Wine & spirits: Hot chocolate
As cosy as it gets in our snug North American homes, when the winter is bleak and blustery, a mug of hot cocoa can lift our spirits and warm our insides. Spiked coffee, tea and even spiced cider are all welcome at this time of year, but nothing gives me nearly as much pleasure as a cup of Cadbury, a goblet of Godiva, a ladle of Lindt or a vat (a voluminous vat) or Valrhona. For me, the taste of chocolate is the taste of love.
A late-night cocoa at Toronto chef Didier Leroy's Didier Restaurant & Catering was intended to smooth the way to slumber. Instead, I couldn't stop thinking about it for hours afterward. It was so phenomenally rich and delicious, I shared sips with my mates reluctantly. It's the drink that made me want to learn more about fine chocolate in a glass. Use Didier's recipe (below) as a base for all your choc-tails.
If you plan to spike a chocolate drink, warm your selected liquor along with the cream and milk. Barrel-aged dark spirits, like bourbon, brandy, cognac, dark rum (especially demerara rum), and scotch, Irish and Canadian whiskies, tend to blend more harmoniously with chocolate than white spirits like vodka or gin. Exceptions to the rule include fruit spirits such as eau-de-vie de framboise or poire, or grappa. Liqueurs of all sorts marry perfectly with chocolate and add a degree of sweetness. Berry, herb and nut flavours are my favourites, but any combination that appeals to your taste buds is "OK with the judges." Adding actual spices, herbs or flavours, like cinnamon, nutmeg, lavender, mind, saffron, caramel or vanilla, naturally lifts the bouquet of your beverage and lends subtle, beguiling nuances.
Since it was first created in 1974, Baileys Original Irish Cream has slowly risen to the top of Canadians' list of favourite after-dinner drinks. Now, the makers have introduced two new delicious Baileys flavours -- Caramel and Mint Chocolate ($29 each). For a special treat, add a generous shot to your coffee in place of regular milk or cream.
Didier Leroy's Hot! Hot! Hot! Chocolate
Didier tops his drink with spoonfuls of foamed milk.
Makes 1 large or 2 small servings.
2 oz Valrhona Caraïbe dark chocolate (66 per cent cocoa)
1/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup milk
Melt chocolate in double boiler over low heat. Warm cream and milk together; add to chocolate, whisking constantly until frothing.