Matching drinks with chocolate

Many folks have a love affair with chocolate. Enjoying your favourite alcoholic beverage with it can be a heavenly experience.

Whether your tipple is wine, beer or spirits, there’s a chocolate match to tickle your taste buds. Start off by using the best chocolate you can find that contains quality ingredients and delivers ultimate creaminess. When pairing with alcohol, try matching the character of the beverage with the character of the chocolate. The supreme trip results when similar flavours and textures match, or opposite flavours enhance and elevate the final flavour to something ethereal.

Let’s start with wine, probably the most noteworthy combination – maybe because both cocoa beans and wine are fermented with the same type of yeast. Generally speaking, the wine should be as sweet as the chocolate and pair according to the darkness of the chocolate: the darker the chocolate, the darker the wine.

White chocolate is usually more buttery and mellow, lending itself to sweet sherries, moscato-based bubbly, orange muscat, late harvest selections, sweet rosés, Tokaji Aszu and sweeter rieslings. All of these will bring out the fruit character in the chocolate. Milk chocolate, with its smooth texture and cocoa butter character, works better with Madeira, Vin Santo, Gewurztraminer and lighter, soft-tannin reds like merlot and pinot noir.

Dark or bittersweet versions with higher cacao content require fuller, more robust, fruity wines, some of which actually have chocolatey notes. Try vintage or tawny port, Banyuls, PX sherry, Cabernet Sauvignon, Amarone or fuller Zinfandels. If the chocolate has nuts, check out Oloroso sherry, Madeira or tawny port. For berry-infused styles, go for ruby port, Banyuls, bubbly or Moscato d’Asti. With caramel and chocolate, Vin Santo, dessert muscat, tawny port, PX sherry or sweet bubbly are sublime and for chocolate mint, give Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Moscato d’Asti a go. Wine made from other fruits like raspberries also work wonderfully.

Beer and chocolate are absolutely fabulous together. For white chocolate, choose lighter brews with citrus, fruit, vanilla and honey notes. Try German or Belgian wheat beer,  lager, Pilsner or fruit beer. Milk chocolate usually has around 35 to 45 per cent cocoa and needs medium-strength beer with brown sugar, coffee, nutty and caramel nuances. How about cream ale, pale ale, IPA, amber ale, porter, honey and maple brews and certain European lagers? Dark chocolate with 55 per cent or higher cocoa content plays best with dark, spicy, earthy, nutty brews such as stout, porter, dark ale, bock, dark lager and other strong brews.

When it comes to spirits, especially the brown ones, the wood they are aged in plays a huge part. Some wood flavours are raw and others toasted, providing vanilla, caramel, nuttiness, fruitiness and a certain smokiness. These usually dictate the chocolate choice.

Generally speaking, brown spirits work better with milk or dark chocolate. Bourbon with chocolate infused with orange or cherry is divine. Highland malt Scotch shines with milk chocolate truffles. Peaty Islay Scotch sings with bittersweet dark chocolate. Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados wow with nutty truffles. Rum meshed with chocolates infused with spice, ginger, nutmeg, tropical fruits or marzipan is great. White spirits like tequila meld nicely with chocolates with fruity highlights, mint and spice.

Then there are liqueurs which are probably the easiest to match to chocolate. Fruity versions like Grand Marnier and Cointreau and nutty styles such as Amaretto and Frangelico are divine with dark, bittersweet chocolate.


Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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