Belgium and France may be better known as chocolate destinations, but Brooklyn has several artisan chocolatiers, most of which allow you to tour the premises and sample the wares. So grab a Citi Bike, load up your Metrocard or plug these places into your car’s navigation system and explore the top chocolate destinations in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn hipsters are renowned for being laid back, but they take their chocolate seriously. Four artisan chocolate makers produce high quality chocolate in the borough, which may seem at odds with squeezing into skinny jeans and baring your tattoo encrusted abs.
So for me, a Kings County chocolate tour entails hopping on my bike. I tend to bike around my borough more than drive, but if you choose to follow this route, remember that summer is not really conducive to East Coast biking, plus the cobblestones of Red Hook wreak havoc on most bicycles (the sturdy Citi Bikes are the exception). But you burn more calories on a bike than the subway or a car, so consider your options.
Hip Granddaddy: Mast Brothers
The almost decade-old Mast Brothers is based in trendy Williamsburg, with a factory in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and branches in Los Angeles and London. Daily tours of the Navy Yard facility include sampling of the chocolate that put Brooklyn on the map. There are chocolate bars made with sheep or goat milk, one with smoked cacao beans, and of course sea salt and coffee flavored chocolate.
If you go to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, you can also check out Kings County Distillery, New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery. They make a chocolate whiskey by infusing moonshine with ground cacao bean husks from Mast Brothers. This is part of the collaborative spirit you find with Brooklyn artisans. Kings County Distillery also offers tours, and has a garden where you can sip a cocktail (not if you are driving!) or get food from one of the local food trucks
Raw Pleasure: Raaka Chocolate
Raaka Chocolate offers tours of its small factory in Red Hook. In fact, factory is stretching it. The tiny facility doesn’t even roast the cacao beans it uses in its organic, virgin chocolate, believing that the raw beans capture the essence of chocolate. The fair trade beans, sourced from farms worldwide, are ground, milled, tempered and poured into molds by a mostly bearded young staff (there are a couple of women who also work there). The results are pure chocolate, some with flavors like chai or sea salt. You can take a class here and make your own chocolate.
Although I eat dairy (and think milk chocolate is a second class citizen – don’t even get me started on white chocolate), Raaka caters to vegans; all its chocolate is vegan. It is also all soy and gluten free, Kosher, and non-GMO certified, so it hits all the Brooklyn buzzwords.
Pound the Pavement
Good Neighbors: Cacao Prieto
From here, you can walk a few blocks to Cacao Prieto, which roasts its beans, and makes excellent bourbon and chocolate rum in the attached distillery. You can get absinthe flavored chocolate bars, or ones with pistachios or hazelnuts. The single origin, organic chocolate, made from cacao grown in the Dominican Republic, employs a kind of zero waste ethos: the fermented cacao seeds used to prepare the beans for the chocolate are then used to make the spirits. Genius. And delicious.
If you aren’t biking or driving, you can also sample the spirits. We are huge fans of the Widow Jane bourbon, which is pricey, but fantastic in cocktails. The Dom Rafael Cacao Rum uses the same organic Dominican cacao as the chocolate. There is also a partnership with Brooklyn Roasting Company, a local coffee roaster, producing an exquisite coffee liqueur.
Brooklyn Newbie: Li-Lac Chocolates
Li-Lac Chocolates is a bit of an outlier, since it originated in Manhattan in 1923. But since 2014, Li-Lac has had a factory space in Brooklyn’s Industry City, the Sunset Park food laboratory and linchpin of the growing neighborhood. Li-Lac has traditional dipped chocolates and truffles. It also has milk and white chocolate – which the newer artisan chocolatiers abhor. Tours here are also for private groups only; you need at least 8 people, and no more than 20. And no kids under age 16.
And of course, there is a craft vodka distillery in the same complex, Industry City Distillery. No chocolate vodka, though. Yet.
Warning: the chocolates mentioned are addictive and expensive. Proceed at your own risk.