The time to eat, drink and be merry is here, and we can’t have enough of the booze. But this year, indulge yourself a little differently. Alcohol with chocolate is the new wine and cheese. A little alcohol is good for the stomach and a bit of chocolate will keep you sane.
Pairing your alcohol with the right kind of chocolate could be tricky, since both alcohol and chocolate have distinct flavours and strong characters. We asked renowned chefs and sommeliers from across the country to help you get the best of both worlds in one shot.
Whisky makes the world go round
Pair it with: milk or dark chocolate
Whisky comes in a multitude of varieties. It must be carefully paired with the perfect kind of chocolate to get most out of its flavours. Whisky connoisseur Sandeep Arora says there are three broad styles of whisky – robust, fruity and smoky – and there’s a good chocolate to go with each.
However, the chocolate you bite into after a sip of whisky must be rock hard. And, says Arora, a key factor that determines the taste of this combination depends on how much you dilute your whisky. Post dinner is the best time to indulge in some whisky and chocolate, “because that is when your mouth has been very busy, and both the whisky’s intensity and the flavour of chocolate linger longer in your mouth,” says Arora.
Chocolate for a robust whisky: A 70 per cent dark chocolate bar would be an ideal choice.
Chocolate for fruity and floral whisky: Milk chocolate, and fruit and nut chocolate. “Because the nuts will lend a lot of oil and texture and the chocolate will not be so strong that it overpowers the whisky,” says Arora.
Chocolate for smoky whisky: Milk or dark Chocolate with a hint of sea salt is a good bet.
Go for: Fabelle’s Gianduja, a rich milk chocolate with hazelnuts, and Mason and Co’s 75 per cent dark chocolate bar.
Ho Ho Ho and a bottle of rum
Pair it with: dark chocolate
You probably remember rum as your old friend, the cheapest drink you could afford in college. But your old friend can now find a new friend in chocolate. Sommelier Magandeep Singh says there is just one rule of thumb to stick to while pairing alcohol with chocolate. It is to make sure that the sugar in your alcohol is more than that in your chocolate. “As your alcohol has enough sugar, it will work,” says Singh.
Chocolate for rum: Any chocolate with 65 to 70 per cent cocoa content should work. You can also opt for caramelised dark chocolate, honey or even banana flavoured ones.
Go for: Royce’s Ghana liquor-free bitter chocolate and their black chocolate bar that has 63 per cent cacao.
Wine a lot. It’ll make you feel better
Pair it with: dark or nutty chocolate
Fancy-schmancy wine has an equally fancy match in chocolate. Reva K Singh, editor and publisher of Sommelier India, says, “Red wine and chocolate is an all time classic pair in my book. Anytime I’m having red wine, I’m happy to nibble on some dark chocolate or some nutty chocolate.”
However, red wine does not work with all kinds of chocolate. “The sweet, fat and bitter components in various chocolates can work adversely with red wine and sometimes this can result in odd flavours,” says Singh.
Pairing wine with chocolate makes sense to Singh, as the process of making chocolate is in some way similar to wine. Both cocoa beans and wine are fermented and they might even use the same type of yeast.
Chocolate for wine: Sweet wines are easier to pair with chocolate. Port wine, the one that comes all the way from Portugal (not the one you get in Goa), is the best example.
Go for: Schmitten’s dark chocolate with bursts of almonds.
When life gives you lemons, add vodka
Pair it with: milk, dark or white chocolate
Since vodka doesn’t have a distinct flavour of its own, it makes it the perfect match for nearly every chocolate out there. Celebrity chef Kunal Kapur says, “When you have an ingredient with no specific character, it can adapt to whatever character you add to it. The pairing becomes so much easier because it doesn’t render its own taste but just gives you a kick of alcohol.”
Chocolate for vodka: Kapur suggests pairing vodka and concentrated puree of chikoo (sapota) with any kind of chocolate: milk, dark or white. He also recommends vodka paired with chocolate-covered strawberries, since vodka-doused strawberries are already such a hit.
Go for: All Things’ tropical chocolate bar with a soft passion fruit ganache centre and Earth Loaf’s Jack & Black chocolate bar with hints of lemon, orange and the sweetness of jackfruit.
It’s always a good time for champagne
Pair it with: salted caramel or dark chocolate
You can’t possibly celebrate without a nice sparkling glass of champagne as you party your way into the New Year. And champagne has no boundaries when it comes to pairings. Renowned food critic Sourish Bhattacharya says, “You appreciate anything better with champagne.” Being acidic in nature, champagne opens your taste buds to experience different flavours, which means champagne with chilli chocolate, this season’s hottest chocolate flavour, will allow you to experience both the chilli and the chocolate separately.
However, Bhattacharya adds that you need to figure out which champagne goes best with your favourite chocolate.
Chocolate for sweetish champagne: A 70 per cent dark chocolate will offset the sweetness of the drink.
Chocolate for dry champagne: Chocolate mousse goes well with it.
Chocolate for any champagne: Salted caramel-filled chocolate makes for a good pairing with any variety.
Go for: Lindt’s dark chilli chocolate bar for that extra kick of spice and All Things’ melt-in-mouth Childhood Belgian milk chocolate with banana and toffee lending creaminess.
Party Tip: Both alcohol and chocolate form a part of the paleo diet, and are known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and make you happy!
From HT Brunch, December 18, 2016
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