Improved Contrarian · Ivory Pearl

One might say that the Improved Contrarian served at Ivory Pearl is a bit … contrarian.

“This cocktail is inspired by a Tom Collins, but it does not taste like a Tom Collins,” says Will Isaza, who holds the delightful title of “Master Chief Mascarpone” at the Brookline restaurant (translation: director of operations).

“That’s the crux of the entire [cocktail] menu,” he continues. “We use classics—either wines or cocktails—as inspiration, but we don’t just try to replicate them, we try to go above and beyond.”

The Improved Contrarian is a highball made with a clear spirit, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda—but that’s where the similarities to a traditional Tom Collins end. Gin is swapped out in favor of a grassy rhum agricole from maker Clément in Martinique, plus an equal amount of the bitter Italian digestif Cynar.

A teaspoon of apricot liqueur from French maker Giffard takes the bitter edge off the Cynar, and a dash of store-bought plum vinegar adds acidity for balance. (Isaza notes that you can find the plum vinegar at Amazon, Whole Foods, or Asian grocery stores.)

Thai basil leaves—sweeter and more herbaceous than your average basil—are shaken together with the other components for an extra kick of flavor.

The end result is a delicious contradiction; bitter but refreshing, herbaceous and effervescent, and what Isaza calls “your after-dinner Collins type of cocktail.”

Improved Contrarian
2 ounces club soda
¾ ounce Rhum Clément White Rum
¾ ounce Cynar
¾ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
1 teaspoon Giffard Abricot du Roussillon
1 dash Eden Selected Ume Plum Vinegar
3-4 leaves Thai basil, plus a single basil leaf (for garnish)

Add all ingredients except club soda and single basil leaf to a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled and then double strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with single basil leaf.

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