With so many different chocolate liqueurs on store shelves, how do you choose? They range in flavors from deep, dark chocolate with boozy notes to creamy, velvety chocolate truffles in a glass. You can get the same wonderful flavor from homemade chocolate liqueur as any store-bought brand, however. Our easy chocolate liqueur recipe stores well, tastes great in cocktails, and makes a great homemade food gift for the holidays.
What is chocolate liqueur?
At its most basic level, chocolate liqueur is exactly what it sounds like: a chocolate-flavored alcoholic beverage. The term “chocolate liqueur” encompasses creme de cacao to velvety chocolate liqueurs that taste like boozy chocolate bars. Whether you’re making light, dark or creamy chocolate liqueur, the difference lies in the ingredients, which affect the sweetness, mouthfeel and overall final product. All chocolate liqueurs are great for cocktails (hello, chocolate espresso martini!). They’re also great for desserts, or for simply sipping over ice.
The biggest difference between creme de cacao and other chocolate liqueurs is that creme de cacao doesn’t include actual chocolate or dairy. Instead, creme de cacao is distilled from cacao beans (also referred to as “cocoa beans”) and sometimes includes other flavorings like vanilla. Some creme de cacao blends are clear, and some are dark. They’re rich and decadent, but mild and smooth—not syrupy or unctuous like chocolate-based spirits.
Creme de cacao and chocolate liqueur are interchangeable in many recipes; however, some drinks specifically call for one over the other. Our chocolate liqueur recipe is closer to creme de cacao than something like creamy Godiva chocolate liqueur. Thanks to its versatility, it’s always great to have a bottle on hand.
Our Chocolate Liqueur Recipe
2 cups vodka
1-1/3 cups cacao nibs
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, optional
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Step 1: Infuse the vodka
Combine the vodka and cacao nibs in a 1-quart glass jar. Cover with a lid, and let the brew stand for two weeks, shaking the jar every couple of days to disperse the ingredients.
Editor’s Tip: Cacao nibs extract just the right amount of chocolate flavor without the grit that cocoa powder would leave behind. If you can’t find nibs at your local grocery store, source them online. We like these cocoa nibs from The Spice House.
Step 2: Strain the vodka mixture
You’ll need to strain the vodka mixture a few times to get all of the residue out. This ensures you’ll end up with a smooth liqueur. First, strain the mixture through a colander lined with a cheesecloth. Discard the cacao nibs. Then, strain again through a fine mesh sieve lined with a coffee filter, occasionally stirring to help it strain properly. Repeat the process with a fresh coffee filter until the liquid is clear of any residue.
Step 3: Make the simple syrup
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. If you’re using espresso powder, add it now. Then, reduce the heat, and let the mixture simmer, uncovered, for five minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat, and let the syrup cool completely. Add the cooled syrup to the vodka mixture, and stir in the vanilla extract.
Editor’s Tip: The espresso powder is completely optional, but we recommend it for a couple of reasons: It adds a darker, richer color to the liqueur, and, just like using coffee in chocolate cake recipes, it helps amp up the chocolate flavor.
Step 4: Bottle the liqueur, and store
Pour the entire mixture into one bottle or several glass bottles, and seal tightly. Store the chocolate liqueur in a cool dry place for up to two months.
How to Use Chocolate Liqueur
Use this chocolate liqueur recipe as you would any creme de cacao or chocolate liqueur. Try it in a classic grasshopper or a white chocolate brandy Alexander. Of course, it’s mandatory for a chocolate martini. And it’s excellent in warm, cozy drinks like this Viennese coffee.
When it comes to desserts, use chocolate liqueur in this grasshopper baked Alaska. Or just keep it simple: A shot served over a scoop of vanilla ice cream is pure perfection.
Chocolate Liqueur Variations
You can make this chocolate liqueur recipe your own by adding different culinary extracts or flavorings. Try infusing almond extract, dried orange peels or a few cinnamon sticks with the vodka mixture. Or take cues from Mexican hot chocolate and slip some dried chiles in with the cacao nibs. Just remember to strain and remove anything chunky that doesn’t dissolve.