The Criollo: Mixing with Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur

The Criollo and Mozart Black

A few months ago Paul Clarke went on an insane blogging spree, writing about thirty different cocktails in as many days. On day 17, Paul wrote about an adult chocolate cocktail called Theobroma made with tequila and creme de cacao. The Camerone (another cocktail from the original LCL) was also mentioned, which of course caught my attention. I had been intrigued by that one for a while and the exotic ingredients required to make it (see The Digression, below). Then in a comment on Theobroma by Jay Hepburn (of Oh Gosh!) I spied the recipe for making this:

Smoker’s Delight
Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro

1½ oz. Laphroaig scotch whisky
¾ oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters

Wow, didn’t that sound grand and so very very adult! The problem, as I immediately discovered, was that no one in the SF Bay area carried this Mozart Black chocolate liqueur, just the milk and the white (ick!). Ultimately I mentioned my interest in Mozart Black to Ed at Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley and, lo, a month or so later it appeared amongst the other bottles in the liqueur section at the back of the store. (And let me put a BIG HEALTHY plug in here for Ledger’s. Honestly, I don’t think you’ll ever find a bigger and more exotic selection of liqueurs, amari, eau de vie, aperitifs, etc, anywhere in northern California. And in an entirely unpretentious setting. One could easily spend an hour exploring the shelves, as many different bottles are stacked in front of one another. One could also spend a lot of money. Go see Ed!)

So the Mozart Black, in it’s squat round dark glass bottle, touts that it’s made from 87% cacao mass right on the front label. It also instructs you to shake well before use. Does all that cacao settle out? Unfortunately, it doesn’t say what percentage of that mass is present in the bottle nor what else might have been compounded into it. Nothing artificial, I presume, since that would have to be listed on the label. All I can say is that it’s got a heady chocolate nose and a really nice chocolate flavor. Not horribly cloying. Most importantly, it garnered the approval of my “I’m not a big drinker, but I loves my chocolate” partner, Brandee.

The Smoker’s Delight once I made one was all that I had hoped for. The smokiness of the Laphroaig was a perfect foil for all that chocolate. It even stood up to the Quarter Cask. But, ya know, really I’ve got this thing for another cocktail: one made with rye. Yes, I immediately started to wonder how I could incorporate the Mozart Black into a Manhattan variant that didn’t immediately make one think of T.G.I.F. It didn’t take much tinkering to come up with this rather delicious formulation:

The Criollo (No. 1)

2 oz. rye (Wild Turkey is my “go to” these days)
3/4 oz. Vya sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1 barspoon Patron Citronge
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Stir well with with ice to chill and dilute.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with the orange peel, cutting it over the cocktail to catch the oils.

[NOTE: Criollo, pronounced “cree-oy-yo,” is a variety of cacao – ostensibly the most noble of all cacao varieties.]

The Vya (from Quady, makers of Essencia) has a significant dollop of orange muscat in it, which complements the chocolate in the Mozart nicely. The Fee Bros. bitters bring a nice rounding cinnamon note into the mix. And, because I wanted even more orange I added a dash of orange bitters in this case Regan’s but you could also try Angostura.

Overall, the No. 1 is more or less just a chocolate Manhattan. The rye spice and cacao dryness play out nicely in the nose. A pleasant enough if rather simple (!) cocktail. Still, I wanted more layers and complexity. Which led me to the No. 2:

The Criollo (No. 2, AKA The Mozart Black Manhattan)

2 oz. rye
3/4 oz. Amer Boudreau (or Ramazotti)
1/4 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1 barspoon Grand Marnier
1 short dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 short dash Angostura orange bitters (optional if you used Amer Boudreau)
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Now we’re talking! The amaro is great in combination with the chocolate, especially if you are using Amer Boudreau with its “jacked” orange component. And interestingly enough the bitterness of the amaro blends and brings out the bitterness of the cacao. I love this cocktail! [Note: it seems easy to over-bitter this cocktail as it’s made with an amaro. I recommend that you keep the amount of bitters you add under control.]

