Take Your Chocolate Martini To The Next Level With Vanilla Vodka

Martini purists beware: A velvety rich take on the classic martini is making its rounds on the bar menu, and it involves a deeper connection between chocolate and vanilla. Though journalist H.L. Mencken called the martini "as perfect as a sonnet," people across the globe insist on improving it with a little twist or two. In this case, the twist is perhaps not so little. Judge for yourself whether it deserves a place on your best-of cocktail list or gets tucked into a "someday, maybe" category. 

As dessert cocktails go, the chocolate martini holds a high head over more syrupy-sweet alterations on the bar-favorite, vodka-fueled drink. As with all-things-tasty, ingredients make the spirit world go 'round. The chocolate must be prime, whether inside a liqueur, shaved atop the martini, or dusting the rim of the requisite fancy glass. 

But this take on the chocolate martini inches toward excellence, as long as you know how to use vanilla — as in vanilla vodka. You can certainly buy commercially produced vanilla vodka in a bottle, but some brands can be overly sweet with an artificial tinge, and you lose the ability to control the flavor levels to taste. For the ultimate specialty martini, you might want to infuse your own vodka.

Choose quality vanilla beans

Since vanilla extract is made with alcohol anyway, it's arguably the obvious complement to a martini. When adding the chocolate element, you might slip into cocktail heaven. If you want to take things to the next martini level, spend some time and care mixing the vanilla, chocolate, and vodka.

First, you don't want to create a chocolate martini and then just dash some commercial vanilla extract into the glass, even if it's a premium version like Madagascar bourbon, Tahitian, or pure Mexican. In this case, going for truly purist ingredients and practices means directly infusing a bottle of vodka with fresh vanilla beans.

It's not as complicated as it sounds, but you do need to choose a high-quality vanilla bean pod. Difford's Guide provides some insight, explaining that a pod measuring about six inches long is considered a second-grade pod and is sufficient for vodka infusion. It contains thousands of little beans bursting with flavor and only takes a single pod.

Slice the vanilla bean, infuse your vodka, and pour it up

Now comes the fun part. Using a small, sharp knife, make a prick in the seam of the vanilla and carefully slice it lengthwise. Avoid cutting all the way through the bean and spilling the seeds — they'll be doing their magic in your vodka bottle very soon. Simply slide the split vanilla bean into your bottle of vodka, screw the top back on, and let that fresh vanilla essence seep into the vodka for up to a week. Be sure to shake it periodically, preferably several times a day, to mix the flavor throughout the batch.

When your vodka is sufficiently infused with rich vanilla flavor, sift the now golden-colored liquid into a new, clean bottle with a tight-fitting closure. After you've made your fresh vanilla-infused vodka, this means you can tackle the chocolate martini. Using a ratio of 1:1:1, pour equal parts of your new vanilla vodka, chocolate liqueur, and a creamy liqueur like Bailey's Irish Cream into a cocktail shaker. Shake (not stir!) the ingredients to ensure the creamier ones don't sleep at the bottom.

With these steps and patience involved, you may want to pour it into a see-through glass to highlight your work of art. Dust the rim with chocolate powder, fill it up, and top it with shaved or grated bits of dark chocolate. Now you can sip every bit of that creamy chocolate-vanilla lusciousness — you've earned it.