When it comes to drinking, most of us just stick to the same few things: beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Fancy, flavored drinks may seem intimidating to order at a bar and a lot of work to make at home. Not to mention buying all of the miscellaneous add-ins that you will use an ounce of just once. But if you’re looking to test the waters and want to have a fun, versatile alternative in your liquor cabinet—one that you’ll actually use—I’m here to tell you that chocolate liqueur is the answer to these problems.
First, you may be wondering why its spelling is so different than the neon sign above your local liquor supplier. Well, that’s because chocolate liquor and chocolate liqueur are not the same thing. Chocolate liquor is essentially another word for unsweetened baking chocolate that has been ground to a paste. Surprisingly, it’s also non-alcoholic. So why is it called liquor—the word we associate with the distilled beverage industry, for instance liquor stores, malt liquor, and other hard liquors, like vodka and whiskey? Because when heated, this paste turns the chocolate into its liquid form!
As you have probably figured out, unlike chocolate liquor, chocolate liqueur does contain alcohol—anywhere between 17.0% to 25.0% ABV, in fact—so even though you probably won’t be drinking a lot of this straight, please drink responsibly.
There are three types of chocolate liqueur: liqueur, crème liqueur, and cream liqueur.
The word liqueur is defined as a strong, sweet alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit that has been flavored with fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts, and bottled with added sugar or other sweetener, which is usually drunk after a meal. In the United States, cordials and schnapps mean the same thing. As there is no added cream, it is usually either clear, caramel, or dark brown.
Crème liqueur is a liqueur (see definition above) that has had sugar added to it so that is thick like syrup. Again, there is not any actual cream in this, despite what the name seems to imply. Chocolate crème liqueur is more commonly referred to as crème de cacao. Some popular brands to look for are:
Last but not least, we have cream liqueur, which is when a hard liquor is mixed with cream. Cream liqueur is generally flavored in some way. Popular variations are:
Whatever type of chocolate liqueur you buy – you should store in a cool, dry place after opening for up to 18 months. The fridge is always a good option, and may extend the life of your liqueur, but because they are a mixture of alcohol and other additives, they may get slushy in the freezer. Since liqueur goes through a homogenization process to keep the mixture well blended, you will know that it’s spoiled if it starts to separate.
Even now that you know what liqueur is, you may still be wondering how to use it. Chocolate liqueur is typically used in “long drink” recipes. Long drinks, also known as tall drinks, are cocktails that have much more volume due to the presence of mixers. Generally, but not always, long drinks have a lower alcohol content because the hard liquor in them is being diluted by the add-ins.
Because chocolate flavoring is sweet, it is usually used in dessert cocktails. By far the most common is the Chocolate Martini (a.k.a. the Chocolatini). Mix chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao, vodka, and half-and-half, shake over ice, and pour into a martini glass—it’s as easy as that! Many bars actually feature this drink on their cocktail menu. When in doubt, just ask your bartender. Other chocolate cocktails that have been known to appear on bar menus are:
The best part about having chocolate liqueurs on hand over any other flavor of liqueur is that you don’t just have to drink it because it’s also easy to cook with. Add to a chocolate mousse, cake, brownies, tiramisu, or even add to a chocolate milkshake for a simple twist. It can also be reduced into a sauce you can drizzle on top of your deserts, like fresh strawberries or bread pudding.
When using chocolate liqueur in baking, the alcohol does usually cook out, but if you would like to make a non-alcoholic version of any of these drink or dessert recipes for children or friends who do not drink alcohol, you can substitute non-alcoholic vanilla extract and powdered sugar to get a similar flavor.
Well, now that you know more about chocolate liqueur, hopefully it is not as intimidating as you may have thought. This versatile, delicious drink is a great option to keep around to add a dash of flare to a cocktail party or a recipe in a pinch. In no time, you’ll be finding more and more ways to use it. When out on the town, it’s a great way to combine dessert with an after-dinner cocktail. In any case, we hope you enjoy!