Bonnie Lass at Adrift Tiki Bar
Every bartender has a go-to drink — the drink they order when they get off work and slide into the solace of the quiet corner of a darkened bar somewhere. They wouldn’t think of burdening their bartender with a high-maintenance cocktail consisting of six obscure ingredients and a ten-minute ticket time. For a lot of bartenders, it’s a shot of Jameson or a glass of Fernet Branca. For Paul Larkin, bar manager at Adrift Tiki Bar, it’s a whiskey and ginger.
“Scotch has always been a love of mine,” says Larkin, who came up with a way to incorporate it in a tiki-style version of his preferred whiskey and ginger. While Scotch isn’t exactly the spirit you associate with tiki cocktails, Larkin makes it work by combining Scotch with ginger and melon liqueurs and sparkling wine to make to make his Bonnie Lass ($10).
“I love whiskey in general,” Larkin says. “I wanted to do a whiskey ginger, which is kind of my default drink when I go out on the town.” He laments that blended Scotch fell out of popularity in the late '70s and early '80s, particularly a brand called Cutty Sark, which he recently discovered and now enjoys regularly. Customers who drank Cutty back in the day see the bottle on his backbar and ask him if people still drink it. Using it in his new cocktail was Larkin’s way of bringing it back.
“Cutty is not these like huge Scotches that are going to overwhelm everything,” he says. “It’s subtle enough to where your average drinker can get behind it. It’s a little smoky with that whiskey sweetness.” Produced since 1923 in Glasgow, Cutty Sark is a blend of single malt whiskies from all over Scotland. It’s milder than the more heavily smoky Scotches, which makes it more suitable for mixing in cocktails. “It’s not going to punch you in the face,” Larkin says. “That’s why I chose it.”
“Whiskey and ginger pair well together, always,” Larkin continues. He played around with a few ginger-based products before settling on Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur. “The reason it’s called Intense Ginger Liqueur is because it has that intense ginger flavor,” he continues. “It has a lingering spice. That’s something I love about ginger — it has that lingering kick to it. It’s something that hangs out with you for five or ten minutes afterwards.”
Barrow’s, made in Brooklyn, New York, is made by infusing freshly grated Peruvian and Chinese ginger with a 190-proof neutral cane spirit in large stainless steel tanks. The infusion is then strained and blended with sugar and water, then bottled The whole process takes a little over a month, and results in a powerful liqueur with a strong, sharp ginger flavor.
Paul Larkin creates a tiki version of his favorite drink: whiskey and ginger ale.
“I was playing around with a couple of other melon liqueurs; nothing really came out too well,” Larkin says. “They just added sugar, not an actual melon sweetness.” Larkin finally settled on Midori, a Japanese liqueur flavored with honeydew melon. The bright green liqueur is what anchors Larkin’s Scotch-and-ginger cocktail firmly in tiki territory.
“The melon sweetness sticks with the overall tiki theme that we have going on,” Larkin says. “It’s got some citrus flavors, and it’s got some melon flavor to kind of give it that tiki feel. It worked out great.”
After combining the Scotch and both the ginger and melon liqueurs, Larkin shakes them with ice and strains them into a champagne glass, topping it off with Prosecco. Larkin’s choice is Ruffino, from Northeastern Italy. “It’s nice and dry,” he says of the sparkling wine from Italy, “but it also has a little bit of sweetness. It’s not overwhelming. And, of course, bubbly is always very pretty.”
The subtle sweetness of melons and the tartness of ginger in his drink, Larkin says, pair well with Adrift’s steak dinner ($15). “The sauce is what makes the dish,” he says. Cabernet Sauvignon is reduced with mushrooms and a blend of spices and herbs to make the sauce, which is rich and full of flavor. “When you condense those flavors,” Larkin continues, “it just really stands out. People are scooping it up and smearing it all over the mashed potatoes and just slurping it. It’s delightful.”
The Bonnie Lass has been on Adrift’s menu for almost a month now, as part of the bar's “Limited Time Cocktails” series. This program allows each of Adrift’s bartenders to highlight their latest recipes. While the back of the menu features classics from the Manhattan to the Mai Tai, the “Limited Time Cocktails” section of the menu allows Larkin and his bartenders to enjoy a little more freedom and creativity. “If we don’t have an ingredient they want to play around with,” Larkin says, “I’ll find out who it’s distributed by and get a bottle, so that way we can kind of experiment.”
Even though Scotch isn’t found in a lot of tiki drinks, the Bonnie Lass is selling surprisingly well. “The people who have tried it, love it,” Larkin reports. “And it’s funny, because the people who have tried it order five or six of them through the course of the night. Then they come back and get it again.”
“I’m really proud of it,” Larkin continues. “It’s nice, light and summery.”
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1 oz. Cutty Sark Scotch whisky
1.5 Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
.5 oz. Midori melon liqueur
Pour all ingredients into a shaker tin. Add ice and shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with prosecco. Garnish with an orange peel.