Ah, chocolate, one of my truest vices. Seriously, if there’s a chocolate dessert on a menu, I’m morally obligated to get it. Same with any new chocolate bars I see. That’s why I knew I had to make some crème de cacao. Why buy it when you can make it almost as easily?
Here’s the thing about my chocolate obsession, my mother is Danish, which means I was brought up with a certain not-too-sweet sensibility towards chocolate. Simply put: for me, it’s bittersweet or nothing.
That’s why, when I bought a crème de cacao and it tasted like a sugar bomb with ever so subtle chocolate hints, it just wouldn’t do. Hence, I knew the time was right to make my own. After some testing, you’re in luck, you can make your own crème de cacao too! This works great for yourself or as a fantastic gift (I know I’d love a gift of crème de cacao).
I tweaked this recipe to taste like a dark chocolate bar (about 76% cacao, we’ll get into the math later). That’s a personal preference for me, you can adjust this to your own taste. Would you like it a little sweeter? Add some more simple syrup. It’ll also help kick down the proof (I also don’t like under proofed drinks, if you’re going to drink, you should know you’ve had something).
Final note: this takes time. That’s not to scare you away, just letting you know. It is, however, 100% worth it. Take control of your chocolate destiny! Onto the recipe for your very own DIY crème de cacao.
Crème de Cacao
- 1.5 liters of 100 proof vodka
- 16 oz. cacao nibs (also known as two cups)
- 3 vanilla beans, split (yes, actual vanilla beans)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Mixing: First things first, add the cacao nibs, vodka and vanilla beans in your long-term vessel of choice. Shake it to mix everything up and let all of the ingredients get to know each other. Then store it in a cool, dark place.
- Waiting: This is the most agonizing part. Every day or two, take your mix out and give it a shake. After a few days, you’ll notice a white cloudiness in your mixture. Don’t worry, it’s not gone rotten on you. That’s the cacao butter. How long do you wait? Give it at least two weeks.
- Straining: After two weeks, take out your now brown liquid and strain out the nibs and vanilla beans using a coffee filter (or a few layers of cheesecloth if you so choose). Now you have super-powered chocolate liquor! Time to make it a little more drinkable.
- Sweetening: Your choice: either combine the water and sugar on the stove to dissolve the sugar, then cool; or combine in a microwave and heat them up until the sugar melts. Once your simple syrup is cool, add it to your newly strained liquor.
- Bottling: At this point, you have crème de cacao! Congratulations. Take your newly created drink and put it into the long-term vessel of your choice. We went with a couple of simple 750ml bottles. Once everything is bottled, let it rest for a day or two before you drink it. It’s the final rest that helps the syrup and the booze become fast friends and mature in flavor.
Congratulations, you’ve made crème de cacao! Your friends are already envious of you (I can tell). As far as long-term storage is concerned, I like to keep mine in the fridge. As it’s plenty alcoholic, you can reasonably keep this on the counter if you really want to, it shouldn’t go bad. However, that’s not my preference.
After a few days, you might notice that there’s a white, milky substance that’s still in your decanted and strained cacao — don’t worry, that’s just a little bit of the lingering cacao butter. That’s just a sign that you made it yourself and some of the quality ingredients are still in there. It’s called crème de cacao, there should be a little cacao butter in there.
As far as the math is concerned, here’s some for you nerds out there. We have 1,500ml of booze, 473ml of simple syrup, which if you add all together is 1,973ml total. Now, let’s take the unsweetened cacao (that’s the straight booze) and find out the percentage it is in the final volume and we get 76%. Hence, that’s our bittersweet chocolate bar! If that’s a little too bitter for you, adjust to your own taste — that’s part of the joy of making it yourself.
Finally, you might be asking how boozy this is. For that, I went over to Home Distiller and used their handy, dandy dilution calculator. If you put in the stats, diluting 1.5L of 50% alcohol down to 38% you’ll see that you need to add .474L of water (or simple syrup in our case — and wouldn’t you know it, two cups is right about 474ml!). So, our final proof is 76.
If that’s a little too strong for you, adjust your syrup. For example, if you add another cup of syrup, you’ll be down to a proof of 60. Looking for something still a little less potent? Instead of starting with 100 proof vodka, feel free to start with 80 proof.
Once all of the work is done (and really, it’s mostly just pouring and waiting), you have your very own, homemade crème de cacao! Go forth and drink your amazing chocolate libation my friend.
If you’re looking for a few chocolate cocktails to indulge your chocoholic side (I always am), then do try out an Extreme Chocolate Martini (subtle name), kick it up seven or eight notches with a Black Forest Martini (Emeril would be proud), or refresh your childhood with a Barrel Aged S’more Martini (it’ll take extra time, but it’s totally worth it — and ignore those store-bought crème de cacao pics, we had to acknowledge that some people don’t want to spend time for greatness like your or I do).