From our bar stools to our cocktail ingredients, everything that we source here
at Cardinal Spirits has a story. Eventually, we'll tell you all of them.
If you think they only way to enjoy our vodka is to drink it, then you've missed the corner of our menu where we offer chocolates filled with our vodka. Oh yes. It's a crazy-good idea. They're available only at the distillery and they're made just for us by Blu Boy Chocolate, a sweet little shop in downtown Bloomington that's known for hand-made gourmet chocolates and desserts, plus espresso drinks.
Some of the chocolates have patterned and hand-painted shells that are so pretty, you almost hate to take a bite — like ours, imprinted with tiny red cardinals. But you must bite, otherwise you'd miss out on superb ganache-filled chocolates scented with blood orange, jasmine and ancho chile, and hand-rolled truffles in flavors like raspberry dark-chocolate. Meanwhile, the pastry case at Blu Boy is stocked with French macarons, salted caramel brownies and layer cakes. And let's not forget the shop's signature ice cream sandwich, made with local honey ice cream.
We chatted with Dani Doyle, Blu Boy's COO, about Cardinal's specialty chocolates and more:
WITH THE CARDINAL CHOCOLATES, WHEN DOES THE VODKA COME INTO PLAY?
The vodka comes in with the ganache — the filling. Once the chocolate and heavy cream are all mixed up and you've got your traditional ganache, that's when we'll add the vodka in. There's no set ratio, it's just what tastes right.
AND CAN YOU ACTUALLY TASTE THE VODKA?
With Cardinal vodka, which has such a distinctive taste, you can definitely pick that up. And it makes the ganache a little more soft.
BLU BOY'S GANACHE-FILLED CHOCOLATES WITH PRETTY PAINTED SHELLS ARE SO STRIKING — HOW ARE THOSE MADE?
Those are hand-painted with colored cocoa butter (by chocolatier and Blu Boy owner David Fletcher). He'll take a little paintbrush and brush the insides of the molds. That'll dry, and then he'll pour chocolate on top of that (to create the top of the shell). Then he'll pipe in the ganache, then pour more chocolate to seal them.
The hand-painted chocolates take about three days to make. Hand painting the chocolate shells is one day, then filling them is another day, and then sealing them off is another day. You can't really rush that. It just takes three days to do.
SAY IT IS SOMEONE'S FIRST VISIT TO BLU BOY. WHAT SHOULD THEY KNOW WHEN THEY WALK IN?
I describe this place as the gem of the from-scratch bakery. We don't use any mixes. All of our chocolates are made here. All the pastries are made here. The ice cream is made here. Everything we sell, we put a lot of love and pride into.
We get all of our honey from Hunter's Honey in Martinsville. We get eggs from Poplar Ridge Farm, and we get those hand delivered every week. And with our coffee, we partnered with Brown County Coffee Roasters for a special Blu Boy espresso blend that we use for all of our espresso beverages.
IF SOMEONE WANTS TO TRY JUST ONE BLU BOY CHOCOLATE — JUST ONE — WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Fleur de sel caramel. It's hands down the most popular things we sell, and really encapsulates what we do here. These are dipped in chocolate individually and salted individually. Each little piece of chocolate is done singularly. It's not mass produced or anything you can rush through, and that's what we're all about: taking our time and making a really great product.
OK, LET'S MOVE ON TO DESSERTS. WHICH ONE IS A MUST-TRY?
An ice cream sandwich with our honey ice cream — you can't go wrong with that. Our chocolate chip cookies are rolled in cinnamon sugar, and it pairs nicely with honey ice cream. The honey ice cream in and of itself is unique. It's not a vanilla base with honey flavor, it's just honey ice cream.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BLU BOY CHOCOLATE?
Over Valentine's Day we'll do a chocolate called Love's True Kiss, which is aleppo pepper. Unlike like our ancho chile chocolate which we have on a regular basis (and doesn't have too much heat), this one is actually spicy, like really spicy. I think that's such a unique experience because when most people have chocolate they think of this smooth, sweet, mellow chocolate experience and Love's True Kiss just blows that out of the water. It's spicy but very, very good.
WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER, DID YOU EVER PICK A PIECE OF CHOCOLATE OUT OF A VARIETY BOX, TAKE A BITE AND FIND SOME GROSS GOO INSIDE? WASN'T THAT JUST THE WORST?
I am super allergic to peanut butter, so I never had the random chocolate thing happen because ... I couldn't. I was super paranoid. But, we do include a description of the chocolates with our boxes.