Finally, emboldened by my experiences with the No. 1 and No. 2 versions, I decided to try one more variation and push firmly into “dessert-style” cocktail territory:

The Criollo (No. 3)

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz. Lustau East India (Oloroso) sherry
1 barspoon Grand Marnier
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Here the chocolate in the Mozart combines with the nuttiness of the sherry to create a distinct toasted coconut flavor. In fact I liked that dimension of this cocktails so much that I decide to re-make it, modifying the template by leaving out the orange-flavored liqueur and cutting the bitters way down. I also replaced the orange peel garnish with a cherry:

The Criollo (No. 3, revised)

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz. Lustau East India (Oloroso) sherry
Scant dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
Scant dash Angostura orange bitters
3 brandied or amarena cherries, for garnish

OK, there you have it: three variations on the Manhattan, each using the Mozart Black to a different effect. I’d deem this liqueur a worthwhile addition to any bar.

Criollo No 4 Redux

[P.S. There also a Mozart Dry which is clear and not sweet at all. I look forward to playing with that one day – when a bottle shows up at Ledger’s.]

The Digression…

The moment I came across a reference to chocolate bitters in Paul Clarke’s cocktail the Camerone something in me was hooked. It think it was the idea of a chocolate flavoring which didn’t turn your drink into something that “the girls” order at T.G.I.Friday’s. Spiritous chocolate in cocktails for adults. Right on!

The bitters in question were of course Avery Glaser’s infamous Xocolatl Mole bitters. Right away I was like: “Who made these? Can I get some? Can I get the recipe?” I had no idea that I was starting to pull on a long thread that had been winding itself through the cocktail geek scene a good while before I arrived. Avery Glaser had been seeding bottles of these bitters (along with the Grapefruit) on the west coast for a while already. But most of these were empty (or locked away) by the time I became interested in them. Then I found the Bittermen’s web site where I learned about Avery Glaser’s struggle to obtain the permits and licenses necessary to make and sell the bitters legally in the US. (*). I got on Bittermen’s email list and joined Bittermens’s group at Google.

Then late last spring when visiting NYC, I saw bottles, rather large one’s in fact, of the Xocolatl Mole bitters sitting on the shelves of most all of the watering spots I visited. At Mayahuel I even got to sample them for the first time (impression: cacao, musky cinnamon). The buzz was that something was going to happen – and very soon. And then it did. Avery Glaser brought Bittermen’s to Germany where it would be made by Stephan Berg at The Bitter Truth. Bottles have started to flow into the US, though I have yet to see one. Oddly, after all the wait and build-up, I found the price something of an issue: a single bottle is 21,16 € delivered or a bit over $30 USD (depending on the exchange rate). Ouch! I’ve decided to hold off trying them until some place local, like Cask in SF, starts carrying them and defrays some of the shipping costs through a bulk purchase.

(*) – Bitters you may haven noticed are rather alcoholic, generally about 45 proof and fall into an odd category: neither a food nor a spirit (i.e. not a thing you can eat nor a beverage you can guzzle) but with enough alcohol for the government to want to keep a rein on ’em just the same. I am guessing the easiest, though hardly the cheapest route if you want to produce bitters, is to make ’em under a distillery license. But, unlike a bottle of spirits, all those additives (read: flavorings) in the bottle also puts them under the scrutiny of the FDA. So every different bitters flavor you make requires it own approval process. Can you say time and money consuming? No wonder Fee Bros. make their “bitters” the way they do. No wonder Bittermen’s moved to Germany. ;-(

[P.S. If someone out there knows more about the process of getting bitters produced legally for retail sale in the US, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or drop me a line.]


2 Responses to “The Criollo: Mixing with Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur”

  1. Psst… If you haven’t seen the news, importing of the Bittermens (and all of The Bitter Truth’s bitters) has begun to the US through – Store-shelf retail price should be $15, and instead of the standard 150ml bottle, they’ll be 200ml.

    We know in comparison to the other bitters out there, the Bittermens/The Bitter Truth is more expensive, but that’s less to do with cost of import and more to do with the cost and quality of the ingredients: we use no artificial flavors or colors, no glycerin or other chemical additives.

  2. […] few days ago I had the occasion to revisit an old original cocktail called The Criollo. I created it back in 2009 when I first fell in love with amari (singular amaro), the class of […]

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