The crème de cacaos of the mid-19th century were meant to be consumed on their own, and despite their sweetness (their sugary viscosity, not the addition of dairy, is what earned them the “crème” moniker) balance was paramount. But as 20th-century cocktail culture swaggered in, the spotlight shifted to base spirits (whiskey, gin, etc.) and liqueurs went from stand-alone sippers to mere mixers. Thus, producers of liqueurs like crème allowed standards to wane—favoring higher levels sugar over nuance and relying on artificial coloring and oil extracts instead of actual cacao.
But now, crème de cacao is seeing revival thanks to bars and bartenders making their own housemade versions that balance nuanced sweetness with the bitter beauty of chocolate. This rum-based recipe comes from Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon.