Because my friend Amy was there at the time, and her mom likes ginger drinks, and that’s how this one came to be…
This month’s Mixology Monday theme is bourbon, hosted by my fellow Arlingtonians at Scofflaw’s Den. Bourbon’s one of my favorite spirits, and a conversation about drinks made with ginger ale inspired my friend and I to try out the Bufala Negra from the Oakroom in Louisville, KY, as printed in the Food and Wine 2008 Cocktails 2008 guide. It’s a drink that combines balsamic vinegar and basil — a duo I enjoyed in my previous MxMo — with bourbon and ginger ale. I’m sure it’s a great drink at the Oakroom, but it was missing a little something when I made it at home. Maybe it was the ginger ale I used (Reed’s) or the substitution of balsamic syrup for separate vinegar and simple syrup (see the previous entry), but it needed a little bit more complexity.
That’s where the allspice dram comes in. Originally known as “pimento dram,” the obscure liqueur fell out of favor and was largely forgotten except among true drink enthusiasts, some of whom turned to making homemade versions from rum, allspice, and sugar. Luckily, it’s back, and with a name that doesn’t bring to mind those weird red things in the center of cocktail olives: St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram. (DC area readers can find it at Central Liquors.)
Allspice, so named because the berries of the pimento bush reminded the English or clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices all at once, is intensely aromatic, and can add wonderful complexity to cocktails. Often used in tiki drinks, it also plays well with bourbon, as in the classic Lion’s Tail. A little dash of it was just what my drink needed, and we’re pretty sure Amy’s mom would like it too. Here’s a recipe that worked for me, but vary it to fit your particular ingredients:
3 basil leaves, plus 1 for garnish
1/3 oz balsamic syrup
2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1/4 oz allspice dram
ginger ale (I used Reed’s)
Muddle the basil leaves with the syrup, add the bourbon and allspice dram, shake, and strain over ice. Top with a short pour of ginger ale. Add the garnish and enjoy.
Update 6/19/08: The month’s full recap is posted here.