Drunken Desserts

Local restaurants add special sauce to their dessert menus

Beer, wine and liquor aren't just for drinking.

For ages, chefs and restaurateurs have realized the benefits of whipping up lavish sweet concoctions with alcohol. The spirits help improve a tasty treat's flavor in two important ways: alcohol evaporation and molecular bonding.

More specifically – and less scientifically – alcohol helps to enhance the overall taste of the dish by concentrating flavors, and the alcohol’s evaporation carries aromas to our noses and taste buds.

A number of local restaurants have learned the science of cooking with alcohol and have turned this knowledge into some extremely appealing fare.

The Suisse Shop and Bakery off polaris Parkway knows flavor. With dozens of varieties of tortes, cupcakes, cakes and cheesecakes, the bakery – open in central Ohio for 29 years, eight of them in the Polaris area – knows what to do with liquor. One of its bestsellers is the Irish Cream Torte, which features a fluffy chocolate cake smothered in Bailey’s Irish Cream-flavored buttercream frosting. The bakery also uses liqueurs like Frangelico, Kahlua and amaretto to enhance its cheesecakes.

Le Chocoholique in the Short North has an overwhelming array of chocolates and chocolate desserts, and a sizable chunk of its menu is inspired by favorite spirits. Owner Monica Barr loves to play with flavors until she gets the right mix. "It's trial and error, " she says. Some of the chocolatier's favorites include the Margarita Cocktail, the Limoncello Espresso, the Absinthe Truffle and the Maker's Mark Cocktail Cup. Barr comes up with new flavors all the time, especially for special occasion, such as a recent Crown Royal Whiskey event.

Larry MacDonald, executive chef at Cap City fine Diner in Grandview Heights, knows he doesn't have to look far for new piquancy in his creations. The restaurant's Warm banana Bread Pudding features a caramelized banana in bourbon sauce, made simply of butter, suger, water, eggs and, of course, bourbon. The favorite has been on the menu for almost 10 years, says MacDonald. "I look for different flavors," he says. "You look out into the bar, and flavors are all over."

A heavy stout might not be the first ingredient you’d guess is in a light, airy dessert like a mousse, but Darla Loflin, executive chef at Barley’s Smokehouse near Grandview, knows the secret. The restaurant/brewery’s Chocolate Stout Mousse is whipped to perfection with a bit of the in-house Pint O’ Joe Stout. The coffee flavor helps intensify the chocolate in the mousse, which leaves you with the distinctive tang of hops, Loflin says. “It gives something normal, like mousse, a new twist.”