This week, we thought we’d talk about the two options we use in place of regular creme de cacao. The usual commercial versions of that spirit tend to be overly sweet and not very chocolatey. So instead, we use Mud Puddle chocolate vodka from New Deal distillery in Portland, and Depth cacao liqueur from Sound Spirits in Seattle. Their flavors are somewhat different, most significantly Depth is sweetened and Mud Puddle is not, but both provide a lot of chocolate flavor without being cloyingly sweet.
We’ll start by tasting the chocolate spirits straight.
- Nose: Chocolate, white dog-like malt, raisins.
- Palate: Nice true cacao or cocoa nib flavor. Chocolate, slight sweetness, bitter, slightly tannic dry finish. Good strong alcohol bite on the mid-palate.
Sound Spirits Depth
- Nose: Mostly chocolate, little bit of molasses and blackberry jam.
- Palate: Sweeter by a long shot. Softer. Rounder and creamier. Less pronounced chocolate flavor. More like milk chocolate and vanilla.
We wanted to try the spirits side by side in a cocktail that makes good but not overwhelming use of the chocolate, so we decided on the Twentieth Century cocktail for a flavor comparison.
- 1 1/2 oz gin
- 3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
- 3/4 oz lemon juice
- 1/2 oz creme de cacao
- simple syrup*
*This isn’t in the original recipe, but both of the chocolate spirits we use are lightly or not sweetened, and this recipe is based on a sweeter liqueur. We added 1/4 oz of simple with the Mud Puddle and 1 tsp simple with the Sound.
- Nose: Lemon, floral notes, juniper and mint from the gin, and a little bit of chocolate.
- Palate: Sweet lemon and chocolate to start. Big hit of the gin botanicals in the mid-palate – juniper, floral notes, and a hint of mint. Also some orris root notes starting at the mid-palate that underpin the other flavors into the finish. Bitter lemon and wine from the Lillet along with toasted chocolate like cocoa nibs on the finish. Overall, more of a dark chocolate flavor throughout the cocktail, as compared to the milk chocolate flavor that the Sound provides.
Sound Spirits Depth
- Nose: Sweet creamy lemon, milk chocolate, a little bit of lemon peel. Chocolate is much more pronounced.
- Palate: Sweet lemon and chocolate. Very similar starts. More chocolate on the mid-palate. Gin is more muted on the mid-palate for Christa, more mint as well as a pop of floral lemon from the gin for Shaun. No orris root notes. More acidic finish, with less bitterness and no toastiness. Overall, a richer, rounder mouthfeel, with more of a milk chocolate flavor, as compared to the dark chocolate from the Mud Puddle.
Both of these spirits offer clear chocolate flavor, and we highly recommend them in any cocktail that calls for creme de cacao. They also provide the flexibility for you to make the drink as sweet (or not) as you wish. We both appreciate that, as sometimes you want the flavor without necessarily making the drink any sweeter. The Sound Spirits Depth would probably make the best substitute for traditional creme de cacao, but the Mud Puddle has a lot to offer in terms of adding an unsweetened cocoa note, which we think will play nicely with stronger spirits like whiskies and mezcals.