Cooking from the Bar Cart: Bitters-and-Bourbon Chocolate Pot de Crème

A homemade Valentine’s treat for those who like a little kick with their sweet

Photo: Blueline Creative Group / Props by Katherine Tucker of Civil Stoneware

Born as a medicinal tincture to quell a lengthy list of ailments (vapors, croupe, or dropsy, anyone?), bitters evolved into a cocktail staple because they do a beautiful job of tempering overtly sweet or tangy flavors, or adding a subtle, nuanced note to a drink. Beyond the medicine cabinet or bar cart, they deserve a place in the pantry, too. Use them as you would flavored extracts in baking or to lend an herbaceous element to soups, salad dressings, and marinades. The range of bitters on the market is broad, to say the least, so rest assured there is one out there to complement virtually any dish you can dream up.

This dark chocolate pot de crème blooms with complexity thanks to a splash of bourbon and several dashes of cherry bitters, such as Woodford Reserve’s spiced cherry bitters. If that doesn’t booze things up enough, try it with some bourbon whipped cream under the cherry on top for a Valentine’s Day dessert that beats any box of chocolates. Make this a day ahead and chill it…so you can chill until serving time.

photo: Blueline Creative Group / Props by Katherine Tucker of Civil Stoneware

See other recipes in our Cooking from the Bar Cart series.


  • Bitters-and-Bourbon Chocolate Pot de Crème (Yield: 4 servings)

    • 3 oz. dark chocolate, such as Xocolatl

    • 1 oz. unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Markham & Fitz

    • 4 egg yolks

    • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

    • ½ cup whole milk

    • 3 tbsp. sugar

    • Pinch kosher salt

    • ½ oz. bourbon

    • 2 tsp. cherry bitters, such as Woodford Reserve spiced cherry bitters

    • Bourbon whipped cream (recipe follows)

    • Shaved dark chocolate

    • Fresh cherries or Luxardo maraschino cherries


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a kitchen towel. Arrange 4 ramekins, ovenproof teacups, or small jars on top of the towel with space between each. Combine the dark chocolate and cocoa powder in a quart-size glass measuring cup or mixing bowl with a lip. Place the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Set both aside.

  2. Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, and scald by bringing to a simmer while whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the bourbon and bitters. Pour about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the chocolate and cocoa powder, and whisk until it begins to melt and form a paste. Add more hot milk, a bit at a time, until everything is combined and the mixture is smooth.

  3. Whisk the egg yolks in the mixing bowl. Vigorously whisk 1 cup of the hot liquid into the yolks ¼ cup at a time to temper the eggs. Whisk in the remaining hot liquid until everything is combined. Wipe out the measuring cup or mixing bowl and set a fine-mesh strainer on top. Pour the custard mixture through the strainer to remove any solid bits.

  4. Divide the mixture between the ramekins, teacups, or jars in the prepared baking dish. Fill the dish halfway with water and carefully transfer it to the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the custards just barely jiggle when gently shaken. Remove the cooked custards from the baking dish to a rack and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Top with bourbon whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings, and cherries to serve.

  5. For the bourbon whipped cream: Combine 1 cup cold heavy cream, 1 tbsp. bourbon, and 1 tsp. powdered sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Whisk by hand or with an electric mixer fitted on medium speed until soft peaks form. Makes 2 cups.

Katherine Cobbs is a cookbook author and editor. Her most recent books are Pantry Cocktails (2021) and Tequila & Tacos (2020) published by Simon & Schuster. She also developed recipes for Garden & Gun’s The Southerner’s Cookbook – Recipes, Wisdom, and Stories.