Just in case you were looking for an excuse to eat decadent treats between the holidays and Valentine’s Day, chocolatiers across the country are offering a sweet and boozy way to celebrate Burns Night.
The holiday, which is tonight and commemorates the 1759 birth of legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns, usually involves copious amounts of Scotch, bagpipe music and the historic (and often derided) dish haggis. Why all the hoopla? Well, Burns is a pretty big deal in Scotland, responsible for writing the New Year’s Eve favorite “Auld Lang Syne,” among other classics. (You can read more about the traditional Burns Night festivities in this fine piece by Max Watman.)
But if haggis isn’t in the cards for tonight’s dinner (or Celtic music either, for that matter), chocolate and Scotch is perhaps a more appetizing way to observe the occasion. While it might sound like a bit of a strange pairing, the two delicacies work deliciously well together. It’s not unusual to find small pieces of chocolate offered at whisky tastings, which makes sense since both edibles are often described using similar jargon and tend toward fruity, nutty and smoky notes.
Legendary Belgian chocolatier Neuhaus makes trying this combination easy with its aptly named When Neuhaus Meets Single Malt Whisky Luxury Gift Box ($90). The collection includes 24 pralines and 60 chocolate squares picked with the help of French dining guide Gault&Millau and is designed to be enjoyed with two different single malts: peaty and dense Bowmore 15-Year-Old Darkest or light and fruity Auchentoshan Three Wood. (The chocolates can also be paired with rum, sherry, Cognac, red wine or port if you prefer.)
East Coast institution L.A. Burdick Chocolate offers a limited-edition Robert Burns Whisky Collection ($42). You get 36 truffles and bonbons made with an actual wee dram of Scotch. I particularly like the Macallan Bonbon, that combines the whisky with dark chocolate ganache and pistachio marzipan. While you can certainly taste the single malt in these confections, the alcohol doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. Just don’t delay—Burdick is only selling this special spirited treat through February 3.
But even after Burns Night ends, I would encourage you to continue to experiment with mixing liquor and chocolates and other desserts. In that spirit, if you happen to be in Chicago, head to the Vosges Haut-Chocolat shop on Armitage Avenue. There you can enjoy pairings ($9 each) of a range of confections with different types of alcohol from local craft distiller Koval, including blood-orange-and-hibiscus caramels with Koval Rye Single Barrel Whiskey. And if you want to really try something different, take a chance on the cardamom-and-rose caramel matched with a glass of Koval Dry Gin.
So whether you choose to celebrate Burns Night with chocolate or haggis, I hope you’ll join me in a toast—with Scotch, of course—made to the national poet of Scotland. Sláinte Mhaith!