, of course, the Latin name for the cacao bean that brings us all that nummy [...]

  14. [...] for round two … theSpeakista did a search through prior tasting notes and I was torn between the Theobroma and a riff on my favorite cocktail. I opted for another riff [...]

  15. Alex says:

    Not having Averna or decent creme de cacao in my liquor cabinet, I’ve been working on a riff on this inspired by the ingredients in Amer Boudreau (which, according to the post, is in the original formulation of the drink). I thought I’d share a combination I think works in case anyone else is trying to make something close without the full ingredient list.

    2oz reposado tequila
    0.5oz Carpano Antica vermouth
    0.5oz Ramazzotti
    0.5oz Cointreau
    dash Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters

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