It’s almost Halloween and I wanted to do something spooky for our cocktail party this month. I’ve made black cocktails before and there are multiple ingredients you can use to achieve that deep dark shade that reflects our collective sense of hope ahead of this election. I have used both squid ink and activated charcoal for dark drinks, and both have pros and cons.
Squid ink, contrary to what one might think, does not taste fishy at all. It does have a slight salinity, however, and using too much will make your drink a little salty. A little salt can be a great addition to a drink that is sugary or just needs a little balance.
Activated charcoal doesn’t impart a taste, but it carries the risk of being an ingredient known to remove impurities from distilled spirits (yes, the insides of those whiskey barrels aren’t charred for nothing) and your body. . Charcoal has been used by healthcare professionals to detoxify overdose patients. Having said that, they usually use extremely high doses of it to do so. I consulted a professional at the poison control center, and they confirmed to me that small doses of charcoal, like what I used for this cocktail (260 mg), are unlikely to affect you, but if you are taking medication, it is best not to have charcoal for at least an hour after taking your medicine, and if you are taking any life-saving medicine it is best to avoid it for safety.
Now that we’ve taken the safety part out of this dark drink, let’s talk about the flavor profile. As this was going to be a dark cocktail, I also wanted deep flavors. I love Cutty Sark’s ban. I was fortunate enough to work on the brand when they launched it in New York several years ago. While standard Cutty Sark can be a boring blended whiskey, Cutty Pro is anything but boring. The flavor profile reminds me a bit of a Black Forest cake, with hints of dark chocolate and deep cherry. I thought this might make an interesting variant of Sazerac.
There’s usually a pretty intense spice in a traditional Rye Sazerac, but there are nice stone fruit notes when you brew the drink with Cognac (the supposed precursor to the Rye version), and I wanted to play on those notes. darker and sweeter in this version. I decided to double the chocolate notes by adding chocolate liqueur. Chocolate liqueur may be too sweet, but New Deal Mud Puddle is bitter chocolate liqueur, so it’s not too sweet and adds a nice earthy touch to the drink. If you are using any other chocolate liqueur, do not use syrup or your cocktail will likely become too sweet.
Then, of course, there’s the absinthe rinse. It might seem odd to pair hints of chocolate with the licorice notes of absinthe, but this is a very common flavor combo, especially in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. If you’ve ever eaten candy from Scandinavia, you know there is an abundance of licorice, and salty licorice in particular. If this is a flavor profile that you enjoy, then using squid in this cocktail will be a good choice for you. I used charcoal for this one because I didn’t have squid ink on hand.
This drink is dark, earthy, herbal, and a bit sweet and I’m excited to mix them up for Halloween this year. Hope you will consider adding it to your arsenal during the holidays!
- 2 oz Cutty Sark ban
- 0.25 oz Demerara syrup
- 0.25 oz New Deal Mud Puddle
- 2 traits of Amer de Peychaud
- 2 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
- 1 capsule of activated charcoal or 1 teaspoon of cuttlefish ink
- 2 dashes of absinthe
- 1 lemon twist
Add all the ingredients except the absinthe to a mixing glass. Stir without ice to incorporate ink or charcoal. Then add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Add some absinthe to your glass and shake to coat the inside of the glass. Discard the excess. Strain the drink into a glass and squeeze the lemon zest over the drink. Rub the flesh side of the skin (the side without the marrow) on the outer rim of your glass and throw it away.
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