This Valentine’s Day, skip the flowers and go straight to mezcal and chocolate
By now it is no surprise that chocolate and mezcal go well together, and if you’ve ever heard me talk about it, you also know that my favorite kind of mezcal to pair with chocolate is made from Tepeztate. The naturally harmonious combination between the bright, spicy, and fragrant characters of Tepeztate with richly layered roasted chocolate was introduced to me by various people in Oaxaca over a decade ago, and it has proven successful time and time again. And while I consider Valentine’s Day to be an antiquated tradition rooted in a culture that I do not participate in, to put it diplomatically, I am not one to argue against any excuse for chocolate. So to those similarly inclined chocoholics, this is one way to create an even more enjoyable experience. It also doesn’t hurt that the aphrodisiac qualities of both mezcal and chocolate seem to enhance each other exponentially- a tip that comes in handy anytime of year!
Macurichos Mezcal is one of a few producer owned brands from Santiago Matatlan, Oaxaca in the US market that is proudly carrying on a generations long tradition of making mezcal. As such, their lineup is ideal for experiencing artisanal flavors from experienced hands and traditions. Their Tepeztate can be considered a benchmark example of the variety, showing layers of complexity that offer many points of entry for pairing with other flavors. The notes of lush green vegetation at the core have offshoots of fruity berries, crisp sweet garden vegetables, piquant spice, and a toasted chocolate flavor that are all effortlessly in harmony. The mezcal in and of itself is a full flavored experience.
Similar to great mezcal, great chocolate is rarely improved by mixing other things into it. Also similar to mezcal, there are other considerations when shopping for a high quality product, like where it comes from, how it is produced, and who is involved in that process. Always opt for fair trade products at the very least- but just like finding a good brand of mezcal takes some research, it’s a good idea to do some background investigation on a brand to make sure they are not reliant on slave labor or environmental exploitation to make their product. Aside from the ethical concerns, the best tasting and healthiest products are almost always the ones with the best practices for humans, other species, and planets. Buying artisan chocolate from Central or South America directly is ideal if accessible. Here in the United States two brands that have become staples for me are Tony’s Chocoloneley and Alter Eco.
To experience the full splendor of Macurichos Tepeztate with chocolate, I suggest creating a sampler plate of chocolates. This can be made up of a variety of brands, or different flavors from one brand, or my personal favorite- a box of fancy chocolates from a local chocolatier if you have one in your area. A personal favorite is a sampler from Lagustu’s Luscious, which ships nationwide. When putting together a sampling go for at least 3 different varieties, and try to vary the cacao content between at least two of the chocolates. I almost never go below 68% cacao when pairing with mezcal, and have even tried unsweetened 100% cacao chocolate which is a savory and (nicely) bitter experience that works quite well if you’re brave enough. Including flavored chocolate confections is also nice, though I would recommend sticking to flavors that are tart, citrusy, nutty, or savory like raspberry, orange, tahini, or salted caramel rather than overly sweet options like nougat or marshmallow. Whatever you decide, having a variety of flavors will highlight the different characteristics of mezcal.