‘Tis the season for chocolate and seduction. Yes, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and you may be planning a wonderful meal to woo that special someone, or you may just be wondering what to drink with all the chocolate you’ll be receiving from your hordes of admirers. Last year, I wrote a piece on pairing wine with chocolate (Wine and Chocolate – What More Could You Ask For?), and the year before that I paired beer with chocolate (Beer and Chocolate – The Perfect Pairing). This year I’m pairing spirits with chocolate. Cognac, Rum, and Whisk(e)y can actually make great partners with a variety of different types of chocolate, and pairing a fine spirit with chocolate at the end of a romantic meal can be an elegant and sophisticated way to cap off the evening.
Whisky with Bittersweet Chocolate
Whisky is best with dark or bittersweet chocolate with a high percent of cocoa. This type of chocolate generally has roasted, smokey, earthy, woodsy, and/or fruity flavours – similar to whisky. The smokiness of a Single Malt Scotch, for example, can pair magically with the smokiness in some bittersweet chocolates and the combination can even enhance the Scotch’s fruit flavours. Even Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey can be a great pairing with subtle cherry fruit flavours adding complexity and interest to dark chocolate.
Rum with Milk Chocolate and Caramel
Both sugarcane and cocoa are grown in the Caribbean, so it’s no wonder that rum (made from sugarcane) and chocolate complement each other so beautifully. Think of a deconstructed rum ball. Milk Chocolate is the sweetest of all chocolate as it contains the highest amount of sugar and cocoa butter, giving it a rich, creamy texture and sweet vanilla flavours. Rum is rich and mellow (especially an aged rum) with flavours of caramel, molasses, creamy almond, tropical fruits, coconut, and honey, which pair perfectly with caramels and milk chocolate. Aged rums and amber or darker rums work best.
Pairing a good Cognac with an assortment of high quality artisanal chocolates can be a simple, yet delicious, way to end a meal, or to have as a romantic treat in front of a gently crackling fire. Cognac is aromatic and complex, with rich flavours of fruit, spice, vanilla and toffee, which can match similar flavours in the chocolates. The full body and smooth texture of the spirit also match the creamy, luxurious texture of the chocolates. Try the Cognac with a variety of different chocolates to determine your favourite pairing.
Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment with chocolate and spirits. I’d love to know your favourite pairings.