Perhaps, due more to marketing incentives than culinary imperatives, we are seeing more writings and events touting the pairing of chocolate with wine, beer and ale, and spirits. In my book, Deep Tasting: A Chocolate Lover's Guide to Meditation, I stated that I wasn't a wine and chocolate pairing enthusiast. For one thing, wine and foods evolved together over millennia. But not so, wine and chocolate. Cacao has only been known to Europeans for the past 500 years, and as tempered chocolates only since the 19th Century. The ancient Mesoamericans did indeed create fermented beverages with mild alcohol content using cacao bean and pulp, but these had nothing to do with grapes.
On a strictly personal level, I confess to a late onset allergy to sulfites. So, no wine for me for the past two decades. But I had a history with wine long before the discovery of the sulfite allergy. And I remember the aroma and flavor of great wines and how they affected my palate. These memories tell me on a visceral level that pairing chocolate wine is a tricky business, often producing more flavor clashes than complementary experiences. There are some people, however, who advertise themselves as chocolate-wine sommeliers. I'm sure they are quite skilled and are able to produce pleasant events based on years of experimentation. Yet, I have often found writings about wine and chocolate confusing. All the more reason to flag down one of these experts. But one thing I have gleaned from articles about wine and chocolate pairing is that it is often more successful with sweeter wines. Hence the ubiquitous truffles containing "champagne" (often just a sweet white wine, sans bubbles, in reality) and various sweet liquor-based centers. In my own kitchen experiments,
I've found rum and bourbon to work well in bonbons. I know others use vodka, and I've added a little sake to my spicier recipes.
There are ales with added chocolate flavoring. The results tend to be subdued, the chocolate clearly subordinate to the ale. It's easy to understand why brewers might try to add chocolate flavor since there are ales that naturally have chocolate notes.
In recent years, some chocolate makers have used bourbon casks to age their chocolate. The first one I recall doing so was Raaka.
Fruition has reciprocally partnered with a fellow Hudson Valley business--Tuthiltown Spirits. Fruition uses their bourbon in caramels,and they've also aged their cocoa nibs in Tuthiltown Spirits bourbon casks to create the award winning Hudson Valley Bourbon Dark Milk bars. Tuthiltown Spirits has also created a Cacao Liquor using Fruition chocolate. Cacao Prieto is another New York chocolate-maker that is combining chocolate and spirits in their Don Esteban Rum Liquor and Don Esteban Cacao Liquor products.