We’re well into indian summer here, with warm days and cool nights. The leaves are coming down, and at least in the more rural areas the fragrance of burning leaves (delightful!) is ubiquitous. With that scent in mind, we thought we’d make a few cocktails using smoky spirits and flavors. These can be harder to put together into a balanced whole, but we were willing to make the effort 😉
First up, we chose a smoky, petrol-y mezcal and balanced it with some citrus and a little bit of bitter/herbal amaro. Something to sip while you eye that delightful cousin of your friend’s at the next cocktail party.
- 2 oz smokey mezcal (We used Del Maguey Espadin)
- 1/4 oz grapefruit liqueur (We used the Giffard)
- 1 bar spoon Ramazzotti amaro
- 1 dash lemon bitters (We used the Scrappy’s Black Lemon)
Stir with ice. Strain into a glass. Garnish with caper berries.
- Nose: Petrol, lemon, vinegar-y brine, smoke, little bit of tropical fruit like overripe mango.
- Palate: Smoke and petrol to start, then salty-sweet lemon and grapefruit. Dusty, hot concrete-like mineral notes on the mid-palate moves into tropical fruit notes. Smoke and petrol again on the finish. Lemon and grapefruit peel on the aftertaste. Fairly dry throughout.
Next up, we put a smokier scotch into the mix. Turns out it pairs nicely with the bitter/earthy flavors of coffee. In an ideal world where maritime safety wasn’t an issue 😉 this seems like the sort of thing you might want to drink while navigating your ship through a winter storm.
- 2 oz smokey scotch (We used the Laphraoig Quarter Cask)
- 2/3 oz coffee liqueur (We used the House Spirits)
- 1 dash Angostura
Stir with ice, strain into a glass. Enjoy!
- Nose: Smoke, molasses, oak wood, peat, coffee. Little bit of cinnamon/cloves.
- Palate: Opens with smoke, caramel-y molasses, and spice like fennel seed and clove. Big hit of oak on the mid-palate along with lots of smoke and peat. Strong sweet coffee on the finish along with yet more smoke.
Lastly, we remembered that we had some smoke bitters squirreled away in the cabinet (usually used for the Miss January). After trying them with a number of different spirits, we found they paired unexpectedly well with gin. We added in some fairly dry sherry for richness and some tasty nutty notes, plus a splash of amaro for interest.
- 2 oz gin (Old Raj)
- 1 oz Oloroso or Amontillado sherry
- 4 dashes smoke bitters (Bitters Old Men, Smoke Gets in Your bitters)
- 2 bar spoons Amaro Montenegro
Stir with ice, strain into a glass. Cheers!
- Nose: Juniper, saffron, oxidized wine notes, little bit of lemon peel and hazelnut. Cedar as an after smell. Celery as it warms up.
- Palate: Bone dry. Gin botanicals, juniper, saffron, lemon peel to start. Little bit of lemony brightness on the mid-palate paired with hazelnut richness underpinning it. Caramel notes, but like burnt sugar, not sweet. Smoke comes to the fore on the finish with more nutty flavor and dark spices from the gin. Acid from the sherry gives it backbone.
One of the take aways from today’s experimentation is that smoke flavor does better with dry, spirit-forward cocktails (David Embury might like them given that he clearly liked his drinks very dry. 😉 ). Everything we added to sweeten them up just made them taste odd. But that’s fine, we’re always glad to have a few more martini alternatives, especially ones whose flavor profile leans more to the autumn/winter palate. Salut!