The art of pairing alcohol & chocolate

29 August 2016
The secret in finding a chocolate to go with your drink is to go dark - both with your chocolate and with your drink.

The refreshingly crisp Fino may go perfectly with a slice of Jamon, but when it comes to a square of chocolate, you need something with a bit more colour.

The complex flavour compounds we need to match with chocolate come from the ageing process of the drink. Those which have been aged in oak barrels are best - this is where they collect all the wonderful notes which characterise them. 

Sherry is a great example of a drink which takes on a whole new life whilst in barrels. Starting off as something overpowered by the sweetness and richness of chocolate, after maturing in the solera system, it becomes the perfect compliment. 

All fortified wines work well, as they have layer upon layer of flavours - so don’t be scared to pair chocolate with an Italian Marsala, an aged Madeira, a Port or even a salty Amontillado Sherry.  The perfect Sherry for chocolate is PX - it is such a sweet complex wine it goes well with chocolate desserts such as brownies, as well as any chocolate bar.

Because of its ageing in Sherry barrels, Cardenal Mendoza is a great place to start experimenting with matching drinks to chocolate. The initial sweet notes and nutty flavours of the brandy are ideal to bring out the best in a good quality dark chocolate.

Other spirits which have spent time under oak also make good matches.

Rum goes well with any chocolate with warm spice, or tropical fruit notes, but remember the darker the rum the better it’ll match.

Whisky has a whole range of flavours, so the best one to start with is your favourite tipple - if you like a light single malt, you need a lighter chocolate, but if you like a peaty monster of a dram you’ll be okay with the biggest of chocolate flavours - including truffles. 

Tequila is the exception which proves the rule  - despite not being aged in oak, a gold tequila is a great foil for chocolate, especially one with toffee and honey notes.

If beer is more your choice, dark beers such as stouts and porters are perfect. The longer roasting of the malts used in their brewing produces rich flavours of toffee, coffee and even chocolate! Making a match simple!  

Other drinks, such as liqueurs can make great matches for all kinds of filled chocolates - try to match the flavour of your liqueur with the flavour of the filling.

There is a drink to match with whatever type of chocolate takes your fancy - just remember the rules:

It has to be good quality chocolate, you have to take your time, and if you don’t find the one that goes with your favourite drink, keep looking - after all, when has eating chocolate ever been hard work!