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Drinking Habits

The Risks Behind Chocolate Liquors

May 6, 2024
22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
May 6, 2024
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
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Chocolate Liquor: In Spite of the Name, It Won’t Get You Drunk

  • Chocolate liquor is a paste of ground chocolate nibs that forms the base of many types of chocolate produced from cacao beans. While it doesn’t contain alcohol, it can sometimes confuse those trying to cut back or quit. 

  • You can stay on track by knowing the difference between chocolate liquor and chocolate liqueur and steering clear of alcohol-infused chocolate. 

  • Reframe can give you science-backed tips to stay on track with your alcohol journey while avoiding sugar cravings and other urges that might derail your progress.

If you look at the ingredients in just about any chocolate treat, you might be surprised to find “chocolate liquor” on the list. If you’re trying to cut back on alcohol (or quit altogether), this might give you pause. Is chocolate liquor alcohol? What is chocolate liquor made of? And should we really be handing it out to kids by the bagful on Halloween? To put your mind at ease: no, chocolate liquor doesn’t have alcohol. But, as it turns out, there’s more to the story.

What Is Chocolate Liquor?

Two martini glasses filled with chocolate liquor, garnished with mint leaves and coffee beans

First things first: does chocolate liquor have alcohol in it? In spite of what the name might suggest — no, it doesn’t. The only thing it has in common with liquor is that both are liquids. And while both can lure us into troubled waters, it happens for very different reasons. 

So, what is chocolate liquor? It’s a thick, gooey paste of ground cocoa beans composed of equal parts of cocoa solids and cocoa butter that separate during the processing of cocoa nibs from the Theobroma cacao tree. Most cocoa trees grow in Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, West Indies, and the coast of Africa West. 

This “liquor” is then made into cocoa powder and combined with sugar, more cocoa butter, and sometimes milk to form the base of the chocolate we all know and love. Why the confusing name? As it turns out, it’s a relic of the linguistic past when “liquor” simply referred to any fluid. 

So, to put the question to rest, is chocolate liquor alcohol? No. It’s simply the basic material for making any type of chocolate.

What Is Chocolate Liquor Made Of?

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper to see what chocolate liquor is all about.

The main ingredient is, of course, the cocoa bean. Nibs of cocoa bean are ground into a paste, releasing cocoa solids and cocoa butter to form a thick, gooey mass. It can then be solidified into a block at room temperature or made into a powder.

According to, after the nibs are ground into a paste of chocolate liquor, they’re sometimes processed with alkali to make so-called "Dutch cocoa.” This flavorful variety of chocolate liquor is less acidic and makes for a great cooking and baking ingredient. It tends to be darker in color and has an earthy, nutty flavor perfect for brownies and other baked goods. (Anyone reaching for the pantry yet?)

Is Chocolate Liquor Vegan?

Yes, chocolate liquor is vegan. With ground cocoa nibs as the only ingredient, it doesn’t call for any animal products to be added to the mix.

That said, other ingredients in the final chocolate product might not be vegan, so it makes sense to always check the label. Any additions — milk, honey, caramel chunks, cream cheese, or any number of other ingredients in our favorite treats — often take chocolate out of the vegan category. 

Is Chocolate Liquor Gluten-Free?

Yes, chocolate liquor is naturally gluten-free. However, once again, components such as sugar or emulsifiers might be added during the production process to enhance the sweetness, make the texture smoother, or improve overall stability. These ingredients are not always gluten-free, so, to be really sure, we need to check with the manufacturer.

Is Chocolate Liquor Healthy?

On its own, there’s nothing particularly unhealthy about chocolate liquor. Remember that chocolate liquor is made of cacao nibs — which have a ton of benefits!

What’s so great about cacao nibs? Here’s an overview:

  • They’re rich in antioxidants. Research shows that cocoa is richer in antioxidants than most other foods! In particular, flavonoids such as catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins — polyphenol compounds found in many fruits and vegetables — provide the most antioxidant benefits.
  • They provide heart benefits. One of the main science-backed benefits of cocoa nibs (and cocoa in general) has to do with the heart. By improving the levels of nitric oxide in the blood, cocoa reduces blood pressure, improves circulation and metabolism of lipids and glucose, and reduces platelet aggregation. The result? A lower risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • They might protect the brain. Polyphenols in cocoa help increase blood flow to the brain, improving mental performance and serving as a guard against neurodegenerative disease.
  • They give the immune system a boost. The anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa boost immune function and help protect us from infections.
  • They improve our mood. Studies show that dark chocolate in particular lowers the risk of depression.

