Chocolate is the most iconic of desserts, yet it’s widely maligned when it comes to cocktails. The chocolate martini? Is that a serious cocktail that anyone would drink outside of a bachelorette party or while enjoying a cover band on a cruise ship?
Hey, it’s time to put aside prejudices and embrace the power of chocolate — or creme de cacao, if you’re feeling French. These chocolate liqueurs run the gamut from creamy sippers to colorless syrups, but all are designed with one thing in mind: To imbue your glass, or your cocktail, with pure chocolate character. Why not try them in a Brandy Alexander? Covid’s almost over, right?
For this comparative review, I tasted all 10 of these products neat. Below are my ratings, ranked from favorite to least. We’d say you’ve earned dessert, so enjoy!
Mozart Chocolate Cream Liqueur – Made in Austria. A much richer chocolate cream than Gianduia (see below), this is an intense exploration of dense milk chocolate, with secondary notes of hazelnuts, vanilla, and some marshmallow which both sweetens and softens things. The addition of cream really works to enhance the chocolate character, and it never comes off as cloying or gummy. Just a hint of blackberry gives the finish a little pop. While you can mix with the gold-foil-encased liqueur, Mozart’s cream expression ultimately needs no enhancements to be perfectly enjoyable. Refrigerate after opening (for up to 5 months). Our top pick for straight sipping. 34 proof. A / $27 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Tempus Fugit Creme de Cacao – Made in Switzerland. The gently brown spirit is reportedly based on a 19th-century recipe, which specified cacao from Venezuela and vanilla from Mexico. A pure expression of bittersweet chocolate dominates the nose, gently woody, almost smoky at times. Sweet and syrupy on the palate, the liqueur’s significant vanilla component is much more evident on the palate, melding with the cocoa to produce a chewy, honeyed quality that feels rich and warming. Our top pick for mixing. 48 proof. A- / $40 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur – Made in Austria. Coffee-black in color, this is a fruity expression of gritty dark chocolate with a winey-raisiny sweetness, notes of cinnamon, and plenty of vanilla. A slight coffee note is evident, but the overall impression is one of authentic dark chocolate, with just a touch of blueberry and raspberry lingering on the finish. Versatile and well-balanced. 34 proof. A- / $27 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Giffard Creme de Cacao Blanc – Made in France. The only white (transparent) creme de cacao in this lineup, it’s a little boozy on the nose, with a popcorn character that comes through fairly clearly. A lot of sugar dominates on the tongue, muscling out the cocoa, with clear vanilla notes lingering on the very lengthy and quite sweet finish. Other than the brusque attack, it’s fantastically straightforward. 50 proof. B+ / $30 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Bently Heritage Hecate Cacao Liqueur – Made in the U.S. by the folks at Bently. This is a different animal at 35% alcohol, made with an heirloom variety of Criollo cacao nibs from Peru and Ecuador, plus vanilla. The nose is sharp with boozy notes of raw distillate, reminiscent of a white whiskey, while chocolate takes more of a back seat. There’s ample, dusky, dark cocoa character on the tongue, though, with a clear vanilla note adding some needed brightness. The finish is fruity in the way a high-quality dark chocolate bar can be, with a lasting note of berries and violets. 70 proof. B+ / $30 (375ml)
Marie Brizard Chocolat Royal – Made in France. A slightly creamy but dark-as-coffee concoction, this liqueur looks densely rich (though perhaps a bit purple in color), but it doesn’t quite follow through on the palate. The nose feels right, with a healthy slug of fairly sweet milk chocolate, but the palate doesn’t have the depth of flavor it seems like it should. The finish comes across as somewhat winey and a bit too sharp. Contains soy; preferably keep refrigerated. 34 proof. B / $22 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur – Made in the U.S. The darker expression of Godiva is a mild improvement over the milk chocolate version (see below), but it remains a disappointment against the field. My main complaint is that it’s just surprisingly thin. There’s a solid dark chocolate flavor here, relatively unencumbered by secondary notes, but the liqueur doesn’t have enough body to back it up. There’s a touch of cinnamon and gingersnap on the finish, but it’s slight and adds little to a lackluster showing. Godiva has recently trimmed its once expansive liqueur lineup down to just three expressions (the white chocolate liqueur is not reviewed here), but it remains a case of a middling product in a really pretty bottle. 30 proof. B / $x [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Dorda Double Chocolate Liqueur – Made in Poland by (and with) Chopin Vodka. Gently creamy (though dairy is not mentioned on the label), there’s a fudgy quality up front that’s backed up by a slight sharpness driven by the vodka (and which is particularly evident on the nose). A slightly saccharine sweetness that endures from front to back mars what is otherwise a quite rich and immersive liqueur. Store at room temperature and consume within 6 months of opening. 36 proof. B / $25 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Bottega Gianduia Crema di Cioccolato Liqueur – Made in Italy. Chocolate cream liqueur. Nutty and creamy, but a little boozy in the way that Baileys can be, with a somewhat raw alcohol note that hits with a bit of force. The finish is quite fruity, but also a bit saccharine. This probably could stand a bit more cream in the mix to lighten things up and help it stand apart a bit more clearly. Refrigerate and drink within 60 days after opening. 34 proof. B- / $28 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]
Godiva Chocolate Liqueur – Made in the U.S. Aka Godiva Original, this is Godiva’s milk chocolate expression. Extremely sweet, this hits the palate with a fruit-laden rush of sugar, leading to an experience akin to biting into one of those chocolate-covered cherries you might get in a box at the drug store. No real nuance awaits on the back end; it’s all Hershey’s syrup, pumped up with extra sweetness that largely masks any additional elements that might be lingering on the finish. Quite blunt. 30 proof. C+ / $33 [BUY IT NOW FROM DRIZLY]