One beverage author makes sweet-spicy holiday amends.
I can’t believe I missed it, but in the 200 recipes in my Homemade Liqueurs tome I neglected the obvious: the essential pairing of chiles and chocolate. What was I thinking? I had a dozen or more liqueur recipes for the two ingredients separately, but nary a one that made the kick-ass connection. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity this holiday season to introduce you to my new drinking buddy: Cacao Ancho Liqueur.
As with other chocolate liqueurs, you want to rely on cacao nibs (cracked cacao beans) for your chocolate component. Because they have not been defatted like cocoa powder has, nibs yield a more balanced and rich chocolate flavor. In this liqueur (perfect for a Hot Lips Chocolate Margarita; recipe follows) their naturally oily sweetness smooths the earthy spice of a whole ancho chile pod (dried, smoked ripe poblano), subduing its heat while intensifying its smoky vegetal flavors. If you want to stoke the fire more, you can break up the chile, exposing more of its incendiary seeds to the booze. Gift it in a decorative carafe along with these recipes.
Cacao Ancho Liqueur
Makes about 1 quart
- 1 fifth (750 ml/3.2 cups) vodka, at least 80 proof
- 1½ cups (6 oz) cacao nibs
- 1 large ancho chile pod, whole
- 1¼ cups simple syrup (see recipe below)
- Combine vodka and cacao nibs in a quart jar. Stir to moisten the nibs. Add the chile and seal the jar. Put in a cool, dark cabinet until the liquid smells and tastes strongly of chocolate and ancho, about 3 days.
- Strain the solids from the liquid through a mesh strainer. Do not push on the solids to extract more liquid. Stir in the simple syrup. Seal and store in a cool, dark cabinet. Use within a year.
Makes 3 cups
- 2¼ cups water
- 2¼ cups granulated cane sugar
- Mix the water and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is all moistened. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir to make sure the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate for up to three months.
Hot Lips Chocolate Margarita
Makes 1 cocktail
For rimming the glass
- chocolate syrup
- cacao nibs
For the margarita
- 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
- 2 oz reposado tequila
- 2 oz Cacao Ancho Liqueur
- 4 dashes chocolate bitters
- 1 cinnamon stick, smashed
- Coat the rim of a chilled margarita glass or large martini glass with chocolate syrup and dip into cacao nibs to coat; set aside.
- Put the margarita ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until completely chilled. Strain into the glass and serve immediately.