Welcome To Wonkette Happy Hour, With This Week's Drink, The Molotov!
Greetings, Wonketteers! I’m Hooper, your bartender. This week calls for a classic cocktail that’s strong, spicy, and spectacular. I decided to take the revered Sazerac cocktail from New Orleans and kick it up a notch with a dangerous garnish. Let’s make a Molotov!
2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1 oz 1738 Remy Martin Cognac
8 shakes Angostura Bitters
4 shakes Barrel-Aged Peychaud’s Bitters
Everclear (or another 151 proof vodka)
Add rye whiskey, cognac, and bitters to a stirring vessel over ice. Stir 8-12 seconds. Add 2-3 drops of absinthe to a glass. Swirl to coat the inside of the glass and shake out any extra drops. Add crushed ice to the glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass. Place the lemon slice on top of the ice, and balance the sugar cube on top of the lemon. Wet the sugar cube with 3-4 drops of 151 vodka. Light the cube with a match. Serve quickly. The final cocktail is 38% ABV, or 76 proof.
The Sazerac is an ancient cocktail, dating back to the 1890s from New Orleans. Fundamentally, it’s an early version of the old fashioned – nothing but whiskey, sugar, and bitters. The absinthe rinse makes it unique. A solid Sazerac is spicy, sweet, and almost medicinal without being unpleasant. There’s some debate over whether the Sazerac was originally a brandy or whiskey cocktail. I’ve split the difference and used both, to mellow out the final drink.
Making real, genuine, “Screw that Russian tank over there” Molotov cocktails is an art that’s a bit beyond my skill set. I’ll refer you to an expert when it comes to making ad hoc explosives. I will note that the 151 proof vodka we’re using here burns extremely well, and comes in a convenient glass bottle. I’ll also quote Tom Wintringham, who wrote down the first recorded recipe for a Molotov: “Do not play with these things. They are highly dangerous.”
Ingredient shot. The cocktail exploded shortly after this photo was taken. Props to my wife for taking this shot while I sprinkled ground cinnamon over the drink.
Let’s talk ingredients. There’s a lot to cover.
Rittenhouse Rye: Rye Whiskey isn’t bourbon. Straight bourbon whiskey is at least 51% corn. Rye whiskey’s mostly rye grain. As a result, rye is spicier, darker, and less sweet than bourbon. Rittenhouse Rye is my go-to rye whiskey for cocktails. Sazerac Rye is the gold standard for this cocktail, but it’s fairly pricey. Use it if you have it, but less fancy rye is fine.
1738 Remy Martin Cognac: Remy Martin formulated this cognac explicitly for cocktail use. It’s balanced, mellow, and slightly sweet, which makes it a nice contrast to the rye.
Angostura and Peychaud’s Bitters: The general manager of Crafted Cocktail in Ohio was obsessed with bitters. He’d use it by the dropper-full in our drinks. I don’t go that far, but Sazeracs demand a heavy hand with the bitters. Normally, bitters work as a glue to hold a cocktail together. Today, they’re front and center, creating a complex, spicy note that drives home the peppery nature of the rye. Take a moment to taste a drop or two of these before you toss them into the cocktail. Angostura bitters are peppery and, well, bitter. Peychaud’s, on the other hand, has a fierce anise bite. In the same glass with rye, you get an intense explosion of spice.
Absinthe: Don’t panic. It won’t make you hallucinate, and it won’t rot your brain. Absinthe is an aged wormwood spirit that has always gotten a bad rap. The health risks of absinthe were always a fable. Cognac manufacturers conducted some negative PR campaigns against the stuff. And the water used to distill it traveled through lead pipes, which certainly couldn’t help. In any case, modern absinthe is perfectly safe and very tasty. We’re only using a few drops to provide more anise notes. I use an atomizer to spritz the glass with a mist of absinthe. It’s a heavenly smell behind the bar.
Lemon wheel: Cut a sturdy one. Generally I cut from the end of the lemon, to give me something small but thick.
151 vodka and sugar cube: You don’t need a lot of 151 here. Three or four drops is enough. The cube should be wet, but still in one piece. A kitchen torch is a great tool for this, but a match or lighter is fine. Light the drink just before you serve it. Carrying flaming liquid to the table is dangerous. And by all that’s holy, blow out the flames before drinking it. Burnt eyebrows are a lousy condiment. If you sprinkle ground cinnamon over the flaming sugar cube, you'll be rewarded with an impressive shower of sparks.
There’s no difference to speak of between brands of 151 proof vodka. Everclear is the best known, but I’m using Diesel brand because it’s cheaper. It’s not as if I’ve got any intention of drinking the stuff. It’s 75 percent ethanol, so “smooth” isn’t an applicable adjective.
A non-alcoholic Molotov cocktail sort of misses the point. For the record, I did learn of something called a “Puptov” that rioters have used on the police, using … other things than fire. Not a subject to discuss when consuming a delicious drink.
On a lighter note, there’s a Nigerian cocktail called a Chapman that features pop, lime and orange slices, and several drops of Angostura bitters. I feel like it’s a solid reflection of a Sazerac without any meaningful alcohol, and a great punch for New Orleans. Give it a try, and let the good times roll.
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