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The cookie made me do it: Chocolate and Chai infused Rye Whiskey Liqueur

Posted on by Eric Burke

I have a new way of drinking my tea. 

“Your tea?” You may ask. 

Well, yes. But I wouldn’t bring it up if it weren’t pertinent. 

Every Christmas one of my coworkers makes a chocolate chai cookie. It is delightful and honestly one of the highlights of the holiday season. The first time I tried it, I thought to myself that it would feel even more decadent if it were also alcoholic. So I set out to figure out how to create it. 

Being me, I have a lot of whiskey on hand. Some of it amazingly high proof (high proof being better for infusing than low proof, think the difference between making tea using hot water and cold water). So having a lot of suitable whiskey on hand, I decided that it would need a whiskey base. But bourbon or rye? I ended up choosing rye for two reasons. One, I had a high proof rye that was a bit young that I wasn’t enjoying neat. And two, I thought rye flavors would play nicely with the chocolate I was planning on using. 

So I started with 1.5 cups of Rye whiskey, I used Willett distilled 2 year old rye because it was really high proof and relatively replaceable. You never know what is going to come of infusing so using something that you can't buy again isn't recommended. I added 4.5 tablespoons of loose chai tea blend to an infusing bag and let that steep for two hours. Buy a good loose tea (not powder) that you'd like to drink on it's own. I bought Reena's Chai from local tea vendor TeaSource. 

The chai infused rye was really spicy and very bitter at this point. It might have worked nice in a cocktail as a substitute for bitters...I might need to remember that idea. After removing the tea, I added the cacao nibs. About half a cup. I then let that sit for three days.

After three days, strain out the cacao nibs. Let it drain really well. Between the tea, the nibs and the tastings, I lost about half a cup of liquid by this point even though I thought I was squeezing everything really well. If you taste again at this point you will be convinced that what we have made is a bitter mess. A high proof bitter mess that's also really spicy. Think of it, tea and unsweetened chocolate. Yeah. Come to think of it, maybe this would make a better bitters...

So what counteracts bitterness? SUGAR!!! (though a little salt wouldn't have hurt either, but I just thought of that...) I dissolved half a cup of organic sugar into 3/8 of a cup of water. By my back-of-a-napkin calculations, this should bring it down below 80 proof, a nice gentle spot for a liqueur. Add that to the infused whiskey, give it a shake and you get a nice frothy liquid in your jar.

But one thing was missing. The taste is right, the smell is right, but the mouth feel is off. This is a chai tea inspired drink, even if it did travel down the inspiration road through cookie town. One of the best ways to enjoy chai is with milk. And so I tried that. I went 2 ounces of the liqueur and 1 ounce of the milk. 

It was very good. Creamy, chocolaty, spicy. Not too sweet but sweet enough to bring out the flavors of all the ingredients. I think this one is a winner.

Chocolate and Chai Rye whiskey liqueur

  • 1.5 cups rye whiskey (the high the proof the better)
  • 4.5 tbsp loose chai blend tea
  • 0.5 cup Cacao nibs
  • 0.5 cup sugar
  • .375 cup water

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