30/30, #21: the Empyrean

There are several essential rules everyone should know when navigating the contemporary world of bars, cocktails and mixology:

  1. If Chris Hannah at Arnaud’s French 75 bar offers to make you something he’s been working on, don’t ask questions — just say yes.
  2. If you step into Flatiron Lounge or Clover Club and find the bar absolutely packed on a weekend night, don’t complain that the drinks won’t be up to par because the place is so busy. You’ll be served a cocktail so unerringly perfect that you’ll feel ashamed for even having thought such a thing.
  3. Rule #1 applies to pretty much every craft bartender you’ll come across, but really, Chris rocks.
  4. If Jeff Morgenthaler asks you to pull his finger, don’t.
  5. Never, ever underestimate what Daniel Shoemaker has in store for you.

Every time I walk into Teardrop Lounge in Portland — or recently, when Daniel was guest bartending at Vessel in Seattle — I almost expect to hear Barry White on the house stereo system and to see Daniel wearing a smoking jacket and an Ascot, sprinkling rose petals on top of the bar and preparing to romance the palates of his guests while their taste buds giggle in anticipation.

Now that you have that visual in your mind, let’s get down to one of the first drinks I was served at Teardrop, and that I’ve ordered (I think — things get kind of hazy, for obvious reasons) every time I’ve been back.

Unlike many of Daniel’s drinks, the Empyrean can actually be recreated at home, without starting the preparation process several months in advance in order to make the bitters, tinctures and other specialized house ingredients that work their way into so many of Teardrop’s drinks. Rich from the amaro and maraschino and with a bracing smokiness from the mescal, the Empyrean hits so many parts of the palate in quick succession that the effect would be overwhelming if it didn’t work just so damn well.

I’m typically either too shy, forgetful or tactful to tease recipes out of bartenders; fortunately, Ted Munat has no sense of tact — or of shame, for that matter — and regularly nags bartenders into spilling their professional secrets, which he then publishes for the world (or at least the 500 or so people who receive a copy of the book) to enjoy.

Last summer’s Left Coast Libations (which Ted is following with a newer, expanded, more official version, I’m told) contained Daniel’s recipe for the Empyrean. After knocking off a drink based on Angostura last night, I’m kinda up for something bold; this should do the trick.

(adapted from an original recipe by Daniel Shoemaker)

  • 1 1/2 ounces Sazerac 6-year-old rye whiskey
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce Ramazzotti
  • 1/2 ounce Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal (I subbed Los Danzantes, as it’s what I had on hand)
  • 1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino (I used Maraska, for reasons ditto)

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel over the top of the drink and use as garnish.

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.

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