Death & Taxes (Grill 23 & Bar)

Alexis Jesup

As an idiom, “death and taxes,” is shorthand for the inevitable and expected in life. But as a cocktail, Death & Taxes serves up a surprise.

Sipping this cocktail at Back Bay steakhouse Grill 23 & Bar is like having an after-dinner drink and cigar in the same glass. Its central ingredient is a cigar-infused bourbon, created by smoking Woodford Reserve with a Cuban Montecristo No. 2 in a covered grill.

Its second-most characterful element is subtler. Before pouring, two sprays of Fernet-Branca are used to rinse its glass. Though this leaves just a trace amount of the Italian digestif, the aromatic notes left behind are enough to imprint Fernet-Branca’s bright, menthol bitterness.

The use of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters alongside whiskey makes its build similar to an Old Fashioned, with homemade peach syrup taking the place of simple syrup for balance.

“That’s going to give a little more body and viscosity to the cocktail,” says bartender Joe Corrado. “Mostly booze cocktails need a little help with roundness, and that’s one way to do it.”

The cocktail is smoky, but not in the way you’d expect. It’s a dark tobacco flavor that lingers on the back of the palate, like the finish of a good cigar.

“Even though it’s smoked, it’s fighting against the vanilla and caramel notes of the bourbon,” Corrado says.

Death & Taxes
2 ounces cigar-infused bourbon*

½ ounce peach syrup**
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Fernet-Branca, for rinse

Spritz the inside of a coupe glass twice with Fernet-Branca using a spray bottle. Add all other ingredients to a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into coupe and serve.

*Cigar-Infused Bourbon
1 bottle Woodford Reserve Bourbon

1/6 Montecristo No. 2 cigar

Pour bourbon into a hotel pan (or another metal pan with a large surface area), and place pan onto rack of a grill. Soak cigar segment in water to prevent burning, then cut into small pieces and use for kindling in place of wood or charcoal. Cover and smoke for up to 20 minutes, tasting every five minutes until desired smoke flavor is reached. Funnel bourbon back into bottle.

**Peach Syrup (yields about 1 quart)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 peach, halved and chopped roughly, pit removed
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boil has been reached, lower temperature and simmer for five minutes. Add ingredients to a sealed container and refrigerate overnight. The following day, puree ingredients and strain into a sealed container. Keeps one week refrigerated, one month frozen.

Brian Samuels

 

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