Your Complete Guide to Bourbon & Chocolate

February 11, 2018

Based on anecdotes (and Instagram), Cupid’s arrows are forged from aphrodisiacs and alcohol, with the choice combination being chocolate and red wine. Unless of course, your Cupid has a Southern drawl, in which case his quiver will be filled with chocolate and bourbon.

As a feature long known to Kentuckians, bourbon and chocolate are equally complementary to the mood and on the palate. There is a certain, shall we say, shared chemistry to chocolate and the oak barrels in which bourbon rests. Specifically, both contain molecules such as acetylpyrrole, vanillin, tannins and lactones, to name a few. Additionally, the alcohol in bourbon enhances the aromatic molecules in the chocolate, and the fat in chocolate tempers the strong alcohol.

(Don’t worry—there’s no chemistry test. Well, not molecular chemistry anyway …)

Matching Bourbon to Chocolate

Since both bourbon and chocolate have large flavor profile ranges, it helps to have guidelines for your pairing. Consider the light-to-dark chocolate spectrum:

Chocolate Bars

White Chocolate*: The high fat content can tame the passionate heat of full-proof bourbon. Consider pairing with Booker’s or Stagg.

Milk Chocolate: A smooth balance of sweet and rich makes these chocolates a match for spicy bourbons like Bulleit 10 Year and Elmer T. Lee.

Semi-sweet Chocolate: With 55% to 70% cocoa, these chocolates harmonize with complex and balanced bourbons like Four Roses Single Barrel and Maker’s 46.

Extra Dark Chocolate: With the greatest depth of flavors, but also a touch of bitterness, these chocolates provide a counterpoint for sweet, full-bodied bourbons. Try Russell’s Reserve 10 Year and Woodford Reserve Double Oaked.

*Yes, we know. White chocolate is not technically a chocolate. But don’t tell the bourbon.

Chocolate in Bourbon. Literally.

When bourbon and chocolate collide, it creates a blissful synergy. To easily infuse chocolate into bourbon, finely grind a quarter-cup cocoa nibs and add to 2 cups bourbon, then shake vigorously. Taste-check every few days until perfect, which usually occurs within a week or two.

If you are using a melting chocolate, use a ‘fat-washing’ technique. First, melt a quarter-cup chocolate in a double-boiler. Then pour into 2 cups bourbon. Shake and pop in the freezer. Once the bourbon is fully chilled, the fat will have floated to the top – just skim it away and let the bourbon return to room temperature.

Woodford Reserve Chocolate Bitters / Photo Credit: Woodford Reserve

In a rush? How about a cocktail:

Chocolate-Cherry Bourbon Old Fashioned

Fill rocks glass with ice, then add:

– 2 dashes chocolate bitters
– 2 dashes cherry bitters
– 1 oz simple syrup
– 2 oz bourbon

Stir lovingly, top with grated dark chocolate and garnish with a chocolate-covered cherry.

Bourbon in Chocolate

It’s also fun to reverse the action and add bourbon to the chocolate instead! Bourbon balls are a staple of Kentucky hospitality. Bourbon ball recipes abound but most are made with a center of bourbon-infused sweetened butter. This is coated in chocolate and topped with a pecan. If bourbon balls aren’t to your fancy, the same ingredients become bourbon-chocolate-pecan pie–a Kentucky tradition on the first Saturday in May every year!

However you enjoy your Valentine’s Day, please consider giving a bourbon & chocolate pairing a chance to delight you. That’s how we do it bourbon country!

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