Of course, too much of anything is bad news. In a famous storyline on the TV show Brooklyn 99,  Sergeant Terry got hooked on cacao nibs and lost his famous chiseled physique for an entire episode. If it can happen to Terry, it can happen to anyone!

It’s also important to note that chocolate liquor is used in a ton of different products, not all of which are equally healthy. While the chocolate nibs themselves (and cocoa powder that chocolate liquor is made into) have the most benefits, many other forms end up being highly processed and loaded with sugar and other additives. Needless to say, many of the benefits end up falling by the wayside as a result. Let’s explore some of the key differences between chocolate at these two very different stages.

Chocolate Liquor vs. Chocolate

While chocolate liquor and chocolate both consist of cocoa as the main component, the two have some key differences.

  • Chocolate contains extra ingredients. There’s nothing but cocoa beans (in the form of ground nibs) in chocolate liquor — that’s it. Chocolate, on the other hand, has all kinds of extra bits in it: sugar, additional cocoa butter, milk (sometimes), emulsifiers such as soy lecithin, and, sometimes, flavorings or additives such as nuts or fruit. Just check the label of any chocolate bar — even the “all-natural” kinds will have all kinds of additional items on the ingredients list. 
  • Chocolate liquor isn’t the “end product:” Nobody guzzles chocolate liquor with a cookie. Instead, it’s made to serve as a base for the final product — chocolate. Depending on what that product is, chocolate liquor might be made into a powder or combined with extra ingredients mentioned earlier. Chocolate, in turn, is meant to be eaten (as most of us know from experience!).
  • There are lots of varieties of chocolate. With chocolate liquor, what you see is what you get. Chocolate, on the other hand, comes in three basic varieties. The dark one includes sugar, extra cocoa butter, and vanilla; the milk one has powdered or condensed milk; and the white one has cocoa butter but no cocoa solids. 

Finally, if we’re wondering what chocolate liquor would taste like by itself, it’s not like eating cookie dough before it’s made into a baked cookie. It’s basically liquid chocolate — too bitter to satisfy that chocolate craving (there’s a reason tasty chocolate products have so many additives!). So, while the nibs are pretty good to snack on (as long as we don’t overdo it), the liquid form probably isn’t worth trying.

Chocolate Liquor vs. Chocolate Liqueur

Now this is a pair we don’t want to get confused, especially if we’re trying to reduce our alcohol intake. While chocolate liquor is booze-free, chocolate liqueur is an entirely different story. It does have alcohol and poses some additional risks. Here’s the gist:

  • Chocolate liqueur has a moderately high alcohol content. Some chocolate liqueurs contain as much as 16% ABV (alcohol by volume). Others are lower, but since they’re usually mixed with other types of alcohol, we can end up with a very strong drink.
  • Chocolate liqueur is high in calories. If alcohol is an empty calorie bomb, this version is an all-out nutritional catastrophe. Granted, it’s not meant to be chugged and not meant to be a replacement for your daily glass of milk. One shot of Godiva chocolate cream liqueur has about 125 calories. However, a mixed drink made with it can easily set us back about 450 calories or more. And a Mudslide? About 556 calories (a bit more than a large fries from McDonald’s!).
  • The taste has a masking effect. Moreover, that sweet and innocent taste that makes us think of chocolate Easter bunnies and Hershey’s Kisses can mask what’s actually a very potent alcoholic drink. The result? We might end up drinking a lot more than we realize.
  • Sugar and alcohol are a troublesome mix. Moreover, the combination of alcohol and sugar carries its own risks. For one thing, both trigger dopamine release, making the chocolate martini in front of us that much more enticing. Both can also wreak havoc on our metabolism over time.

What a difference a couple of vowels can make!

Tips To Stay on the Safe Side of Sweetness

The Risks Behind Chocolate Liquors

While chocolate liqueur is certainly riskier than chocolate liquor, the latter isn’t without a few caveats of its own in spite of the benefits. Neither is chocolate, the final product that’s made from it. Let’s consider the main ones.

1. While Chocolate Liquor Is Alcohol-Free, Not All Chocolate Is

While all chocolate will have “chocolate liquor” in it, some could also be infused with actual liquor — the alcoholic kind. Many gourmet varieties might go this route as a way to make their brands appear fancier or more “adult” and set themselves apart from the kid-friendly types. While some will shape the chocolates into miniature edible bottles decked out with the liquor brand logo advertising the contents inside, others can be more subtle. If we’re watching our alcohol intake, always check the label to be sure!

