There’s an age-old scientific truism that oil and water don’t mix. The same is true of oil and liquor. But that hasn’t stopped crafty bartenders from figuring out creative ways to incorporate a colorful cornucopia of oils into their cocktails. From fat-washing liquors to flambéing citrus rinds and beyond, here are 10 stunning oil-accented cocktails.
The Blanchard, Chicago, Illinois
This is not your same-old-same-old Old Fashioned. Head barman Arunas Bruzas mixes Old Forester Special Reserve Bourbon, vanilla and lavender fume, and aromatic bitters. To complete the creation, he fires up an orange peel. This releases the rind’s zesty oils while reinforcing the bourbon’s smoky elements. Make a reservation at The Blanchard.
Mourad, San Francisco, California
The Umami + Mint had us at umami (no offense, mint). White tequila is shaken with lemon juice, agave, ‘cumber rounds, mint leaves, and a touch of toasted sesame oil to add the “fifth taste.” It’s served in a double rocks glass with a bewitching ribbon of cucumber that’s sure to inspire you to shoot an Instagram before you take a sip. Make a reservation at Mourad.
Tarallucci e Vino, New York, New York
The Caprese salad, now in cocktail form – minus the mozzarella. Head bartender Akram Bouchette muddles together cherry tomatoes, basil, simple syrup, and lemon juice before adding olive oil and grappa. Shaken with ice and strained, the pinkish potable comes garnished with cherry tomatoes and viridian basil leaves. Make a reservation at Tarallucci e Vino.
Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, Illinois
Beverage director Julian Cox gives a tiki twisted nod to the cult film Friday with his Aloha Felicia cocktail. It changes seasonally, but currently features rum, coconut cream, pineapple, lime, Thai basil, and lemongrass essential oil. The results mash together the sensibilities of the West Indies and the Far East. Make a reservation at Three Dots and a Dash.
Il Porcellino, Chicago, Illinois
Screech would surely approve. The Saved by the Basil is a complex cocktail sporting Manzanilla fino sherry, lemon juice, Dimmi (an Italian aperitif infused with licorice, rhubarb, vanilla, ginseng, and more), strawberry, dehydrated orange, and a house-made cordial enriched with basil essential oil. Make a reservation at Il Porcellino.
Vandal, New York, New York
Cocktail creators love a good pun. Meet Sergeant Bell Pepper – ba dum chhh! – a swirl of Botanist gin, lemon juice, and bell pepper juice. Dots of Thai chili oil floating on the surface add flashpoints of fire. Make a reservation at Vandal.
The Commoner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Fat-washing infuses flavor and adds a silkier mouthfeel to liquors without adding many extra calories. Lead bartender Mai Jeans uses coconut oil-washed vodka, along with Benedictine, coconut water, fresh lime juice, nam phrik (Thai hot sauce), and cayenne to create the Tessie. The results are equally sizzling and soothing. Make a reservation at the Commoner.
The Duck Inn, Chicago, Illinois
We’ve never had a cocktail like this before. The Zen by the Sword is served in a traditional sake box with aromatic oils rubbed into the sides to add heady scents while you sip. The grass green cocktail inside is made with Mizu shochu, plum-infused Ichinokura “Himezen Ume” sake, Umenoyado Yuzushu sake, and matcha powder. Make a reservation at the Duck Inn.
Volt, Frederick, Maryland
We give two thumbs way up to the Two Green Thumbs. Beverage director Dane Nakamura combines vodka, gin, elderflower liqueur, and lime oleo saccharum syrup granité to create a chipper sipper. Then he sprays on a mist of basil oil to add an herbaceous undertone. Make a reservation at Volt.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Jeff Marini (Il Porcellino, Three Dots and a Dash); Neil Burger (The Blanchard); Noelle Chun (Mourad).