“With these cocktails, we’re trying to be Italian. Simple is best,” says Brad Drouin. “I’ve never been a believer in 10-step martinis.” Drouin is our man behind the bar at Italian Eatery, the cozy, low-lit destination for meatballs and bucatini on Cedar Avenue near Lake Nokomis. This month’s cocktail is simple indeed—just two ingredients and some bitters. But you will need to prep one special ingredient a week in advance.
“I’ve always wanted to play around with charred cedar in a cocktail,” says Drouin. “And with this rebirth of pre-Prohibition cocktails, I think an old fashioned just makes sense.”
Find a pair of cedar planks at Whole Foods (or, if elsewhere, make sure they’re food grade) and use the spider burner on your stovetop, or a creme brulee torch, to get them golden-brown and toasted all over. Make sure to stop before they turn charcoal-black. While they’re still warm, drop them in a large jar and pour in a bottle of bourbon. Two planks will get a 750ml bottle nice and smoky in one week. You’ll want to use a mellow whiskey, nothing too overbearing (no high-ryes) and nothing too sweet. Drouin uses Elijah Craig.
This cocktail works because the intense blood orange citrus of Solerno neutralizes the more penetrating smoke from the cedar. What you’re left with is the sensation of candied orange slices drying over the embers of a fire.
And beyond this cocktail, use the rest of your charred whiskey to see how it changes the flavor of other classics (smoky Manhattans, anyone?). And save those boozy cedar planks for baking chicken breasts—a splash of cedar bourbon would be excellent in a marinade with some whole grain mustard and maple syrup.
- 2 ounces cedar-infused bourbon
- ½ ounce Solerno
- Dash Angostura bitters
- Dash Fee Bros. Old Fashioned bitters
MethodStir all ingredients with ice and strain into a lowball glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a swath of lemon peel.