That said, the amount of booze inside is pretty minimal. With typical liquor-infused chocolates, we’d need to eat at least 700 grams to go over the legal alcohol limit. In other words, most of us would probably have to eat about three or four boxes of chocolate miniatures to feel a buzz, and let’s face it, that’s more than even the most hardcore chocolate lover can handle. Still, it could be triggering for those trying to stay away from alcohol (and might be enough to trigger strong cravings if we’re sensitive to alcohol).

Even vanilla extract, another common ingredient, could pose problems for those who have misused alcohol in the past and are trying to stay away from it. In this case, the amount of alcohol is even smaller and certainly won’t get us “drunk.” Still, the mere reminder of alcohol and its flavor could serve as a trigger, landing us in dangerous waters.

2. Seeing the Word “Liquor” Could Be Confusing

Another potential “risk” related to chocolate liquor? Well, this one is more of a mind game than a physical danger. The problem is with the word “liquor” itself, which could trigger unhelpful thought patterns or cravings. It could even make some of us panic, thinking we’d just broken our sober streak, potentially leading us to a “might as well go all out”  mindset. and setting us up for a drinking binge.

3. Wait, Chocolate Can Contribute to Alcohol Cravings?

Finally, there’s the troublesome relationship between alcohol and sugar cravings. In short, both cause dopamine release and tend to go hand-in-hand, fueling one another. Moreover, because our body sees alcohol as a toxin and prioritizes breaking it down, metabolism of other nutrients takes a back seat. The result? A temporary sugar crash, leading to low blood glucose levels and sugar and carb cravings. (Midnight pizza or ice cream? We’ve all been there.) For a closer look, check out “Sugar Cravings and Alcohol: What’s the Connection?”.

Tips To Stay on the Safe Side of Sweetness

Finally, here are some tips to stay safe while navigating the world of chocolate liquors, liqueurs, and the like.

  • Read the labels carefully. Chocolate is a fun treat to enjoy in moderation, but read those labels to make sure it doesn’t have alcohol liqueur in addition to alcohol liquor. While one is booze-free, the other isn’t! Besides, while chocolate liquor doesn’t have additives such as milk or sweeteners, the final product — chocolate — usually does.
  • Be careful with chocolate liqueurs. If you’re currently drinking, tread carefully when it comes to chocolate liqueurs and other sweet concoctions. Unlike chocolate liquor, they’re loaded with alcohol and sugar. Not only do they tend to be a calorie disaster, but the sweetness can mask the taste of alcohol, leading you to drink more than you meant to.
  • Watch those cravings. Alcohol and sugar form a powerful tag team that can wreck your diet while causing more intense cravings. Both trigger dopamine release, which leaves us wanting more. Opt for a fruity mocktail instead — it will satisfy that craving in a healthy way without the hangover in the morning!

Remember, Reframe is here to help you if you’re struggling with cravings or are ready to cut back or ditch alcohol altogether!

The Sweet Things in Life

Everything is about moderation, including chocolate liquor. While it doesn’t have alcohol and has many benefits, this is only true if we opt for the varieties of chocolate that don’t have too much added sugar or other diet-busting ingredients. In the end, however, no food is inherently “bad” in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what we put in our bodies to feel and function at our best.

Summary FAQs

1. Does chocolate liquor have alcohol in it?

Despite its name, chocolate liquor does not contain alcohol. It is a thick paste made from ground cocoa beans, consisting of equal parts cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The term "liquor" in this context refers to its liquid form, not its alcohol content.

2. What is chocolate liquor made of?

Chocolate liquor is made from ground cocoa beans. When cocoa nibs from the cocoa bean are ground, they release cocoa solids and cocoa butter, forming a thick, gooey mass. This can be solidified into a block or made into powder and serves as the base material for all types of chocolate.

3. Is chocolate liquor vegan?

Yes, chocolate liquor is vegan. It is made solely from ground cocoa nibs without the addition of any animal products. However, the final chocolate product may contain non-vegan ingredients, so it's advisable to check the label.

4. Is chocolate liquor gluten-free?

Chocolate liquor itself is naturally gluten-free. However, additional ingredients added during chocolate production, such as sugar or emulsifiers, might not be. To ensure a product is gluten-free, it's best to consult with the manufacturer.

5. What's the difference between chocolate liquor and chocolate liqueur?

Chocolate liquor is non-alcoholic and made from cocoa beans, serving as the base for making chocolate. Chocolate liqueur, on the other hand, contains alcohol and is high in calories. It's important not to confuse the two, especially for those monitoring their alcohol intake.

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