When confronted with the bottle of Cocoa Vino on a shelf in the kitchen at Old Vine Cafe, I did a double-take. I mean, this is a serious restaurant where the fresh pasta is made by hand daily, the ice cream is churned in small batches from seasonal ingredients and the produce is supplied by small local farms. Don’t even get me started on their playful, geeky wine list.
What is a bottle of alcohol with a label proudly screaming, “A marriage of milk chocolate, red wine, mint, and cream!” doing here?
Seeing the confused, quasi-disappointed look on my face, Chef Mark McDonald and his brother Jimmy both assured me they had found the potential in this quirky product. After pouring me a glass of a milk chocolate-looking beverage over ice, I took a hesitant sniff.
The first aroma to hit me was the roasted, nutty espresso, followed quickly by a deep chocolate note. The mint was subtle and earthy- almost driven by a citrus or pine note. I took a hesitant sip… and was immediately convinced. I think my shocked first response was, “it’s like the best White Russian ever.” And it is. Round, full-bodied chocolate and coffee flavors bursting through a wall of alcoholic bliss. The mint was a tiny, aromatic component- I am impressed at how fresh and bright it was, without overpowering the other flavors. I kept thinking “I am not supposed to be enjoying this”. But I did.
There’s nothing like enjoying a cocktail based in a product like Cocoa Vino to truly ground any delusions of wine snobbery. In moments like these (and there are many), I am reminded to keep an open mind, and to just keep tasting everything. It’s the only way to truly learn and develop your palate- whether it’s a Tuscan Sangiovese or a chocolate-wine cocktail.
Thankfully Chef Mark gave me the recipe for his Iced Mocha Cocktail to print here. If you’re a fan of high-octane, caffeine, sugar and chocolate-loaded beverages (and who isn’t?) you’re just going to have to secure a bottle of Cocoa Vino and try it for yourself- or get over to Old Vine Cafe for brunch this morning. What better way to start a Sunday?