Slightly sour, light, uncloying: those aren't words I'd normally use to describe a chocolate-based cocktail. But this drink, inspired by a shot of pure cacao pulp puree that I drank at a chocolate workshop here in New York, hits all of those notes. It's what I imagine a chocolate bar would taste like if it were somehow also a tropical fruit, and that's not an accident: cacao pulp is the "fruit" of the cacao plant, the succulent flesh that surrounds cocoa beans in the pod. It's a relatively under-the-radar ingredient, a byproduct of the standard chocolate-making process that needs to be removed before we can get at the beans that make up what we think of as chocolate. But its flavors are worth paying attention to, with notes reminiscent of lychee, pear, and melon.
In this cocktail, cacao pulp puree meets the complementary flavors of Brazilian cachaça, a spirit made from distilled sugarcane juice. With some lemon juice for tartness and a splash of sparkling wine to lighten it up, it's a perfectly unexpected starter for a South American-inspired meal, or a great surprise for the chocolate lover in your life.