Some cocktails are like caresses — smooth and soothing, with delicate touches that deftly flick away all the assorted troubles of the day.
But sometimes, tenderness isnâ€™t whatâ€™s needed. Sometimes, a little savagery is entirely appropriate.
Dark, bitter drinks have become almost a clichÃ© in todayâ€™s cocktail world â€“ and I say â€œalmost,â€ because no matter how commonplace these cocktails may become in the sprawling suburbia of faux speakeasies, and no matter how fawning we behave over mixtures of rye whiskey, small-batch vermouth and amari so obscure they only exist in the bartender’s imagination, these brown, bitter and stirred drinks have one redeeming factor that will always keep them relevant: many of them, if not most, are just so fucking delicious.
I vacillate in my taste for these kinds of rough, boozy drinks. For months on end, Iâ€™ll venture little further into the realm than the occasional Manhattan or Boulevardier (Iâ€™m exempting the Negroni from this argument, with its base of gin, along with other, softer-though-still-bitter aperitifs, which I swill pretty much always), then something will grab my attention â€“ the acquisition of a new amaro, a change in the seasons â€“ and Iâ€™ll happily roll in the cocktail-geek muck again, if only for a little while.
The seasonâ€™s gradually shifting here in Seattle, so thatâ€™s been impetus enough to dig the brown booze out of summer storage along with my sweaters and winter coat; and with the arrival of a recent box of goodies from an online booze outlet â€“ Washington-state liquor prices having become obnoxiously high following our privatization debacle â€“ Iâ€™ve found motivation enough to fall back into my old BBS (brown/bitter/stirred) habits.
The newbie in my house now is Bittermens Citron Sauvage liqueur. Iâ€™ve long been a fan of the products from Avery & Janet Glasser â€“ I was evangelizing about their bitters long before they were commercially available, and continue to be impressed by everything of theirs Iâ€™ve tasted â€“ and, as someone who thinks the bitter complexity of grapefruit is one of the cocktail worldâ€™s less-explored avenues of wonder, I made sure Bittermensâ€™ grapefruit liqueur made it into my order.
Iâ€™m only just starting to play around with it â€“ save your sneering, East Coast barfolk, it takes a while to get these things out West â€“ but hereâ€™s a simple little Red Hook-style riff that Iâ€™ve come back to a couple of times, with no complaints.
The Awkward Pause
- 2 oz. reposado tequila
- 3/4 oz. Punt e Mes
- 1/2 oz. Bittermens Citron Sauvage liqueur
- 2 dashes Bittermens Xocolatl Mole bitters
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until chilled, about 30 seconds; strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist a thin piece of orange peel over the drink for aromatics; use as garnish.
Tequila + grapefruit = obvious yum, the Punt e Mes bumps up the bitter quotient without being too pushy, and the bitters give hints of cinnamon and chile that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Given that the Red Hook is now long in the tooth, this isnâ€™t the most original drink, but hey â€“ simple variations often have a longer life span than do more daring ventures, so Iâ€™ll stick with it. And the name? If youâ€™ve ever attempted to have a conversation with preternaturally shy me, it should make perfect sense.
Anyway, thumbs-up for the grapefruit liqueur â€“ the only drawback is now I need to clear space in the crowded liquor cabinet for another keeper bottle.