Scotch and Cacao, Love Potion No. 1

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Photo by EverJean/FlickrCC


I can't help it: whenever I think of Scotch I go to a happy place. I love Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay, perimeter islands; single malt, blended, vatted, grain. I drink it all, although I certainly have my favorites. No matter how seriously Scotch is taken, or should be taken, I drink the big boys: Compass Box 100% Grain Whiskey Hedonism, Ardbeg Uigeadail, and then back to a simple glass of Famous Grouse. They all belong to the same pantheon and thusly all send me to a place of fulfillment and pleasure, albeit sometimes for different reasons. (I take Old Smuggler out of the pantheon; it's just plain crap.)

Chocolate is the same for me. I know that there is better chocolate than a Hershey's bar, and I have had that too, but I don't care. Sure, I remember eating savory chocolate truffles at Cacao Sampaka in Barcelona, filled with anchovies and hazelnuts, lovely really, but do you think I stare at that brown and silver wrapper and think, Oh, this is low-grade milk chocolate? No, I delve in with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old child. Those who would shoosh fun away with raised brow and overly rigid standards don't deserve the joy that such simple pleasures offer.

I suggest a subtler hint of chocolate: chocolate bitters.

With that in mind, it seems that Scotch and chocolate are a natural fit: much like peanut butter and chocolate or bacon and anything. I generally love the combination. High cacao-content chocolates and peat-driven Scotches are particularly good. But the combo I like most is to put chocolate right into the glass.

OK, you can't exactly dip a Hershey's bar into Macallan 12-year-old, or muddle cacao beans into your Rob Roy. I suggest a subtler hint of chocolate: chocolate bitters.

There are two varieties out now that are both great with Scotch and other strong-flavored spirits (Mezcal, for instance). One, by Fee Brothers, is called Aztec Chocolate Bitters and the other is by bitters newcomers Bittermen's via The Bitter Truth, Chocolate Mole Bitters. Try adding a dash of either one to your favorite Scotch drinks.

I created a recipe for a men's clothier in Georgetown, Lost Boys, that did just that. See below.

The Lost Boys Cocktail

    • 2 oz Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch (or for a less peaty and cheaper version, try Famous Grouse)
    • spoonful of honey (or to taste)
    • dash of chocolate bitters
    • dash of orange bitters
    • 2 pieces of orange peel (approximately ¾-inch wide by 2 inches long)

Gently muddle one piece orange peel, bitters, and honey in pint glass. Add Scotch and ice. Stir and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Add new orange peel.

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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