The world’s insistence on having novelty menus for “holiday” events has long been the bane of my life. Halloween is no exception. A very dear friend calls me the reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, but I consider my ingrained contempt somewhat justified, because, in the name of fun, bars, restaurants, and all manner of shops are draped in cheap cobwebs and plastic pumpkins in some vain attempt to seem festive. If we move past the debate on the Americanisation of Halloween in this country, we find ourselves caught in a never ending cycle of misery and I’m afraid our nights on the town are a significant casualty.
Our senses are bombarded with concoctions so strong in sugar Jamie Oliver wants to tax them back to the stone age. Layered with grenadine to give them that blood-red colouring, any taste the drink may have had is usually compromised. Changing names to give them spooky descriptions is another trait that irritates me to high heaven. The day I drink something called Frankenstein’s Brain, as I saw on one menu the other evening, is the day you can cart me off to the insane asylum for good. Drinking is an adult activity and something some of us take very seriously, so if you’re going to slurp down a badly-made, luminous green mixture through false vampire teeth, wearing cheap, rash-inducing make-up and a cape that resembles a rather flimsy bin bag, please, reassess your life.
All is not lost, though! There are classic options that make for an elegant and refined Halloween party tipple. They pack a punch and your senses will soon be numbed, so you needn’t remember the distasteful or the inadmissible, but your boozing dignity will remain intact. Here are my top acceptable Halloween drinks.
The Corpse Reviver No. 2
Whilst this drink is part of the “hair of the dog” family of cocktails, its name lends nicely to our theme, and from my experience, enjoying a few too many of these bad boys will send you straight back to the morgue. Whilst most of the great morning-after recipes have gone to the grave with their makers, this little beauty is featured in Harry Craddock’s infamous Savoy Cocktail Book. The intoxicating libation will pick you up from one of those weekends that makes you scared to check your bank balance on Monday morning and then send you right back down the rabbit hole.
- 1 oz. gin
- 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz. Cointreau
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1 dash absinthe
- Orange peel, for garnish
Shake all ingredients together in an ice-filled cocktail shaker; strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange peel.
Deep in the darkest parts of New York City at the Tailor Restaurant, legendary bartender Eben Freeman invented an elixir and named it after the dark lord himself. A few too many of these and you’ll be seated right next to the fallen angel for sure. This astounding mixture of tequila, ginger beer, and a generous drizzle of crème de cassis, sends you on an adventure around the layers of your palate that even Dante would be proud of. The Tequila though is not just any tequila – Freeman was a cut above the rest when it came to these types of drinks and selected reposado tequila as his libation of choice. Literally meaning “rested”, these tequilas have been left from a minimum of two months to no more than a year. Essentially blanco tequilas, these possess more flavour through a heartier body with a deeper smoothness. Being a tequila lover myself, I’d can’t recommend these enough. I would have the painkillers handy the next morning though, as the sweetness of the ginger beer and blackcurrant liqueur make them very moreish.
- 2 oz. reposado tequila
- 3 oz. ginger beer
- 1 teaspoon crème de cassis
- 1 lime wedge
In a highball glass, combine ice and tequila. Top with ginger beer, then slowly pour in crème de cassis (it will settle to bottom). Squeeze a lime wedge over, then drop the wedge into drink.
Death in the Afternoon
This risky pairing of absinthe and champagne has been championed by one of the most prolific writers in human history, Ernest Hemingway. The self-proclaimed inventor of this frankly lethal drink suggested adding ice-cold champagne to a measure of absinthe until it attained the “proper opalescent milkiness”, and then to proceed and drink three to five in one sitting. Many years ago, In Good Taste’s Travel Editor and I were on one of our legendary drinking sessions; between us we can consume enough booze to put an elephant on its back. On the town in Leeds I ordered one of these cocktails, and I’m going to state right here and now if you can drink more than two of these bad boys, you are a bona fide drinking legend, and I will personally travel to shake your hand and buy you a drink.
- 1.5 oz. absinthe
- 4.5 oz. champagne
Pour the absinthe into a champagne flute or coupe glass and top with champagne (I recommend a quick stir).
The Zombie is made of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums. It first appeared in 1934 and was invented by Donn Beach of Hollywood’s infamous Don the Beachcomber restaurant. It was popularised soon afterwards at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Beach was very cautious with the recipes of his original cocktails. His instructions for his bartenders contained many coded references, the contents of which were only known to him. Beach’s original recipe for the Zombie was published in Sippin’ Safari by Jeff Berry in 2007. Berry researched the origins of many Tiki cocktails, interviewing bartenders from the Beachcomber and other original Tiki haunts, as well as digging up other original sources. Due to the popularity of the cocktail during the Tiki craze and the fact that Beach kept his recipe secret and only occasionally altered it, today there are many variations, some showing a few similarities to the original cocktail. The Zombie is frequently served heated due to the use of over proof rum that is easily ignitable, and plays host to a heavy-bodied rum, a Gold Label rum, a White Label rum, as well as apricot brandy and papaya juice.
For all those who drink this, it was a pleasure to know you. I’ll see you in the gutter around three in the morning. Supposedly made for a hung-over businessman for a pick-me-up, he later returned to complain that he had been turned into a zombie for his entire trip. Its smooth, fruity taste works to conceal its extremely high alcoholi content. Many bars actually limit their customers to two Zombies apiece. Good luck with this one.
- 1/2 oz Bacardi 151 rum
- 1 oz pineapple juice
- 1 oz orange juice
- 1/2 oz apricot brandy
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 oz light rum
- 1 oz dark rum
- 1 oz lime juice
Blend all ingredients with ice except Bacardi 151 proof rum. Pour into a Collins glass.
Float the Bacardi 151 proof rum on top. Garnish with a fruit slice, sprig of mint and a cherry.
So during this spooky season it is still possible to enjoy your booze in a mature and sensible way. With these proper drinks in your arsenal, I would recommend having your affairs in order and your last rights administered.
Photo: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu