Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: Satan’s Whiskers/Satan’s Soul Patch

Greetings, boys and ghouls. I thought it would be a scream on this Samhain-chanted evening to exorcize your tonsils with – yeah, OK, I’m putting a stop to that nonsense right there.

This week’s entry comes a day early, because there’s no point in highlighting a drink called Satan’s Whiskers after Halloween. As well as having a suitably seasonal name, it’s a natural follow up to last week’s gin-and-orange adventure.

Satan’s Whiskers first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book, and how many times have I written that sentence? Its claim to fame is that it can be served in two styles depending on the orange liqueur used, either straight (Grand Marnier) or curled (curaçao). My Whiskers have a kink to them for one reason: I don’t have any Grand Marnier.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the stuff. On its own it can be marvelous. But in mixed drinks Grand Marnier, like Bull Durham’s ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh, likes to announce its presence with authority. It tends to bully the other flavors around.

Straight Whiskers have long been the default choice because of the absence of a good curaçao. The secret to the liqueur is the use of Laraha orange peels. Larahas are the descendants of European Valencia oranges that didn’t take to the drier climate of the New World and became small and bitter. (For a demonstration of this process, have a relative move to Florida and then check on them in five years. Hiyo!) Larahas are largely inedible but that didn’t stop desperate sailors from forcing them down to stave off scurvy, to the extent that Amy Stewart, in her book The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create The World’s Great Drinks, speculates that the name of the island where the fruit grows comes from the Portuguese word for “cured.” This desperation led to the discovery that Laraha peels are uncommonly, almost seductively aromatic, and soon they were the source of a liqueur.

Curaçao has been bastardized over the years; hell, most people think it’s supposed to be blue. Then in 2012 cocktail authority David Wondrich joined forced with France’s Cognac Ferrand to create Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. Based on 19th century formulae, their variation of this classic combines Curaçao orange peels and other spices with unaged brandy and Ferrand cognac. The resulting spirit, tinted a light amber and priced to move, has a nuanced taste, the brandy assertive but not overwhelming. It occupies a point on the spectrum where it could readily be substituted for Grand Marnier on one end and Cointreau or other triple secs on the other.

And, of course, it’s right at home in traditional curaçao cocktails like the curled Satan’s Whiskers. Which, I have to say, does not taste particularly diabolical. In fact, demonic monicker aside it’s scarcely a Halloween drink. Its orange flavor is so pronounced that it’s almost sprightly. I’d go so far as to call Satan’s Whiskers too much of a good thing. The standard recipe calls for orange bitters, but I’d opt for Angostura to provide a countervailing note to the abundance of citrus.

Or you could go one step further and make a Satan’s Soul Patch (or Satan’s Mouche, if one wants to sound Continental), a more substantial offering anchored by bourbon instead of gin. Especially if you plan on fixing one this evening. What better time to commune with dark spirits than Halloween?

Satan’s Whiskers (Curled)

½ oz. gin
½ oz. dry vermouth
½ oz. sweet vermouth
½ oz. fresh orange juice
¼ oz. orange curaçao
dash of Angostura bitters

Shake. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist. Make the “straight” version with Grand Marnier in place of curaçao. Make a Satan’s Soul Patch with bourbon in place of gin. Note that reading this post in its entirety means that your immortal soul is now the property of Keenan’s Kocktails, LLC.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at