Ask the Alchemist #12

“What is this chocolate wine I keep seeing at the grocery store? How is chocolate wine made? Can I make it.”

This is something I’ve actually experimented with. I have tasted a couple of the chocolate wines and whereas I love both wine (red, thank you very much) and chocolate (I won’t even dignify that with a response) I did not care for any of the examples I tasted. So, in what is not uncommon for the Alchemist, I decided to do it my way, and to my mind better. And I’m of course going to share. The holidays are coming up and this is a perfect item to share

A few points of understanding.

  • There is cream in Chocolate Wine – it acts as an emulsifier effectively.
  • The chocolate you use will be have much better with lecithin – so it can play better with the cream.
  • Wine is acidic – dairy products may curdle if acidified too much – a touch of baking soda takes care of this.
  • Alcohol – to remain stable, liquid, and not spoil, you need 14-15%. It really does not matter how you get there.
  • Alcohol can also make cream separate or curdle – it needs to be added in the right order (weakest to strongest).

As I write this out I start to realize just how not straight forward it is. But how 35+ years in the kitchen, 20 years as a chemist, and 10 years as Alchemist have made it almost intuitive. And that the mixing of this chocolate wine is not unlike mixing of an Alchemical Elixir of the past. Do it right and you woo people….do it wrong…and we won’t talk about it. So, get out your apron, and pots and pans, bottles and measures and let’s brew up some Alchemy – some Chocolate Alchemy (sorry, could not help myself).

The recipe.

2 cups / 1 lb Dark Chocolate (with lecithin)
1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
0.5 cup sugar
2 cups red wine
Pinch baking soda
3/4 cup rum
1/2 cup Everclear

Now then, I know from experience a lot of you are going to just shy of flip out over the last ingredient. Stop it. It is an ingredient. It’s not poison. It is Ethyl Alcohol. i.e. alcohol. What’s in the rum and red wine and what we need at 14-15%. It’s no different. AT ALL. Moving on.

As I alluded to above, combining your Elixir ingredients in the right order is important. If you want to short cut my procedure, do so at your own risk. It might or might not work.

Combine the cream and sugar and heat to 160 F (to pasteurize). Stir in your chocolate (with lecithin), which has been grated. Allow to set 5 minutes or so to melt the chocolate. Then whisk gently to incorporate. Basically, you are making a thin ganache or truffle filling here.

In a separate pan, heat your wine to about 90 F – just slightly warm – no the alcohol will not boil off. Add your pinch (1/16 t) of baking soda. This will buffer the wine a touch and protect your cream a bit.

Next, add the wine to the chocolate mixture. Please note the order. I did not say to combine them. I did not say to add the chocolate to the wine. Wine into chocolate. Again, we are protecting the cream. Whisk it in gently and gradually until al the wine is in. Next, stir in the rum and finally the Everclear. Again, we are adding weak to strong, in protection of the emulsion and cream.

That’s it. That should give you a stable, luscious, Chocolate Alchemy Elixir of Chocolate and Wine. Not to sharp, not to sweet.

A couple notes. Substitutions:

Milk for Dark Chocolate – ok
White wine for red – fine.
Brown sugar for white – fine.
Whiskey or cognac for rum – great
You can do all those 1:1.

Now, if you want to change amounts or remove items…do so at your own peril. I would not suggest it. But I will put this alternative out there if, for whatever reason we shall not discuss, you don’t want to use Everclear. It should also work but I don’t care for it quite as much.

2 cups / 1 lb Dark Chocolate (with lecithin)
1.25 cups heavy whipping cream
0.75 cup sugar
2.25 cups red wine
Pinch baking soda
2.25 cups rum, brandy, cognac or whiskey
For the greater flavor of the alcohol base, I found more sugar is needed to soften the elixir or it is just too sharp. I really prefer the first recipe.

And to answer the proverbial ‘what if’s’ – if you cut back on the distilled alcohol (rum, brandy etc) two things will occur. The resulting mixture may be too thick to pour and you will not have 14% alcohol so the mixture will not keep well. So, should you go that route, you can add water or more cream to thin it (along with the flavor) but keep it refrigerated or drink it immediately.

Enjoy, and have fun.

One Response to “Ask the Alchemist #12”

  1. Thanks Alchemist John – I’m going to give this a test soon in preparation for the holiday season

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