30/30, #11: the Diamondback

In the late fall and early winter, I fell into a swoon regarding the perfect marriage between two ingredients: rye whiskey and apple brandy. While I’d flirted with this combination before, I’d never really explored its potential. By November, though, I was reaching for the black-labeled bottles of Rittenhouse bonded rye and Laird’s bonded apple brandy on most nights, trying different liqueurs and other flavoring agents to take the drinks in different directions. While there were a couple of loser drinks in the trials, most came through incredibly well. Here’s the drink that first sparked my interest in this flavor combination, a cocktail that I tried several years ago and have kept coming back to on a regular basis: the Diamondback.

The first appearance I know of for this drink is in Ted Saucier’s Bottoms Up, from 1951, and Saucier describes it as composed of two parts Old Schenley rye whiskey, with one part each of applejack and yellow Chartreuse. I initially came across this drink on Chuck Taggart’s blog way back in 2005, when my blog was in its infancy, and the comment I posted for the drink was, I think, my first exchange with Chuck. The recipe he posted (using the more potent green Chartreuse in place of the yellow) had likewise been suggested in a blog comment by Murray Stenson, who had posted the Diamondback on Zig Zag‘s bar menu. After reading Chuck’s post I became an occasional fan of the Diamondback, and even included it in an Imbibe story on applejack a couple years back.

I mention this connection because I’m coming off a busy weekend, one that was filled with eating and drinking with Chuck and Wes (and a whole slew of Seattle cocktail people) during their long-overdue visit to Seattle. Murray even dropped by during last night’s cocktail party at Dayne & Wendy’s, and at some point Keith Waldbauer mixed up a Diamondback. This may seem a trivial personal detail to many, but the way I’ve come to know people like Chuck and Murray over the almost four years since I first came across this recipe made covering this drink appropriate, in a sentimental kinda way. Don’t care for the sentimentality? Mix one anyway — with the alcoholic firepower supplied by three ingredients in the 100-proof and up range, the Diamondback will put you in a reflective state of mind pretty fast.

Diamondback

  • 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey (Rittenhouse bonded strongly recommended)
  • 3/4 ounce applejack (Laird’s bonded apple brandy strongly recommended)
  • 3/4 ounce Chartreuse (yellow works, but green works better)*

Stir well with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry if that’s your thing.

* As Dietsch noted when he wrote up this drink for Mixology Monday, this amount of Chartreuse can push the drink over to the sweet side; you may wish to dial it back to a half-ounce or so and see how that suits your tastes.

This drink is part of 30/30, a series of 30 drinks in 30 days — or as much as I can keep up before collapsing in a weary, booze-addled heap.

14 Responses to 30/30, #11: the Diamondback

  1. Brant says:

    Paul,
    Excited to see this post. I recently came up with a drink in honor of the birth of my son (Brolin). The recipe is on Imbibes website in the Cynar post. I’ve messed around with it since and think the bonded rye fairs better than the 6 year sazerac. Check it out. Cheers,
    Brant

  2. Rick says:

    Sweet evisceration Batman! I don’t know how I’m going to be able to keep up with you at this rate Paul :) After searching around like a blind-folded Watson in my liquor cabinet for that extra bottle of Rittenhouse Bonded I had, I ended up only finding my Rittenhouse 23, which just so happened to be 100 proof. I went slightly scant on the Chartreuse, which was a wise move.

    Great punch-you-in-the-face cocktail.

  3. Frederic says:

    When Jess wrote up the Diamondback for our blog (she had it at Green Street) she referenced this post which has three recipes (or 2 and a variant):

    http://www.adashofbitters.com/2008/03/16/mxmo-limit-one/

    I do agree that Laird’s Bonded or Calvados is a great recommendation. The fact that applejack is a third apple and two thirds grain neutral spirits makes it fall shy in the flavor realm in many cocktails. Plus, the price around here for applejack is rising ($15) to pretty close to the cost of the lowest level of Morin Calvados (“Selection”, I believe at $20) so it’s not so much of a bargain anymore (used to get applejack for $9.99).

    The Green Street one is a green Chartreuse recipe:
    http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/2008/03/diamond-back-cocktail.html

  4. Do you mean the Morice Calvados Frederic? Don’t care much for that, I’m afraid. If you can find it, the Calvados Groult Reserve will make you much happier. The Cardinal Fine Calvados is also not bad.

  5. Jared S. says:

    I stirred this a full minute and it still has a lot of heat on the finish. Nicely balanced up front (especially going a bit scant — .6 oz — on the chartreuse — but really warm on the back end.

  6. Chuck says:

    The sentimentality is entirely welcome. :) I remember Keith making this but I don’t remember getting a taste (in fact, there were a few things I didn’t quite remember from very late that wonderful evening), but we’re tasting it tonight, as I write.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  7. corey says:

    Paul, it was nice to meet you at the zig-zag the other night. Funny I was just thinking about that vermouth you had when I came across this particular blog in search of the diamondback’s origins. The owners of The Whisky Bar have requested that I put this recipe on the menu. I, of course, cannot until I’ve perfected it. Perhaps you should come by for my trial run of the diamondback?

    -Corey

  8. We were quite surprised what a good drink this is. Now I can claim that I bought Ted Saucier’s book for the …. recipes.

    If I can keep a straight face.

  9. JasonK says:

    Though its been a while since you wrote this – I just tried it – great drink. Swapping in Lairds Bonded made all the difference – though only a handful of stores in Seattle carry it.

  10. MSP134 says:

    Easy on the green, Russel’s 6yr Rye, Daron Fine Calvados and I agree with everyone above – a great find.

  11. [...] you think the use of two base spirits is a mere contrivance, a classic cocktail called the Diamondback employs both rye and applejack to delightful effect.  Moreover, the Diamondback was served at the [...]

  12. [...] this drink isn’t nearly so menacing as an actual Diamondback. I found this cocktail via Paul Clarke, who in turn discovered it through Chuck Taggart, who was sent the drink by Murray Stenson (which [...]

  13. Tried this with pigwhistle rye and the green. Missed the amazing flavors of the rye was hidden; of which is amazing alone. Any suggestions on a rye that you’ve found which compliments the masking flavors of the other ingredients?

  14. [...] the more powerful green (I like to call it Chartreuse2 ). The history is spelled out pretty well on this other site, but the gist is that yellow Chartreuse was originally used until Murray Stenson of Seattle’s [...]

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