What’s Cookin: Choco-Love 

Renu Rao

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and we can anticipate a day filled with giving and eating chocolate. There is much confusion about the origin of Valentine’s Day and about St. Valentine, but how did this day of expressing love become synonymous with chocolate?  

According to mentalfloss.com, it may all have begun with theMayans, who started brewing drinks made from cocoa beans around500 BCE, to use during wedding rituals, when the bride and groom would exchange sips of the beverage during the ceremonyEmperor Montezuma II of the Aztec Empire consumed huge quantities of cocoa beans for their aphrodisiac potential, although scientists now say that the two ingredients associated with feelings of love and desire, tryptophan and phenylethylamine, are not present in quantities large enough to cause this desired effect. The myth, however, remains and gifts of anything chocolate are much appreciated on this day of romance. 

So, how about Valentine’s Day in the River Towns? Other than the traditional celebrations with candy, and cards professing mystery and love, and sweet nothings, are there any other pleasant digressions or influences from other continents and other civilizations?  

Natasha and her chocolate martini

I reached out to Natasha Vishnia, who grew up in St Petersburg in Russia, the erstwhile Soviet Union.  St. Valentine’s Day was not a big celebration there until about 10-15 years ago, she says, when the influence of Western culture seeped in. I asked her how Russians would celebrate Valentine’s Day with chocolate – and she replied, of course, with something like a chocolate martini. 

So, I asked Natasha to make her favorite chocolate martini and believe me, for one who does not have a sweet tooth, this was utterly delectable. Thank you, Natasha! 

Recipe for Chocolate Martini 

  • 1 and ½ oz chocolate liqueur 
  • 2 oz vodka 
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate for garnish
  • Ice cubes 
  1. Add ice cubes, vodka and chocolate liqueur to a shaker and shake vigorously, for 20-25 seconds.  
  2. Take a small dish or saucer and put the chocolate powder in it. 
  3. Take another dish and pour a bit of the chocolate liqueur in it. 
  4. Dip the rim of the cocktail glass first in the dish of cocoa powder and then in the dish of chocolate liqueur. 
  5. Pour the mixture from the shaker into the glass. Sprinkle shavings of chocolate over drink.  Sip and enjoy.  

This Valentine’s Day, let’s escape to a world of romance, far from the maddening crowds, into a dream of chocolate fantasy.  Vive l’amour! 

Renu Rao is a long-time River Towns resident who finds cooking therapeutic for the soul and believes eating right is the pathway to wellness. 

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