While searching for this week’s Monday Classic, the Widow’s Kiss, I first came across this modern day riff in my Death & Co. Modern Classic Cocktails book. Created in 2009 by bartender Joaquín Simó, the Widow’s Laurel swaps out the original drink’s Chartreuse and Bénédictine for a combination of Drambuie, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. All three of these ingredients are decidedly more spicy than herbal, so I immediately assumed that was going to be the main difference between these two variations. I was excited to have the opportunity to try Drambuie, a liqueur made by infusing aged Scotch whisky with honey, herbs, and spices according to a secret recipe from the 18th century. You all know what a sucker I am for these secret recipe stories! I tasted the Drambuie alone and really loved it. It’s very warm and spicy with lots of cloves and allspice, and there’s just a bit of an herbal taste in there as well. The honey brings sweetness, but it’s not overwhelming. The St. Elizabeth, on the other hand, tends to be very sweet and very spicy, and always reminds me of Christmas whenever I taste it. There’s only a teaspoon of it in this recipe, which makes perfect sense to me. Any more than that would overwhelm the other elements of the drink. The final ingredient is Carpano Antica, a sweet Italian vermouth that’s deeper and richer than the majority of other red vermouths, with lots of raisin and fig flavors that work well with the Drambuie and St. Elizabeth. The end result is a cocktail that goes in a very different direction. Both have the apple, vanilla, and caramel flavors as their base, but Simó bumped up the Calvados by a half ounce, giving his drink a bit more backbone. Since the other ingredients he’s using are not quite as strong as the original’s potent blend of Chartreuse and Bénédictine, this has the effect of making the Widow’s Laurel a less boozy drink. Also gone is that wild herbal streak that I really loved in the Widow’s Kiss, because I thought it played so well with the Calvados. Side by side, I can’t really say that I preferred one over the other. When I tasted the Widow’s Kiss it seemed more bracing, like I was in the woods in the fall breathing in lots of things that were green. The Widow’s Laurel, on the other hand, was much warmer, with a real kick of spice, and that shifted my thoughts more towards Christmas. Both are equally wonderful and I would recommend tasting them together if you can. I’d love to know what you think!
The Widow’s Laurel
Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice until very cold. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with 3 Luxardo cherries. Enjoy!