Mixology Monday: Ashtray Heart & The Warning Label

I can’t believe that a month has already passed since the last Mixology Monday, but my disbelief may have something to do with being almost a week late with my previous (and first ever) MxMo post. In fact, it hasn’t quite been a month yet since I wrote that first post. This month the theme is “Humbug!” and is hosted by JFL of Rated R Cocktails. If you couldn’t guess from the title, the goal is to explore anti-holiday cocktails.

I spent a bit of time brainstorming about what would make a cocktail “anti-holiday.” The suggestions in the introduction to the theme make sense. Tiki drinks are appropriate given that they’re tropical and fruity. Bitter and spirited cocktails could be anti-holiday, provided they aren’t too spiced or herbal. My two best ideas ended up being a little too hard to execute on the short lead time that I gave myself: 1) a cocktail designed for sharing but with the straws tied together and a “no sharing” sign, or 2) a cocktail that takes the “humbug” a little too literally and is garnished with a deep fried insect (which also would have been good for last month’s theme).

Instead, I turned to my cocktail books. Beta Cocktails seemed like a particularly good source for anti-holiday cocktails, and I was not disappointed. Right there on the second page of recipes was the Ashtray Heart, a dark, bitter, and smokey cocktail that combines Smith & Cross with two vermouths and a mezcal rinse.

Ashtray Heart cocktail

Ashtray Heart
Erik Ellestad, courtesy of Beta Cocktails
1 oz Smith & Cross
1 oz Punt e Mes
1 oz Dry Vermouth (Dolin Dry)
Mezcal (rinse)
 
Stir and strain into a coupe rinsed with a smokey mezcal. Express the oil from a grapefruit twist and discard.

The name for this drink is very appropriate. The normally distinctive hogo flavor of the Smith & Cross merges with the bitterness of the Punt e Mes to create a flavor that is very reminiscent of the aroma of an overfull ashtray that should have been emptied a week ago. The smokiness of the mezcal furthers this notion, though I think it would have worked better with a smokier mezcal than I had available (I used Sombra).

A further exploration of Beta Cocktails revealed several other anti-holiday cocktail possibilities, and I also chose to try out The Warning Label.

The Warning Label cocktail

The Warning Label
Maks, courtesy of Beta Cocktails
 
1 oz Cynar
1 oz Demerara 151 rum
1 oz Punt e Mes
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
1 dash Grapefruit bitters
Campari (rinse)
 
Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass rinsed with Campari. Garnish with a lemon twist.

This cocktail opens with a fairly prominent citrus note, especially given that it contains no juice, and then some of the bitter notes of the Cynar and Punt e Mes become apparent. It is not obvious that it contains a 151 proof rum, though I imagine that it might be if you tried more than one. I would say this was the preferred cocktail of both my wife and I, which probably makes it less anti-holiday than the Ashtray Heart. I expect that I’ll be making it again, perhaps in the near future.