One of the best—and worst —things about the holiday season is the holiday party. With chit-chatting over nog and mandatory mingling under sometimes-forced circumstances… some might rather forego the festive soirées entirely. The unspoken rules of proper holiday party etiquette alone are enough to make even the most social people squirm.
This year, take the (reindeer) reins and host your own holiday get-together. With the help of Elana Iaciofano, a chocolate expert who has spent years honing the craft of chocolate-making at Perugina’s Scuola del Cioccolato in Italy, throw an indulgent, over-the-top, chocolate-themed party that your guests will be talking about well into the new year.
You can’t have a party without libations and lucky for us, chocolate works with a huge variety of liquors and mixes. Beer lovers will appreciate creamy chocolate stouts that highlight the complementary flavors of dark chocolate, bitter coffee and hops. Popular examples include Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate stout, 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s Madagascar Imperial Milk Stout or Samuel Adams’ Cream Stout.
If you plan to offer dessert cocktails, make sure to have crème de cacao, Irish cream or a chocolate liquor such as Godiva chocolate liqueur on hand. Each of these liquors can be used in a variety of drinks. Make a round of chocolate martinis with infusions of peanut butter, a touch of heat, or minty flavors. Fans of Mounds or Almond Joy bars can add coconut rum to any chocolate-based drink for a tropical twist. Tequila drinkers will enjoy a Mexican hot chocolate, which incorporates a mix of tequila and/or Kahlua, chocolate powder, milk and agave.
Keeping in mind that not everyone drinks alcohol, make sure to plenty have hot cocoa on deck along with some marshmallows, sprinkles, cinnamon and cocoa powder for garnish.
Pro tip: prepare chocolate dipped spoons and candy canes for extra flavorful drink stirrers.
Chocolate dessert exchange
Time to get into the spirit of giving! Have each guest bring a chocolatey gift to the party for the white elephant gift exchange. Since the night is literally full of chocolate treats, only non-edible gifts will be exchanged. Think: a gift card to a favorite sweet shop; pre-made chocolatey baking mixes for later use; chocolate flavored bath and beauty products; or even more… intimate dessert-inspired items.
Baci chocolate making
Photo courtesy of Baci Perugina
Activity time! While you might not have tasted Baci before, it’s likely you’ve seen it. Baci Perugina is an Italian chocolate bonbon, filled with milk chocolate that has been whipped and blended with chopped hazelnuts, topped with a whole hazelnut, and finally completely dipped in a dark bittersweet chocolate. Fun fact: Baci always includes a lovely, meaningful note in each confection, making it a perfect gift or a party favor to share with your guests.
After having the opportunity to attend a class at New York City’s Eataly featuring these iconic, foil-wrapped Baci—or “kisses” in English—I discovered firsthand how easy they are to make. Though you absolutely can purchase these chocolates, which just recently became available throughout the U.S., making them with your guests is a great excuse to get everyone together and interact with one another.
Hand out little boxes at the end of the activity so everyone can take their Baci home for later (if there are any left!). For a step-by-step guide on how to make Baci, click here.
Here are five pro tips from Baci Perugina expert Iaciofano:
Use a double boiler to temper the chocolate (though you can opt to microwave the chocolate at 30 second intervals to check the consistency)
When using the double boiler method, make sure the top bowl doesn’t touch the water; no one likes burnt chocolate
Remove the two center prongs of plastic forks; this will allow you to dig objects out of the melted chocolate easier
Make sure to have plenty of wax paper to lay the dipped Baci on
Set the bonbons on parchment or wax paper to dry—if you don’t, the chocolate will stick to the bottom
Photo by Chelsea Davis
Iaciofano’s personal favorite treat to make? Chocolate pizza. Take standard pizza crust, drizzle with chocolate and top with fruit, mascarpone or ricotta cheese. Super easy and great for kids, or adults that really can’t cook.
Here’s a sample menu that covers a range of savory dishes—each incorporating chocolate.
Arugula, Preserved Ham, Pickled Salted Plums, Cacao Nibs (via Bon Appètit)
Spinach Pear Salad with Chocolate Vinaigrette (via Taste of Home)
Eggplant Caponata Crostini (via Martha Stewart Living)
Pumpkin-Filled Chocolate Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter, Pears, and Hazelnuts (via Theo Chocolate)
Roasted Baby Carrots with Balsamic-Bitter Chocolate Syrup (via Theo Chocolate)
Roasted Quail, Savoy Cabbage, Blood Oranges, Fermented Chilies, Bitter Chocolate (via Bon Appètit)
Cowboy Rubbed Ribeye with Chocolate Stout Pan Sauce (via Food 52)
Cocoa-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs (via Saveur)
For proper dessert time, what’s better than savoring the decadence of chocolate with wine? Set up glasses of different wine varieties, with an accompanying chunk—or chunks—of chocolate. Sommeliers and chocolate experts agree that the wine should be sweeter than the dessert, which makes sense considering how intense desert wines can be.
With a dark chocolate, opt for a glass of Pinot Noir, which brings out the depth and richness of the chocolate. Smooth ports are always excellent to sip while eating more decadent, heavy desserts, in addition to dark chocolate. Pair white chocolate and chocolate that incorporates more acidity and fruitiness (maybe an orange-infused chocolate), with a sweeter white wine such as a Riesling. Keep in mind, these are general guidelines—the fun comes in discovering the pairings you like for yourself.
Finish the night with an impressive duo of white and milk chocolate fondue fountains. Set out a spread of fruits, cheeses, pretzels—even bacon if you want. Let your guests dip until they can dip no more.
Hailing from California, Chelsea is an inquisitive dessert enthusiast and Golden State Warriors fan. Since graduating from Columbia University, she has amassed a colorful professional background, with experiences in industries that include news production, radio, public relations & media communications. Upon realizing that her true passion revolves around traveling the world, immersing herself in new cultures and eating, she is now a full-time freelance journalist, based in New York City. Chelsea’s work has been featured on Thrillist, The Daily Meal, Yahoo! and MSN, among other nationally recognized outlets. Follow her on Instagram and her blog .