Whiskey and Chocolate: The Perfect Valentine’s Day Pairing?

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Every February 14 involves some combination of a dinner, a box of chocolates, and plenty of wine. It’s an easy formula that usually goes over well. It’s also incredibly boring. Your Valentine deserves better, so it’s time to try something new. We recently spoke to Trisha Antonson, chief cocktail officer for online alcohol delivery service Drizly, about her unique role and why whiskey is chocolate’s perfect partner. She even suggested some pairings for those on a budget as well as those looking to splurge for the special day.

squares of dark chocolate paired with bourbon

Source: iStock

The Cheat Sheet: Can you give us a brief rundown of what being a chief cocktail officer entails?

Trisha Antonsen: At Drizly, we’re building a new way for people to shop for and discover beer, wine, and spirits, and we’re working with an amazing network of local liquor stores across the country to get your selection directly to your door, and pretty darn fast, too. My job is to create content that helps to educate and inform, inspire, or just make shopping for a bottle or spirit easier.

I get to create new cocktail recipes and taste test the classic ones. I research a lot about the different industries and read about the history of certain alcoholic drinks and the stories behind the brands and bottles. If you love traveling and history as much as I do, the world of beer, wine, and alcohol is fascinating.

CS: If you had to give an estimate, how many whiskies would you say you’ve sampled?

TA: My husband has been collecting whiskey and, specifically, bourbons for almost 10 years. He has hundreds of unopened botles and will order anything new he hasn’t heard of if we’re out at a bar, just to sample it. He’s always very good about sharing with me and giving me a little taste. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve definitely tasted at least 50 different kinds.

CS: What types of flavors are you tasting for when making food and spirit pairings?

TA: We’re looking to match notes that, when put together, can help enhance the foods an beverages you’re enjoying. Very rarely would you want to pair a food and drink with the same flavor profile because they’ll compete with each other.

You always want to look to match flavors that can compliment, but not overpower. Something bitter can become more mellow with a smooth spirit. Something very sweet can find an interesting pairing with a smoky or spicy flavor. Something very rich and creamy can get cut down with something oaky or even licorice-esque.

stack of dark chocolate with a glass of whiskey in the background

Source: iStock

CS: People typically think to pair wine with chocolate. Why whiskey?

TA: If you’re trying a bunch of chocolate, you’re often taking little bites. And if you’re not, I won’t judge! Are you really going to uncork four or five wines to pair with the flavors in all the different chocolates in the box? You could, but then you’d have to drink it all so it won’t go bad. Whiskey can be opened and corked and last for years.

Whiskey has a lot of hype right now and it’s not for nothing. Many people aren’t aware of how complex different types of whiskeys are and how delicious they are when paired with something as universally loved as chocolate. That helps make the world of whiskey a little more approachable.

CS: Are there any styles of whiskey that just aren’t going to be a good choice for one reason or another?

TA: We never want to tell anyone what’s not good because we all have different palates, and we want people to drink what they enjoy. Suggested pairings are fun because they’ve been chosen to highlight different flavors in the food and alcohol. It’s a good game for your nose, taste buds, and brain to really think about what you’re tasting and try to register all the different things going on.

All that being said, extremely peaty Scotches and high-proof whiskeys can be very strong for beginners. I’d stick to the more middle-of-the-road bottles if you’re tasting.

CS: What if you don’t know whether or not your date is a whiskey drinker?

TA: That’s kind of the fun of it. Between whiskey and chocolate, I think you can safely assume your date will like one or the other, or both. It’s also something new and unexpected. Any date will appreciate the thought you’ve put into something that’s different and creative.

Pairings

Dark chocolate: smooth, sweet whiskeys

Save: Jameson Irish Whiskey

Splurge: Red Breast Single Pot Still 12 Year

White chocolate: smokey whiskeys

Save: Sheep Dip Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

Splurge: The Hakushu Single Malt Whisky 12 Year

Milk chocolate with nuts: oaky whiskies

Save: George Dickel Superior #12 Whisky

Splurge: Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

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