I’m still on a quest for real bartenders and real conversations, but in the interim there’s no better place to turn than to the bartenders of Death & Co for their stories of the inspiration behind their cocktails. Today’s drink comes from Brian Miller, who is described as “Death & Co’s resident scalawag and expert on all things Polynesian.” Apparently one night he was asked to make something stirred and boozy, and he allowed the main tiki principle of blending base spirits to guide his creative process. This is portrayed in the book as being a “breakthrough moment for the bar” since so many of their cocktails from that point on would contain a similarly complex base. If you look at the recipe for this particular drink, you’ll see that it is an old-fashioned at heart. Miller took four of his favorite spirits and split the base of the cocktail, added demerara simple syrup for the sweetener, and kept the traditional Angostura bitters. He still felt as though the brown spirits were missing some kind of a unifying factor. Avery Glasser from the bitters company Bittermens happened to be on hand to make the suggestion to try a dash of his chocolate mole bitters. According to Miller the addition of those bitters “was like lacing up a shoe.”
This cocktail is indeed stirred and boozy, with the four brown spirits providing a base that has depth and dimension that’s amplified by the rich flavor of the demerara syrup. The angostura bitters remind us that this is an old-fashioned we’re drinking, but the chocolate mole bitters really are the ingredient that brings the finishing touch. I tasted it before the bitters went in and the difference was quite remarkable. I would encourage you to do the same thing if you make this drink at home. I also loved the bright and clean pop that the lemon garnish gave this cocktail. It seemed to work amazingly well to pull forward to individual flavors in the complex base. What inspiration can we take away from Miller’s creative process? For me, it’ll definitely be considering the idea of more than one base, which would be a something relatively new for me. I’ve also always loved the idea of bitters being the component that brings unity and balance to a cocktail, and I’ve learned that it’s often the place where I can think outside the box in terms of flavor. And how perfect is the name of this drink?? Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
½ oz Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey
½ oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
½ oz Deux Frères cognac
½ oz Berneroy Calvados
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters
1 teaspoon demerara syrup (sugar inthe raw dissolved in water, 1:1 ratio)
Stir all the ingredients over ice with a mixing spoon until very cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass over one large cube. Express and then garnish with a lemon strip. Enjoy!