We’ve had a busy summer, so we haven’t been able to submit a cocktail for the past few Mixology Monday challenges as much as we would have liked. But we are back for this month’s theme, Intercontinental, as hosted by Putney Farm. Putney Farm chose the theme to “celebrate the global reach of cocktails,” with the “Intercontinental” challenge of making a cocktail with ingredients or equipment from as many of the seven continents as possible. We couldn’t hit them all, but managed to reach four continents with this entry: our interpretation of Longman & Eagle’s Dante’s Paradise.
On our recent trip to Chicago, we fell in deep infatuation with Longman & Eagle, the unassuming Michelin-starred restaurant where amazing cocktails created by Chief Mixologist Derek Alexander can be imbibed for no more than $8. Dante’s Paradise was particularly intriguing to us, so it serves as the inspiration for this post. Named after Dante’s Divine Comedy, the triple-layered cocktail takes its consumer through hell, purgatory and finally heaven (aka paradise.) As described on their cocktail menu, the first sip imbues smoke and fire, and as you continue drinking “you’ll skip purgatory and progress right into paradise [to] find a refreshingly light cocktail” (shown on the right as served at L&E OSB):
Made with Aperol, Cocchi Americano, Stiegl Radler, Mezcal and Bitterman’s Hellfire Habanero Shrub, the drink truly delivers on its description:
We thought this would be the perfect drink to make intercontinental since we’re big Aperol drinkers, not to mention the fact that it’s a perfect Orange October cocktail for the last vestige of our Indian summer. We could buy the Bittermans shrub for around $20, but thought that we would try to make our own version; giving us an excuse to add another continent to the mix.
Shrubs are basically vinegar-based syrups typically made in a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit:vinegar:sugar content. They are typically diluted with soda to make a refreshing drink, offering a tart and sweet flavor. But with a pepper shrub (especially habanero pepper), we decided to cut back significantly on the sweetness since we were looking for the fire. Shrubs in many flavors have made their way to artisanal cocktail bars where they are used as a finishing ingredient. If you think about it, the process is really not that far from pickling, and you have probably seen this in action when pickle backs are ordered with a Jameson shot.
Bitterman’s Hellfire is a fortified shrub since alcohol will extract more of the oils from the pepper. They also combine it with more spice and botanicals to round out the final product. We knew off the bat that we couldn’t replicate the Bitterman’s version completely and looked for extracting the spiciness of the pepper. We decided that our base for the shrub would start with a Japanese rice vinegar, which tends to be less acidic and more sweet than white distilled or apple cider versions. Use of the rice vinegar brought our first continent, Asia, into the picture.
We started with infusing a sliced habanero pepper in about half a cup of rice vinegar for about five days. Maybe we’re cheating a little bit here, but habaneros are thought to originate from the Amazonas region which brings our second continent, South America, into the mix. We then circled back to Asia by mixing in a small amount of ginger syrup that we already had available since we are currently drinking our SF Summer’s End cocktail. Since rice vinegar is slightly sweet, only a tablespoon of the ginger syrup was required for the shrub, adding a hint of sweetness and an additional spicy flavor.
Equal parts of Aperol and Cocchi Americano combine with fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice to form the heavenly base of the refreshing aperitivo. Both the Italian Aperol (made with herbs and rhubarb) and Cocchi Americano (similar to vermouth using Moscato d’Asti wine as its base) are aperitivi liquors that provide just the right amount of sweetness to this drink. The middle purgatory layer is the Stiegl Radler, a bittersweet Shandy-type mixture of lager beer and grapefruit soda. The heavenly base makes it’s way through the Radler layer as the glass is tipped. It’s a brilliant combination of grapefruit (in juice and Radler formats) with the Italian liquors. Needless to say, Aperol, Cocchi Americano and the Austrian Stiegl Radler are all from our third continent, Europe.
The drink is then topped with a half teaspoon float of Mezcal and a few dashes of the habanero shrub. It is important to use a smoky Mezcal, such as the ones made by Del Maguey, since the smokiness is half of the hellish experience, with the fire brought in by the pepper shrub. L&E uses the Chichicapa, but all we could find was the entry-level Vida version which exhibits plenty of smoke flavor. With the first sip, your lips should tingle from the shrub and the aroma and flavor of smoke are prominent. Each subsequent sip takes you closer to paradise with the Aperol/Cocchi/grapefruit mixture. As the only strain of grapefruit that did not originate in Asia, the Texas ruby red is thought to originate from the West Indies. The grapefruit and Mexico’s Del Maguey Mezcal represent the fourth (and final) continent, North America, of this intercontinental drink.
Our final concoction was close enough to the original that we are happy to be drinking it in the final stages of the City’s Indian summer. Many thanks to Putney Farm for hosting this month’s Mixology Monday, and to Longman & Eagle for the inspiration — this version may not be as good as the original, but it saves us a plane trip to Chicago!
Dante’s Divina (aka Dante’s Paradise)
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
1.5 oz. Stiegl Radler
1/2 teaspoon Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
5 dashes habanero shrub
Pour the Aperol, Cocchi Americano and grapefuit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into an old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Top with the Stiegl Radler, then add the float of Mezcal and habanero shrub.
Oct. 20, 2013 Update
The addition of the fifth continent, Australia, succeeded by replacing the Stiegl Radler with the land down under’s Bundaberg Ginger Beer. The overall drink ends up sweeter than the Radler version, but it is still quite drinkable. To offset some of the additional sweetness, we upped the amount of the smoke and spice.
Dante’s Divina Down Under
1 oz. Aperol
1 oz. Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice
1.5 oz. Bundaberg Ginger Beer
1 teaspoon Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
1 teaspoon habanero shrub
Pour the Aperol, Cocchi Americano and grapefuit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into an old fashioned glass with ice cubes. Top with Bundaberg ginger beer, then add the float of Mezcal and habanero shrub.
*Footnotes: If you had no access to Stiegl Radler, just make your own with a lager and grapefruit soda or juice. Bundaberg also makes grapefruit and blood orange sodas, the latter of which will make a great derivative when blood oranges are in season.
4 oz. rice vinegar
1 habanero pepper
1 Tbsp. ginger syrup
Slice the habanero pepper and add it to the rice vinegar in a jar. Cover and let stand in a cool dark place for about 5 days (minimum 24 hours). Strain the vinegar through a coffee filter, add the ginger syrup and thoroughly mix. The shrub will keep in the refrigerator for about a month.
Ginger Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 inch peeled ginger root, sliced into coins or slivered
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Lower heat and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved (2-3 minutes). Remove from the heat, add ginger, let it steep and cool completely (about 20-30 minutes). The strained syrup can be kept in the refrigerator up to a month. Dispose of the ginger slices or use as garnish if desired (we personally like to eat the candied ginger pieces).
Mixology Monday LXXVIII Roundup: Intercontinental (Oct. 26, 2013)
Putney Farm’s Announcement on Mixology Monday LXXVIII: Intercontinental (Oct. 7, 2013)
Mixology Monday Site
Eat Sleep Whiskey is the Mantra at Longman & Eagle (Oct. 8, 2013)
SF Summer’s End Cocktail (Oct. 18, 2012)
Orange October Aperol Cocktails (Oct. 29, 2012)