Katherine, she called herself. Katherine Hepburn. And it was she, being her delectable sassy, fearless self, who once winced, “What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.” Katherine was, indeed, a work in chocolate. If you know, or of Katherine, and if you have ever had the euphoria of eating chocolate, you’d definitely stutter in your step. Now if we have established that chocolates are more than processed cocoa beans to you, let’s pique your desire for good whiskey. The complex bitter, sweet, floral, and woody aromas of whiskey are present in chocolate too. Paring the right dram with the right bite can be the beginning of an affair, a tour de force reminiscent of young, giddying love. Guess we got some of that endorphins rushing through your blood stream? Good.
Like whiskey, chocolate has different makes, processing methods, and provenances, all of which determine its flavor profile. Striking the right cord in tying these similar flavor profiles in unison bring out the intoxicating and sensorial complexities of both. It follows then, logically, whiskies with more peaty and smoky profiles complement more robust tasting chocolates. But the whisky and chocolate tango is no as straight as it might suggest. Sometimes, contrasting elements, in tandem with the pairing of the larger flavor profiles creates magic on the palate.
The percentage of cocoa solids present in a particular kind of chocolate determines its quality and taste. The kind of cocoa beans used, and their grinding process also contribute towards the texture and taste of the chocolate. In order to discern flavors, and arrive at a suitable match, there are a simple set of procedures to be followed. Begin with sipping a little bit of your whiskey, letting it coat your palate. Note what you taste. After you have swallowed the alcohol, wait for a few seconds. Place a small piece of the chocolate in your mouth, and let it melt gradually. Check how the whisky aftertaste marries with the chocolate’s various flavor notes. End with sipping a little bit more of the whisky once the chocolate has melted quite a bit, to wash over those flavors together.
Let’s say you have some Jamaican bean dark chocolate. A chocolate of this profile would be predominantly earthy, with distinct floral notes, including the presence of nuts and olives. The rounded vanilla, almonds and toffee notes of a Macallan 15 Year Old are enhanced by the chocolate, bringing out its almost zesty sweetness. Now this may sound odious. The same whiskey goes awfully well with something like a ginger and lemongrass milk chocolate. The whisky enhances the spice in the chocolate, and makes it taste more creamy and smooth. If you pair a 70% Nicaraguan dark chocolate with bourbon, like Buffalo Trace, the sweet vanilla of the dram finish very well with the liquorice depth of the chocolate, which leaves distinct traces of star anise, dried tobacco and green tea on your palate.
Whiskey and chocolate is a great love affair – and like all such affairs of the world, it is complicated. But it involves a complication which drives you discover nuances you would never have imagine you’d pursue to unravel. And if challenging relationships are your thing, you’re in for a groovy trip.
Scotch Mist, the Femme Fatale’s Poison
While the non-discerning drinker is more likely to be familiar with the lexical meaning of ‘Scotch Mist’, the connoisseur’s mind will immediately conjure up an image of the svelte Lauren Bacall. The drink made its Hollywood debut in 1946 in Howard Hawks’s masterpiece – The Big Sleep. Incidentally, that was also the first adaptation of the Raymond Chandler page turner for the silver screen.
Although, the image of the stoic and perpetually smoking Humphrey Bogart is etched in the minds of most cinephiles, whiskey lovers will remember the femme fatale Vivian Rutledge ordering a Scotch Mist. Interestingly, the origins of the drink are shrouded in mystery, despite being associated with Philip Marlowe.
The drink is a variation on the celebrated scotch on the rocks combination. Served usually in a low ball glass that allows you to relish the heady aroma of scotch with every sip, it truly is a drink for all seasons. The lemon adds a delightful and refreshing zing to the concoction. Remember to pack the glass with ice, after all it’s not christened ‘mist’ for nothing.
Mix your own Scotch Mist
Take a chilled low ball or rock glass and fill it with crushed ice. Pour 60 ml of Scotch, a Dewar's Scratched Cask or The Black Grouse will be an excellent choice. Take a sliver of lemon and twist it so that the juice falls into the glass. Conclude by dropping the peel in the mix and serve the drink with a straw.
It takes time to appreciate, but then if you do, you cannot really imagine sipping your whiskey without expecting some peat. If you have not acquired the taste yet, give it a little time. And pairing up your dram of peaty delight with the right kind of food uplifts the experience manifold. Many would argue that it isn’t necessary to have a starter with whiskey or scotch.
If you are mad about meat and like a dram for dinner, chances are you are a steak junkie. It’s no secret that whiskey goes well with a prime cut, done up crisp or left bloody. But, here’s the thing – it’s not just a shank or belly that couples just right with a glass of rich bourbon or scotch. Offal are just as worthy.
Post-dinner indulgences can take several directions – you can traverse a more restrained route with a conventional, sugary dessert, or round off the hearty meal with a glass of whiskey.
Or, you can even intertwine the two for a rewarding – if unusual – nightcap.