10 Years At Hotel Chocolat Watford
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Had an idea for a cacao cocktail that seems impossible? We did too. All it takes is some hard work and a bit of imagination…
We need a cacao-pulp cocktail,
our co-founder, Angus Thirlwell, told culinary genius David Demaison back in 2011. They were at the bar at the as-yet-unopened Boucan Hotel in Saint Lucia, batting around ideas for the cocktail list.
It was an inspired notion. Cacao pulp, which surrounds the beans in the pod, is fresh, sweet and tangy, a singular flavour you just have to try.
“There’s just one problem,” David observed. “How do we extract it? If we crack the beans it’s going to turn bitter, and that’s the last thing we want.”
But those who know us know we’re not beaten easily. We’d found ourselves a challenge – it was time to get to work.
Cacao on the edge
Our research quickly turned up a few experienced spirit companies who had tried, and failed, to create similar drinks, including a cacao-pulp vodka. But we had the benefit of our friends in Saint Lucia and their local knowledge.
“In the end, it came down to a bowl, a kettle, a whisk and sieve,” explains David. “Removing cacao pulp without breaking the beans turned out to be a common thing to do in Saint Lucia, there just wasn’t a standardised process, and no-one had written it down. We experimented with how the locals do it, working out how long to macerate the pulp with boiling water etc., so we could get the maximum from each pod. It turned out to take a lot of cocoa pods to get even a litre of pulp!”
There we had it: our stumbling block surmounted. It was all going to be plain sailing from now on. Wasn’t it?
Lost in translation
“One of the delicious things about cacao pulp is how subtle the flavour is,” says David. “Once we started adding other things to our cocktail we realised it was being overwhelmed and the taste was getting lost.”
So, how to mix a cocktail to showcase such a mild ingredient? Get behind the bar!
“It was late afternoon, we’d been trying my latest versions of a few cocktails, and Angus decided it was time to get hands-on,” remembers David. “He got behind the bar and put his mixology experience to good use!”
Between the two of them – and a hotel kitchen of local ingredients – they came up with the perfect solution: our pulp was joined by Prosecco, verbena and pressed soursop, a spiky green fruit that grows among the cacao trees on Rabot Estate.
“Soursop has a similar flavour, and was able to strengthen and lift the notes of the cacao pulp,” David explains.
Finally – our signature Cacao Bellini was born.
“One of our favourite things about cacao pulp is how refreshing it is,” says James Drake, head of food and beverages. “While it doesn’t taste like lemon, it gives you that same fresh feeling. We realised it would make the perfect palate cleanser – so now we have our Cacao Pulp-Soursop Sorbet.”
Sorbet turned out to be the ideal vehicle for the pulp’s mild taste – but you can still try our Cacao Bellini at Rabot 1745 - London.
“Just ask and we’ll whip one up for you,” says James. “If you’ve ever been to our hotel in Saint Lucia you’ll find the taste takes you back there, to sunshine and swaying cacao trees…”
All this talk of cocktails got you in the mood for mixing? Cacao pulp is one unusual ingredient, and it’s not easy to get hold of in the UK, but our Aged Rum Fizz is a delicious alternative to the Cacao Bellini that you can make at home. We mix ours with Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks, which is made down the road from our bar at Boucan, Saint Lucia, but you can use your favourite golden rum.
• 50ml aged golden rum of choice (we use Chairman’s Reserve Forgotten Casks)
• 3 drops of Angostura or cocoa bitters
• 4 mint leaves
• Juice of 1 lime
• 4 teaspoons honey water (1 teaspoon honey mixed with 3 teaspoons hot water)
• 25ml dry Prosecco
Combine all ingredients apart from the Prosecco in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a short tumbler filled with crushed ice. Top with Prosecco.
Create Your Chocolate Masterpiece
Mixing on your mind? Find cocktail recipes and more in our cookbook, A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate, £20
Got a cacao cocktail recipe to rival our bellini? Enter our Create a Chocolate Masterpiece competition and yours could be our next success story…