DESSERT COCKTAILS

by Naren Young

I had an epiphany a few years back. I was eating the last morsels of a bloody rib eye at the downtown New York steak house, Dylan Prime. At that time it was owned by the affable Michael Waterhouse. Like most venues whose very existence is dedicated to excessive consumption of barely cooked meat, the clientele consisted mainly of big dudes with big expense accounts.

As the meal came to a close, I was presented – as is traditional protocol – with a dessert menu. I eat a lot of steak meals; way more than any physician would recommend. But I’ve never ordered dessert at a steak house. Not once. I pondered the fact that surely I’m not alone in this. It seemed like a futile gesture for the waiter. I looked around and no one was eating dessert. 

In the name of research, I took a cursory glance at the options. One thing caught my eye, which piqued my curiosity: ‘Pie-Tails.’ I could have my choice of black forest, peach cobbler, strawberry cheesecake, key lime and bananas foster flavors. Anyone could make an educated guess as to what these were: after dinner cocktails all inspired by famous desserts. They were most definitely not something I would typically imbibe.

Before I could even ask for the check, Michael had placed a small taste of each one before me. They were surprisingly delicious, but again, they weren’t my cup of tea and I probably would never order one of my own volition. What happened next, however, blew me away. He told me that these rather ridiculously named, insanely sweet dessert cocktails brought him $250,000 a year in revenue. I almost fell off my chair. 

Since that day, my entire approach to digestifs has changed to a point where I always offer several such drinks, whether listed on the menu or not. There are of course dozens of different angles we could look at when it comes to such after dinner tipples. Some could be considered ‘kitch’ such as the Grasshopper, Alexander, Stinger, Rusty Nail and Golden Cadillac (all of which I once put onto one award winning menu, with amazing feedback). 

You could start with the obvious drinks that are served hot, such as the Irish Coffee (and its dozen or so imposters); the classic Hot Toddy, which is typically an insipid mix of whiskey, hot water and if you’re lucky some lemon and honey (although it must be said that the original, listed in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 tome, How To MixDrinks contained only whisky and water). The Hot Buttered Rum can be a delicious libation, as can a Hot Whiskey Punch.

We could go down another classic route by looking at coffee or tea alternatives. Using tea in a toddy will indeed offer up more flavor and character (check out the recipe below),while we simply cannot ignore the influence we’ve had from the Espersso Martini, one of the best modern classics of our time, thanks to London’s most famous bar keep, Dick Bradsell. It, too, has many imitators but the original can be something rather sublime. Try the Talisman variation also listed below.

Cream-based drinks can also be delicious when not made into sugar bombs. The Alexander (which, it should be pointed out, was originally a gin drink, not a brandy one) is one of my favorites, especially when made with Bols Genever, which adds a rich malt character and the delicious Tempus Fugit crème de cacao. Shave some dark Valrhona chocolate on top and you’re set. And a special shout out to the White Russian. 

Then of course there’s the aforementioned classics such as the Golden Cadillac and Grasshopper or the less known – at least to this generation – Silk Stockings (Google it) and Pink Squirrel. Besides the Ramos Gin Fizz and Brandy Milky Punch, which are both traditionally morning drinks anyway, my all-time favorite creamy drink is the Neapolitan, created by famed London bartender Jamie Terrell. It’s an interesting mix of Zubrowka ‘bison grass’ vodka, heavy cream and simple syrup, shaken and served on crushed ice with a drizzle of creme de mure. Delicious!

You could also go a boozy route with something simple like an Old Fashioned and its myriad variations. Bradsell’s Treacle cocktail is also another of London’s most widely known mixed drinks and makes for perfect postprandial drinking. The Hanky Panky, with its potent kick of Fernet Branca should settle even the most hardened stomach while the seemingly forgotten Godfather/Godmother should also offer a soothing treat.

Whatever drinks you choose to offer is personal and should be determined by the type of clientele you’re serving. The choices are many but they shouldn’t be ignored as the profits to your bar can be enormous.

 

RECIPES

DUTCH ALEXANDER

  • 1.5 oz. Bols genever
  • ¾ oz. white crème de cacao
  • 1.5 oz. heavy cream
  • 3 dashes chocolate bitters

METHOD: Shake and double strain

GLASS: Large Coupe

GARNISH: Grated chocolate

 

PORT COFFEE FLIP

  • 1 oz. dark spirit (bourbon, aged Tequila, rum, Cognac all work)
  • 1 oz. Tawny Port
  • ½ oz. Galliano Ristretto 
  • ½ oz. agave nectar
  • 1.5 oz. Guinness 
  • 5 dashes of pecan bitters
  • 1 whole egg

METHOD: Shake very hard with ice

Strain into frozen glass (no ice)

GLASS: Footed Highball

GARNISH: Grated nutmeg

 

POLAR BEAR

  • 1.5 oz. Pierde Almas ‘Puritita’ mescal 
  • 1 oz. Dolin Blanc vermouth
  • ½ oz. Tempus Fugit white crème de menthe 
  • 5 dashes of angelica tincture

METHOD: Shake and double strain

GLASS: Small Coupe

GARNISH: Star anise / lemon twist (discard)

 

BANANA RUM OLD FASHIONED

METHOD: Stir and strain on 1 large ice cube

GLASS: Scotch

GARNISH: Dried banana OR orange twist

Serve with a stirring rod.

 

CHAMOMILE HOT TODDY

  • 1.5 oz. Zubrowka vodka
  • ½ oz. yellow Chartreuse
  • ½ oz. pear liqueur
  • ½ oz. spiced honey syrup
  • ½ oz. fresh ginger juice

METHOD: Add all ingredients to a teapot

Then add the chamomile tea

Fill very high and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes

GLASS: Tea Set Up

GARNISH: Lemon wedge studded with 3 cloves

 

TALISMAN

  • 1 ½ oz. blended Scotch
  • ½ oz. Drambuie
  • ½ oz. agave nectar (diluted at 1:1)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Espresso coffee

METHOD: Shake very hard

Strain into chilled glass

GLASS: Large Coupe

GARNISH: 3 coffee beans

 

@forkandshaker

Read more from Naren Knows.

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