Kings County Chocolate Whiskey

Kings County Distillery, the small Williamsburg, Brooklyn operation that boasts the distinction of being the first legal liquor distillery to open in New York City since Prohibition, has come up with something exceptional: chocolate whiskey.

I didn’t know I needed a chocolate whiskey until I sampled some during a tour last August of the little warehouse space Kings County calls home. We’d been sipping some of their unaged “moonshine” whiskey and sampling various barrels of their aged bourbon when Nicole Austin, one of the distillers, poured us an experimental concoction. It was incredibly delicious.

“When is this going to be sold in stores?” we all asked eagerly. They weren’t sure then, and when I checked back with Austin in November, she said they were still working out the practicality of making it in large quantities.

The chocolate whiskey is murky brown in color. It smells like dark cocoa powder with a slight alcoholic twinge and it tastes like thick, slightly bitter raw chocolate. What makes this so good is that it isn’t a liqueur; it’s 40% alcohol, unsweetened. You’ve got to shake the bottle before you pour; there’s a lot of cacao sediment in there.

They make it by taking their moonshine and infusing it with ground cacao husks—the kind sometimes used for mulch—from Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory, a nearby business with a similar upstart, artisan background. (As an aside, I’ve been eating Mast Brothers chocolate bars for a few years now. Their Brooklyn Blend, a dark chocolate containing 73% cacao, is my favorite.) Now that this product exists, I’m wondering why no one thought of it before. It’s so obvious.

Like Kings County’s other products (moonshine and bourbon), the chocolate whiskey comes in a small, 200ml flask. Like the moonshine, it’s usually sold for $19.99 a bottle. Now, 200ml is just shy of seven ounces. The way I usually pour drinks, that’s about four glasses to sip—or three if I’m pouring generously. This is very expensive stuff.

As I’ve written before, small craft distilleries like Kings County charge so much (a normal-sized bottle, 750ml, would be $75) because they’re small and they have high costs. But there are two huge downsides to this business model. First, you’ve got to convince consumers that a few amateurs in Brooklyn can make a whiskey worth $75 a bottle when some damn fine stuff comes from distillers with generations of experience for a third of the price (think Jim Beam for $20 a liter). And second, some other new local distillers, like Breuckelen Distilling in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and New York Distilling Company in Williamsburg, sell their spirits for around half the price. I’m guessing it’s a case of Kings County having zero dollars in start-up money and the others having much, much more. I love what Kings County is doing, but obviously, the pricing still rankles me.

That said, I’ve paid for four bottles of their three types of whiskey so far, and I recommend the chocolate without reservations. It’s exquisite.

It’s best sipped neat: the rich, bitter chocolate flavors are very rewarding on their own. I was going to make a simple Old Fashioned with it (two ounces of whiskey, two dashes of bitters and a sugar cube, stirred with ice), but I decided to try something else. I poured an ounce and a half of the chocolate into a mixing glass with ice and added a half ounce of a 20% abv coffee liqueur, along with two healthy dashes of Fee Brothers’ Aztec Chocolate Bitters. The coffee liqueur, I figured, would be sweet enough that a sugar cube wouldn’t be necessary. Wrong. It needed a little extra sweetening. So I broke out a teaspoon of my homemade Alderwood smoked maple syrup and stirred it again. Yowza! It was pretty damn good. The smoke, the chocolate, and the coffee, united by the spice of the bitters, was a potent combination. But I still think it’s an awful lot of work for something that tastes so good neat.

Kings County Chocolate Whiskey is available in some New York City liquor stores and online through retailers like Astor Wines & Spirits and Park Avenue Liquor Shop.

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14 Responses to Kings County Chocolate Whiskey

  1. Alicia says:

    That sounds absolutely perfect! I’m making a cocoa nib infused bourbon right now. Hopefully it will turn out half as good as this.

    • Hi Alicia, thanks for the comment. It is really tasty. But you’re right: why not try this at home? Any advice on finding cocoa nibs? What kind of bourbon are you using?

      For everyone else out there, Alicia has a blog called Boozed + Infused: http://boozedandinfused.com/.

      • Alicia says:

        Cocoa nibs are easier to find than you might think. Most high quality chocolate shops would probably carry them. I live in Portland, Oregon and there is a great chocolate shop called Cacao where I found Madagascar, organic nibs. Also in Portland, but available for online purchase is The Meadow. They have Valrhona Cocoa Nibs, and their site is: http://www.atthemeadow.com / I’m just infusing them in Jim Beam. Nothing special, but I’ve had some great infusions with Beam. I’m sure it would be even better with Makers or Woodford.

  2. Thanks, Alicia! I’m familiar with The Meadow — they have a NYC store, too. Actually, they have a make-your-own bitters class that I’ve been meaning to take. Good to know they’re a cocoa nib source too. And as for Jim Beam, I’m a big fan. It’s my go-to bourbon — I think it’s a great value and perfect for cocktails.

    By the way, that cherry infused bourbon on your blog sounds delicious! I really have to try that at home.

  3. Suzannah says:

    Any chance of buying this online? I am not a big drinker, and this stuff sounds perfect for what I like and how often I drink. I’d rather pay small, craft distilleries for beautiful whiskey.

  4. barneyabishop says:

    I gave up Chocolate for Lent but this is very tempting. Might have to buy a bottle just to have it on reserve.

    • Hey Barney — Yeah, it really is delicious. Once I tried it I couldn’t figure out why no one had done it before — that’s the genius of it. So you’re off chocolate till Easter, huh? We’ll have to make plans to share a bottle of this for mid-April.

  5. barneyabishop says:

    P.S. that make your own Bitters class sounds interesting. I can’t say I know much about them but I do want to include them in more drinks.

  6. Suzannah, glad to hear it! Please let us know what you think of it.

    • HoneyFern says:

      I must preface this review with the fact that I am not a drinker at all, so my first sip was a bit of an eye-opener.

      Once I got over that (and the ice had a wee chance to melt, I must confess), I have to say that this was DELICIOUS. Heat and essence of chocolate in the smell and the finish but no in your face chocolate (which would have ruined it ). Like hangover sex on a Sunday morning – slow, hot, comforting and slightly dangerous.

      Seems a shame to mix it with something, but I am planning some chocolate mint juleps for Derby Day and am investigating the possibility of a dried cherry Manhattan.

      Yum.

  7. Pingback: First Smell: Providence Perfume Co.’s Cocoa Tuberose | cocktails & cologne

  8. Pingback: Quick Tour: Cacao Prieto in Red Hook, Brooklyn | cocktails & cologne

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