Looking to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit and shake off cabin fever? The state’s tourism department would suggest checking out the martini and chocolate creations found on its official tour of sweets and drinks.
The Chocolate and Martini Tour was developed by the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development a few years ago to highlight restaurants specializing in one or both of these indulgences.
“Some places even offer chocolate martinis,” said Tai Freligh, communications manager of the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development. “The thought was that it would be a great idea to do sort of a pub crawl but with martinis.”
The tour is one of the Taste New Hampshire itineraries described at visitnh.gov, along with the Brewery Map and the Wine and Cheese Trails. Freligh said he and the staff at the division of travel and tourism are always collecting updates for all the tours.
Starting with the seacoast, highlights of the trip are the Molten Chocolate Cake at Roosevelt’s at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle and the Espresso Hazelnut Martini at Green Monkey in downtown Portsmouth. The tour then takes you to the Queen City to sip martinis at Cotton and sample Swiss fudge at Van Otis Chocolates before steering you to the western half of the state for chocolate mice at L.A. Burdick in Walpole, martinis at the nearby Walpole Inn and whoopie pies at Bellows House Bakery. The tour wraps up with a stop at Twenty One Bar & Grill in Keene, where the courageous cocktail drinker can order a Dirty Pickle Martini (a dirty vodka or gin martini made with pickle juice instead of olive brine) and, finally, one last chocolate tasting at Unbridled Chocolates in Marlborough.
Freligh said martini consumption is recommended in moderation, especially because the tour calls for travel by motor vehicle (according to Google maps, the trip listed above would clock in at around 165 miles).
“Rather than try to hit all of the stops in one day and get yourself in trouble, pick one or two out,” Freligh suggested.
Some of the stops off the beaten path include Swan Chocolates in Merrimack (try the hot chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered potato chips), Chutters in Littleton (reputed to be home of the world’s longest candy counter — try the chocolate-covered s’mores), Ava Marie Chocolates in Peterborough (chili pepper and red wine truffles are among their specialties) and Kellerhaus in Laconia (New Hampshire’s oldest candy and ice cream maker; try the chocolate-covered marshmallows and cherry cordials).
Freligh suggested keeping a copy of the map in the glovebox of your car as a reference guide so, for instance, “when you’re in Manchester you can say, ‘Let’s check out Cotton and have a martini tonight.’”
Peaches Paige, of Cotton, said she sees many diners visit the millyard restaurant as part of the Chocolate and Martini Tour, some from as far away as Montreal.
“It’s great for chocolate-lovers … and I think more people like chocolate than not,” Paige said of the tour, noting that many people opt to get their chocolate and their martini in one stop by ordering the popular Chocolate Martini (made with white Crème de Cacao, Bailey’s and Kahlua) at the eatery. She also suggests tour-goers try the Espresso and Tiramisu martinis. Cotton always has a chocolatey dessert on the menu. Right now, diners can enjoy a decadent old-fashioned fudge brownie sundae, Paige said.
Lakisha Jones, floor manager at Van Otis Chocolates in Manchester, said she has never had a customer identify himself as a tour participant during her seven years at the shop but she would advise them to try the treat that put Van Otis on the map — the Swiss fudge — and other popular items such as Chocolate-covered Oreos, Twinkies and Devil Dogs, and cordials made with local wine from Zorvino Vineyards and brandy.
Freligh noted that “anytime you’re included on a statewide type of thing it can only be a boost for you.”
“Part of it is just getting the word out,” Freligh said. “People might not think that New Hampshire has great martinis.”