On Angel’s Wings
By Cheré Coen | Photography courtesy of Samet Yuksekgonul
Chocolate is the perfect holiday treat, especially in cocktails.
The name says it all at The Conche restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia.
In the late 1700s, experiments with chocolate saw the quality improved after passing the chocolate through a prolonged refining process. The days-long aeration, churning and stirring through rollers eliminated unwanted substances and delivered a chocolate that was creamier and tastier.
The machine was called a Longitudinal Agitator or Longitudinal Conche, but today it’s known as a Conche.
Which is why visitors who adore cocoa visit The Conche restaurant to dine on chocolate-enhanced dishes by owner and executive chef Santosh Tiptur. But, that’s not all. The Conche also serves up decadent chocolate cocktails designed by Mixologist Samet Yuksekgonul.
“We are a chocolate-themed restaurant,” Yuksekgonul explained. “We try to incorporate chocolate into all the dishes and drinks.”
Naturally, it’s not just any chocolate. The 72-hour conching process transforms the chocolate into something velvety and delicious. And that makes all the difference in its taste, Yuksekgonul said.
“If you taste the chocolate afterwards (the conching), it’s a different experience,” said Yuksekgonul. “The flavor combinations are incredible.”
For instance, the restaurant’s short ribs are braised in red wine and chocolate, then served with sautéed crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic potato puree and greens. Scallops are crusted in cocoa nib and accompanied by tempura fried Brussel sprouts and white chocolate cauliflower puree with a pomegranate reduction and chocolate mole sauce.
Naturally, Yuksekgonul has a couple of chocolate favorites on his cocktail menu. His Soot & Rye cocktail, a twist on the Manhattan, features locally produced Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye combined with sweet vermouth, maple syrup and three bitters — Aztec Chocolate, Angostura and Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole bitters. Yuksekgonul stirs the ingredients together and stains the concoction inside a smoked vessel. Diners at the restaurant receive the cocktail, vessel and all, and pull their smoking creation out of the vessel to sip and enjoy.
“The smoke gives it a nice woodsy touch,” he explained. “To add some sweetness, we added chocolate bitters, and to balance it out, we add the mole bitters.”
The following is Yuksekgonul’s “The Fetish,” a simple cocktail to make for the holidays and one that arrives with a set of chocolate wings you can easily claim belong to an angel.
1.5 ounces 360 Double Chocolate Vodka
1 ounce strawberry syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Directions: Shake the above ingredients and strain into a martini glass. Top with strawberry foam and garnish with chocolate wings.
Note: To make the chocolate wings, melt chocolate in a microwave or double broiler. Place a small amount of melted chocolate on to a marble counter or marble piece. Brush the chocolate into the shape of wings, then let harden.