Here's a sight to gladden the heart – or possibly stop it. This is one of the well-stocked ingredients shelves at Cocoadance, the Peak District chocolate-maker featured in a recent Hale and Hearty post.
There wasn't time to talk drink then, perhaps because I wasn't doing the writing. But Cocoadance returned to mind after a weekend celebration that involved, among other things, a skittles marathon, some old-school desserts, this marvellous cake and much West Country beer. Chocolate and what might generously be called the more refined tipples didn't get a look in, which is probably par for a birthday bash in honour of two merry widowers with a combined age of 150.
It wasn't always this way. Samuel Pepys was apparently as devoted to the restorative powers of drinking chocolate – at the height of its imperial period as medicinal marvel – as he was to the transformative powers of drinking colossal quantities of what might generously be called port. The best part of two centuries passed before Fry's sold the first bar, at which point finding a preservative became paramount. And so began the journey that brought booze to soft centres.
Most of the bottles in Cocoadance's stash contain culinary alcohol. These are super-proof bottles of popular brands, prized for their familiar taste and practical potency, plus the odd wildcard: that Lajita is a hefty mezcal, complete with worm.
The daddy of the set, though, is the plastic pot far right. It might look like something sold alongside the charcoal briquettes on a petrol station forecourt, but this is Etilfrutto: a formulation supplied by industry wholesalers Keylink. It's flavourless, it's colourless, and it's 80% ABV. Not one for the vicar, then, but more than enough to get a chocaholics' party started. Even if you are better off with the finest ale known to man.