This flaming drink, created by cocktail wizard Dave Wondrich (author of Punch and Imbibe) is very loosely based on a Manhattan, except that you set it on fire (Manhattan the cocktail, not the island; setting that on fire isn’t a good idea). The base consists of strong rye mixed with port (replacing the usual vermouth), which is then seasoned with a dash of bitters and small spoonful of a black walnut liqueur. As a flamboyant garnish, Dave ignites a small rum-filled lime afloat on the top of the drink. It’s strong, black, bittersweet, bracing, and slightly dangerous—just the thing to serve to the ghoulish crew you’re likely to encounter on Halloween.
The Warlock’s Hat Cocktail
Makes 1 drink
1½ ounces Rittenhouse or another rye (100 proof if possible)
1½ ounces ruby port (don’t use tawny)
1 teaspoon of nocino liqueur (any nocino is good, Dave uses Aggazzotti black walnut nocino)
2 healthy dashes Whiskey Barrel or other bitters
6 to 8 ice cubes, cracked
151 proof rum (Lemon Hart is good), as needed
- To prepare the lime boat, slice the cheek off the lime (the side of it, you want it about ¾ inch thick). Use the tip of a spoon to scrape the lime flesh out of the peel; you should have what looks like a little boat (use your imagination here re: boat, but remember that the object is to fill the lime with rum and float it on top of the cocktail).
- Pour the rye, port, nocino and bitters into a vessel (you can use a cocktail shaker though you won’t be shaking this; Dave uses a beaker with a pouring lip; a glass measuring cup works too though it’s not as evocative). Add the ice and then stir for a good long while. You want this to be very cold. Strain the potion into a thick-lipped cocktail glass (nothing too dainty, you are going to set it on fire after all).
- Float the lime boat on the cocktail and very carefully fill it with the rum (use a spoon instead of pouring it straight from the bottle, you’ll have more control over the amount, and don’t overfill the lime, you don’t want it to spill out over the top of the lime and into the drink). Ignite rum and let your friends ooh and ah. The flame will resemble a warlock’s hat (see the photo of Dave if you are wondering what a warlock’s hat looks like). Let it burn for a few seconds, then use a spoon to sink the boat to put out the flame before sipping. Imbibe with wicked glee but please refrain from cackling.
- If you can’t find nocino you can substitute another aromatic liqueur. Benedictine would be nice.
- Whiskey Barrel bitters have been aged in, yup, you guessed it, a whiskey barrel for one year before they are bottled. That gives them a nice depth of flavor and intensity. But pretty much any bitters will work here, especially spice bitters or Angostura. Avoid orange biters, which don’t have the right depth of flavor.
- Don’t let the flame burn for more than a few seconds. You don’t want to heat up the glass too much or you could singe your lips.