I wish I could present an exciting, exotic, and fascinating story about this vintage concoction. No story. Just that there are many variations, some of which date back to the nineteenth century. So rather than a great story from history, today’s tasting notes will be more of a horticultural nature.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite Dorothy Parker quotes: “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” (Ponder that one for a moment.)
The bush – The blackthorn (prunus spinosa) is bushy, spiny plum-bearing shrub, often used as a natural “barbed wire” in rural landscaping. Interestingly enough, it is one of the hard woods traditionally used to make Irish Shillelaghs and walking sticks. The plum of the blackthorn bush is called a sloe berry, a plum species from which sloe gin is derived.
The Blackthorn Cocktail
2 oz. gin (Plymouth)
3/4 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
3/4 oz. Kirschwasser
Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry and a lemon twist.
This cocktail was not a big hit for us. I love some bitter edges in my drinks, but this combination of the Dubonnet and the Kirschwasser was just too much. Kirschwasser is a clear fruit brandy made from the double-distillation of morello cherries. It is not a sweet liqueur, but tastes subtly of cherry with a slight bitter nut taste (from the cherry stones). I have to wonder about the quality or brand of the three ingredients. We used Plymouth for a smooth gin taste. However, we may have gone astray by using a cheap Kirschwasser (Hiram Walker). This is not a mistake Nicky and I make very often, but this may have been a big one. We have since ordered a higher-end Kirschwasser and will try this recipe again. The first sip alone was harsh and bitter. These are three strong-willed ingredients on their own. I don’t think they played well together, but that’s just me.
In researching, I came across these other two recipes for a “Blackthorn Cocktail.”
Blackthorn – Sloe Gin Version
1 dash orange bitters
1/3 sweet vermouth (we prefer Carpano Antica or Punt e Mes)
2/3 sloe gin (Plymouth Sloe Gin prefered)
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass and squeeze lemon peel on top
This version is simple, sweet and savory, hints of cloves and cinnamon; think of a mulled wine. Great for the holidays. This recipe was first published by Harry Craddock in “The Savoy Cocktail Book.”
3 Dashes Angostura Bitters
3 Dashes Absinthe (Verte de Fougerolles)
1/2 Irish Whisky (1 1/2 oz Redbreast Irish Whiskey)
1/2 French Vermouth (1 1/2 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth)
Shake well and strain into cocktail glass
Refered to as the “Irish Blackthorn” this version is strong on the absinthe up front, then the vermouth follows with a bit of cherry hint in the finish. The Irish whiskey slips quietly into the background.
Coming up Wednesday: The Blood and Sand (one of Nicky’s favorites!)