We’re mixing up the Chocolate Negroni on December 13 because it’s National Cocoa Day. Now of course most published guides to celebrate the day speak to steaming cups of hot chocolate. They sometimes even prescribe such things as marshmallows on top. But not here. We prefer something a bit more adult and point toward the Chocolate Negroni.
We can, of course, still help if you pine for the warmth of hot chocolate. After all, big fans of the Verte Chaud, but we like to save those for Christmas Eve. So today we’re adding to our pantheon of Negroni Variations with the Chocolate Negroni recipe. But first a word on cocoa.
The cocoa bean is the dried and fully fermented seed of the Theobroma cacao tree, native to the Amazon rainforest. It’s been around a long time and was first domesticated some 5,300 years ago. It soon made its way to Central America courtesy of the Olmecs and has been consumed by pre-Hispanic cultures since more than 4,000 years ago. Cacao trees can grow only in a limited area, roughly 20˚ north or south of the Equator. Nowadays most cocoa farming is done in western Africa and Indonesia.
Cocoa was an important commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, long before the Spanish came to conquer. But when they did and were thrashing the Aztec Empire they noted the emperor, Moctezuma II was a big fan. Said emperor apparently drank only chocolate flavored with vanilla or other spices whipped into a froth. Eager to bring spoils back the Spanish introduced it to Europe. The Europeans were apparently the first to sweeten it, and by the mid-17th century it became popular.
Now, of course, it’s consumed worldwide. Whether as cocoa powder or the separated cocoa butter apart or together as in chocolate, it’s been a hit.
As you would expect the monks got in on the action after it came to Europe. They created the category of crème de cacao liqueurs. Several varieties are available. But before you get concerned about the crème concept, there is no dairy involved. Here the term crème refers to a liqueur with a relatively high sugar content.
There are two types of crème de cacao: white, which is clear, and dark, which is a rich brown color. The white leans toward a milk chocolate flavor while the dark is reminiscent of dark chocolate. The Chocolate Negroni recipe below employs the latter.
While there are several different Chocolate Negroni recipes out in the wild we lean toward one created by Naren Young. He’s a bartender and cocktail journalist who started in Australia but soon enough landed in New York. There he and a partner purchased Caffe Dante in Greenwich Village where they reopened as Dante with his drinks as the highlight.
Mr. Young considers the Chocolate Negroni to be one of his signature cocktails. The drink itself is more than a standard Negroni with a bit of crème de cacao and chocolate grated over the top. Instead of sweet vermouth this drink specifies Punt e Mes. As we noted when mixing the Bank Robber cocktail for John Dillinger’s birthday, Punt e Mes is distinctly less sweet than most sweet vermouths. It is slightly bittered and together with the crème de cacao it highlights the orange notes in the Campari employed. Punt e Mes is often something we’ll substitute for sweet vermouth and it’s called for in other drinks like the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique cocktail.
- 1 oz Gin
- ¾ oz Punt e Mes
- ¾ oz Campari
- ¼ oz Creme de Cacao Use a dark rather than clear creme de cacao.
- 3 dashes Chocolate bitters
- Dark Chocolate
- Orange wedge
- Add gin, Punt e Mes, Campari, creme de cacao and chocolate bitters to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into Old Fashioned glass with ice, preferably a single, large cube.
- Garnish with orange twist and grate dark chocolate over drink.