No one wants a cocktail that tastes like unset pudding, but, especially at this time of year, marketers insist on pushing their chocolate drinks anyway. Chocolate wine! The Chocotini! I shudder. Perhaps it's that old notion that people—women, in particular—want a sweet drink that doesn't 'taste of alcohol'. I assure you: I would rather taste alcohol than YooHoo, come cocktail hour. But there is a place for chocolate in cocktails, and I hope you'll agree that this recipe hits that spot.
Cacao nibs are little fragments of crushed, roasted cacao beans. They smell like chocolate. They are, in fact, like chocolate in the raw, before the dairy and sugar are added. You can read more about them here. Besides using cacao nibs in food, you can also infuse them into liquor to give your drink a lovely chocolate aroma. And as a bonus, they make for a quick infusion, requiring only a day or two.
Today's cocktail was inspired by a box of chocolates. Spices, almonds, creams, berries—you'll find all of these in a standard box. Spicy rye whiskey is the base for the infusion that includes cacao nibs, toasted almonds, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. The resulting whiskey has a warm, complex aroma. It's good enough to enjoy on the rocks by itself, but the complete cocktail, made with nutty oloroso sherry and fragrant Meyer lemon juice, gives the flavors a wonderful frame.
A final piece of advice: let this drink sit for a moment after you've made it, after you've dropped the Luxardo cherry in. All of the lovely chocolate box smells really open up as the drink warms back up from ice-cold. It's both bright and a little decadent, with chocolate and toasted almond up front, and the sherry's nutty flavor offering a rich core.