Can’t decide between chocolate and liqueur for a gift this Christmas? Why not give both? While you’re at it, you can add locally produced by a family-run Portuguese company that values sustainability and quality over quantity.
WORDS Meredith Price Levitt
For Maria Cristina Jambas, the most important aspects of a fine liqueur require two things: small quantities and superior products, such as locally sourced fleur de sel and caramel from the neighbouring region.
Unlike their large competitors who produce massive quantities of liqueur at once and then distribute this to supermarkets and stores worldwide, Chocolicor has made a conscious choice to take a different route.
“We don’t want to sell to big distributors because we find that it’s neither profitable nor environmentally friendly,” says Maria Cristina, who founded Chocolicor in 2006. She notes that while sales have grown steadily (apart from during the pandemic), the employee numbers remain small.
“There are only six people running this business, including my daughter and my sister,” she explains. “We care about our clients and our goal is to produce the highest quality liqueurs with completely original flavours and exclusive editions so there is always something new to taste.”
Indeed tastes range from ‘chocolate and whisky’ to ‘salted caramel’ to ‘red velvet cake’.
Chocolicor even created a summer liqueur with a creme de bola de berlim flavour. For those who may not know, this is a beloved Portuguese doughnut-like pastry filled with cream that is uber-popular at the beach. It’s a summertime treat that the Portuguese are crazy about. The lines at the food trucks selling these at beaches across the Algarve are infamously long.
Yet although some flavours do cater to the Portuguese, Chocolicor sells to small boutiques in Holland, Spain and France as well. In fact, although Maria Cristina was born in Portugal to Portuguese parents, she moved to France with her entire family (parents and five siblings) in 1970.
“My older sister married a French man and she was very lonely without us so she sent for the rest of the family and we all came,” explains Maria Cristina. She spent her formative years in Mussy-Sur-Seine, France, a village classified in the champagne zone and the heart of Bourgogne wine production.
At the age of 18, she returned to Portugal to attend university with a love of French, first-hand experience with champagne, fine wine and liqueur and a passion for business. After graduation, she worked with her ex-husband in a liqueur company before branching off in 2006 to form her own line of quality products.
Chocolicor never produces more than 200 litres at a time of any liqueur. Their emphasis on high-quality ingredients and artisanal production methods are what set them apart for clients.
But it wasn’t until the pandemic forced them to reconsider their products that they launched a line of premium liqueurs. Inspired by the local tradition of drinking liqueur in a glass made of chocolate, they decided upon Chocolicor to unite this regional custom and their product.
Located in the beautiful city of Caldas da Rainha, which is closely linked to the medieval town of Óbidos, this area of Portugal is known for its chocolate.
“If you serve liqueur in a chocolate glass when you taste it, you taste at first the chocolate and then all of it together,” explains Maria Cristina. People who like chocolate ask for a chocolate glass because that makes all the difference.”
For Christmas this year, they are launching a limited edition panettone flavoured liqueur (an Italian cake) that will be available until 31 January. “Most of our competitors continue to make liqueur with plants. We wanted to get away from this idea and make liqueurs that please younger people too and follow the new tastes and trends.”
How do you know if you’ll like it? The best way, says Maria Cristina with gusto, is to taste it for yourself. No words could accurately describe the delicate sweet blend of such unusual flavours in a liqueur.
To order some for Christmas gifts or special meals, visit www.chocolicor.com
*Shipping is free in Portugal for orders of over 40€