Hot chocolate, tequila, and a cigar. Quite simply: spectacular. This was a really fun drink to make and consumer. The exciting part about this, for me, was that I shopped, prepped, and executed all in the same day, which is a pretty rare occurrence with these Aviary cocktails. Despite being reasonably approachable, with ingredients that were available locally, requiring no exotic equipment, with a prep time that measure in hours rather than days, it was one of the more delicious recipes I’ve encountered so far on my journey through this biblical-sized cocktail book. There was only one panicked moment at serving time, which I’ll describe shortly, along with my thought on how to avoid the same panic when you make this drink.
So, to start, you simmer whole milk, sugar and salt, then pour it over dark chocolate (the recipe calls for 66%, I used 70%) and a bit of cocoa powder. You instantly have hot chocolate that didn’t come from powder. You could stop right here and have a winner on your hands. You then seal measured portions into vacuum bags. You could probably safely use ziplock bags, but I got an excellent result using these bags and this heat sealer. No need for a vacuum sealer in this case. I just the liquid filled bag hang over the edge of the counter, then bend the top part of the bag along the edge of the counter and over the heat sealer. This lets gravity do the work and results in a nicely sealed pouch of pure chocolate goodness. I should add: I am not a chocoholic. It’s OK, but I’m no fanatic. But this hot chocolate was still so damn good that I feel compelled to mention it again. Once your portioned pouches are sealed up, you drop them into an ice bath to quickly cool them, then store them in the fridge. I’d imagine you could safely do this a couple days in advance.
Now it’s time to smoke some milk. Yeah, you read right. You crumble up half of a maduro cigar, put it in a little metal pan (I used a glass dish wrapped in foil), set that pan into a larger metal pan (I used a disposable roasting pan), then fill the big pan with whole milk. Note: I’ll come back to this later, but it may make more sense to use skim milk. You then wrap the entire thing in foil, then light the cigar using a propane torch. I use this one. Seal up the foil, let it rest for 20 minutes, then repeat three additional times. This results in a total of 80 minutes of cigar smoking. There’s not much left by then end. WARNING: Do this outside unless you want your house to small like an ash tray. After the four smoking sessions, you strain this milk through a chinois (you may also want to employ some cheesecloth) then reserve in a glass bottle in the fridge. If your curious, it tastes like milk sipped from an ash tray. I don’t mean that in a critical way. The smoke flavor really permeates the milk.
Next up, booze. It’s mostly El Tesoro tequila with a squirt of Fernet-Branca. I was immediately concerned that the addition of the Fernet-Branca would ruin this entire recipe. I just don’t care for it. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and the licoricey spirit really added a nice extra dimension to the final product. Don’t skip it.
To Finish and Serve
Heat your serving glasses in a 170-degree oven.
The portioned hot chocolate pouches go in a 165-degree water bath. You can use a circulator, like this one, or you can just simmer some water.
The milk goes over a low flame then (here comes the panicked moment) using an immersion blender you froth the milk. It didn’t work me. It got a little bit frothy, but nothing whatsoever like the big head of foam in the picture. The instructions even say that some liquid will remain. This suggests to me that you’ll have mostly froth with a little liquid. I had the reverse. I was scrambling now because I had announced that it was drinking time. My glasses were ready, the hot chocolate base was ready, the camera was ready, and the milk was just flopping around like a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Now, in the moment I recalled that skim milk is supposed to froth much better than whole milk. I started wondering why the recipe didn’t call for skim milk (you’d still need to use whole milk for the chocolate base). Now, maybe the fat molecules are necessary for the permeation of the smoke. It’s possible that smoked skim milk just wouldn’t work. I’m not sure. Nevertheless, in the moment, I didn’t have any smoked skim milk, or any skim milk at all, so I had to make do with the ingredient at hand. Thankfully I was able to quickly find and resurrect a milk frother that I received as a father’s day gift nearly ten years ago, when I still took milk with my coffee. The frother was much for effective than the immersion blender and I quickly had some nice foamy froth to finish the drink with.
Final Step: you add 1 ¼ ounce of the cocktail base to your glass, then a portion of the hot chocolate base, then fill the glass with smoked frothed milk. I’ll surely be making this again, but next time, hopefully, it will be cool outside.