By Zak Stambor, Special to Tribune Newspapers
February 11, 2013
Valentine's Day is synonymous with chocolate. So perhaps it crossed your mind to pick up a bottle of chocolate liqueur to enjoy in that cloying concoction known as a chocolate martini or some other chocolatey cocktail.
If so, know what you're in for, because most chocolate liqueurs are simply too much. Too sweet, too creamy, too much like spiked Hershey's chocolate syrup.
But that doesn't have to be the case.
Take Cuor di Cioccolata (Chocolate Heart), a liqueur made from grappa and dark chocolate in Italy's Trentino region by Pisoni, a family distillery that has been around since at least 1852. (While that's as far as the records go, distiller Elio Pisoni says the family was likely distilling far earlier than that.)
Made by combining grappa, which is a brandy made from the pomace — the seeds, stalks and stems that remain after chardonnay, moscato, nosiola and teroldego grapes are pressed for wine — with dark chocolate, cream and sugar, the liqueur is smooth and creamy, sweet, but not too sweet. And, at 17 percent alcohol by volume it lacks the bite common to many grappas imbibed on their own, while still capturing the grapes' delicious flavors.
It's quite simple why the liqueur, which Pisoni has produced since 1996, works. Grappas, like red wine, pair remarkably well with dark chocolate because the two share similar fruity notes. That's particularly true for the grappa used in Cuor di Cioccolata, Pisoni's Grappa Schweizer, which features a delicate, fruity nose and bright green apple and pear notes.
"We wanted to make a product that captures the essence of our grappas for someone who doesn't drink grappa because grappa is too strong," Pisoni says. "This is smooth and creamy, but still has that grappa taste."
The liqueur, while delicious, certainly isn't something to pull out every day. But it does add decadence to your day when poured in a cup of coffee, over ice cream or atop some other dessert — or even on its own (try it slightly warmed with a dollop of whipped cream on top).
Cuor di Cioccolata
Where to find it: Mainstreet Wine & Spirits in Countryside, Prestige Wine and Spirits in Des Plaines, Riverside Foods in Riverside, La Maison de Bonbon in Forest Park, as well as select Binny's locations. It is also available online at Compass Wines, compasswines.com.
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