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Restore harmony with nature, and celebrate rituals to slow down the modern pace of life with this nourishing potion of dark Criollo chocolate, Hungarian “Noble Sweet” smoked paprika and beetroot juice. Complex, with a delicate elegance, this elixir is strengthened by cachaca (a Brazilian liqueur) and vodka while softly lifted by citrus elements. Theobroma: Cocktail of the gods?

20 servings


2/3 ounce of paprika-cachaca mix (see below)
3 1/3 ounces of single variety Criollo dark chocolate (recommended cultivars: Chuao or Porcelana)
12 ounces of beetroot juice (recommended: organic; about one large beetroot)
3 1/3 ounces of citrus-flavored vodka
1/3 ounce of caramel syrup

Paprika-cachaca mix:
1 1/2 ounces of cachaca (Brazilian liqueur; can substitute Havana Club rum if necessary)
1 teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika (recommended cultivar: Hungarian “noble sweet”)

Total: about 2 ounces per pair of serving (guide for glassware)


Electric Juicer
Metal (stainless steel) bowl for bain-marie
Utility knife and chopping board
Fine strainer
Jug or juice container
Glass bottle (perhaps reused from finished spirits, at least 25 ounces in capacity)
At least a pair of shot glasses (1 ounce), for service


Chill the glassware till ready for use.

Prepare the chocolate and paprika-cachaca mix:
Chop up the chocolate into smaller pieces and place into the metal bowl. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie on low fire. Mix the melted chocolate with equal amounts of the citrus-flavored vodka. Using a funnel, place the required portions into the glass bottle.

For the paprika-cachaca mix, follow the recipe and simply stir the mixture together. Add this into the glass bottle too.

Prepare the beetroot juice:
Skin and wash the beetroot prior to juicing, and using the fine strainer, filter at least twice into a jug. Measure the required amount into the glass bottle. Cap tightly and give it a few good shakes. Refrigerate in the coldest section of the refrigerator for at least half a day.

Give another good shake right before serving. Pour into the shot glass, and serve straight up. Serve immediately.

[Mixologist’s notes: 1 ounce is equivalent to 30 milliliter (ml), 1/3 ounce is equivalent to 10 milliliter (ml); 1 teaspoon is equivalent to 5 milliliters (ml).]


Take note of the beetroot flavor once juiced – if it is very sweet, then reduce amount of caramel syrup in the recipe.

If the earthy aroma of the beetroot is too heavy, like in the “Chioggia” cultivars, select others like the “Detroit Dark Red.”

Photo and recipe by Damian Sim

This month’s theme seemed relatively broad (peppers & spinach) compared with previous months. Like Christopher Columbus, I was confused about the two different kinds (genus) of peppers: the capsicum ones and the peppercorn types. He had named the capsicum he encountered in the Caribbean ‘peppers’ because their taste was similar to the Old World peppers.

As I am personally not a great lover of spinach, however, peppers seemed to be the natural direction to take. Nothing was of particular interest until I learned about the traditional Hungarian smoked paprika. Imagine a ‘burn’ from the chile pepper rounded by the distinct smoky flavor from slow oak smoking, which can range from hot to sweet. I found the subtle sweet style (Hungarian “noble sweet”) most suitable for my inspired recipe design – dark chocolate with smoked paprika and beetroot.

Theobroma was the ancient name given to cacao, meaning food of the gods, which I adopted as the title of this cocktail design. The ancient Mayan cocoa elixirs were spiced, so my concept could also be interpreted as a modern interpretation of this ancient beverage. The Mayans’ ancestors, the Olmec, were the first to eat cacao around 600BC.

The Criollo (translated as ‘native birth’) cacao beans were the very same ones cultivated by the Mayans from these lands (Venezuela) more than a millennia ago, and my choice was to use the very finest available – either the Chuao or Porcelana. These varieties offer intense complexity, yet delicate elegance at the same time.

Cachaca (an ‘agricultural’ style of rum), also born of these lands (Brazil), was a natural earthy complement to the other ingredients. The beetroot juice – yes, another aphrodisiac! – has a unique scent of the earth, reminiscent of the ‘smell of rain’. It is evocative of nature and of ancient cultures with deep reverence for the earth, much like the Mayans. The latter were well known for their blood sacrifices; and incidentally, beetroot juice with its dark crimson hue has been associated with human blood since ancient times.

Caramel syrup was the chosen sweetener to add a richer feel to the cocktail, while citrus-flavored vodka gave it added potency and a contemporary understated lift to the other predominantly heavier elements.

Cooled in the fridge to prevent the dilution due to the common cocktail chilling methods, this elixir introduces a warm spirit burn followed by a balanced richness that is much lighter than it looks. A complex flavor with an unexpected, gentle ‘burn’ in the throat follows, and the refreshing earthy aroma adds a complementary touch with a long finish on the palate.

Theobroma: a nourishing blood-maroon potion to evoke harmony with nature, and a toast to slowing down the modern pace of life.

Photo and recipe: Damian Sim

This recipe was originally published on The Gilded Fork in 2007.


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