THE DEN COCKTAIL No. 3 || MAGIC PILL
What can we say about this drink? It's genre-bending, palate-defying, unusual, sexy, invigorating and yet still downright classy.
Like a young Andy Warhol, content-gobbling apprentice barman Dylan Spowart took three cornerstones of cocktail culture and figuratively distilled them into one defining statement in the form of a martini that we'll be rehashing for years to come.
Dylan took the 1920s classic Corpse Reviver No. 2 (gin, aromatic wine, orange liqueur, lemon juice, absinthe), mashed it with the modern cocktail favourite Penicillin (smoky whisky, honey, ginger, lemon) and somehow figured out how to serve it as an elegant dry martini.
Dylan used basically none of the ingredients of these three canonical cocktails, but that didn't stop him perfectly striking a flavour balance right between the three of them. That's a stroke of medicinal and elegant genius, but like all of the drinks we served at The Den popup, it took damn-fine ingredients to pull it off.
Here's how to do it at home:
30ml Peated Bear Vodka
30ml Belgrove Ginger Hammer
20ml Lemongrass Citric Solution (recipe below)
Add Vodka, Ginger Hammer and Lemongrass to a mixing glass full of ice and stir for 30 seconds.
Place a tsp of pastis into a small chilled martini glass, swirl around to coat the inside of the glass and discard (back into bottle!) the remainder.
Stir the martini for 30 more seconds and strain
Squeeze a small piece of lemon zest over the top and discard.
Here's why it's excellent. The peated bear vodka has so much smoke and malt flavour that it is like drinking smoky whisky without the tannins or flavour from oak, so it's lighter and more elegant by design. The Ginger Hammer is a distilled ferment of chilli and ginger beer - it's spicy, powerful, and adds a lot of depth. The pastis here is more aromatic than most absinthe, adding a whole bunch of herbal character as well that more than makes up for the lack of aromatic wine from the Corpse Reviver No. 2 recipe. Finally the Lemongrass Solution? To do this, make a simple sugar syrup (200g water, 200g sugar) and add a bunch of lemongrass to it over a very low heat for an hour or so. You can leave the lemongrass inside or take it out at this point depending on your container.
Then, very very carefully add a few grains at a time of citric acid. You get this in powdered form at any supermarket, it's not exclusive to Noma.
For 1 litre of syrup you would need to add about 1/4-1/2 tsp of citric acid, yes it's that powerful. Taste the syrup as you add the acid, this is a really good exercise, what you want to achieve is a balance of sweet and sour that is equal to any sour cocktail or mojito/tom collins, and maybe reminiscent of a kombucha. Err on the sweeter side, or you'll end up with wizz fizz and have to start again!
We loved this drink so much that we ran out of ginger distillate on one of the nights and were forced to substitute with Stone's Green Ginger Wine. This was fine, we just needed to account for the added sweetness and add a little more vodka while dropping ratios of ginger wine and the lemongrass syrup in response to achieve a good balance of strength, sweetness and aromatic profile.
For our event we served the drink with a side of Vitamin D pills - a nod to The Factory, to late nights at Dark Mofo, and to the severe deprivation we had to sunlight this winter.
Look out for Dylan. He's a beast!