Magnum opus

Since checking out DC’s new speakeasy-style cocktail establishment, and meeting one of the masterminds behind the place, I rounded up some friends for cocktails at Central. Justin Guthrie, mixologist at the super-secret-speakeasy, is also bar manager at Central.

Here are the cocktails we tried:

  • Blackberry Bourbon Cobbler – made with Old Weller Antique Bourbon, blackberries, lemon juice, powdered sugar. S&C’s take: we were overpowered by the bourbon at first, but the flavors came together after a few sips. Love the presentation and fresh blackberries.
  • Black Pepper Gin Rickey – made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, house-made black pepper and lime soda. S&C’s take: our fave, no question.
  • Ginger Daiquiri made with Neisson Rhum Agricole, Crème de Gingembre, ginger syrup, fresh lime juice. S&C take: This was our second favorite. It reminds me of the ginger limeade I have at Teaism all the time. Ginger+lime = you can’t go wrong.
  • La Fee Verte – made with Kubler Absinthe, water, sugar. S&C take: Ms. S&C is trying to train her palate to like the taste of fennel. She will try to do the same with strong star anise flavor in absinthe.

The overwhelming favorite was the Black Pepper Gin Rickey. No surprise since it recently won the “Best Rickey category” at the first annual D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild competition. The Gin Rickey cocktail is a DC native, named after Col. Joe Rickey, an influential lobbyist in the late 19th century who squeezed lime and soda water into his morning bourbon.

Black pepper and lime soda may seem like a strange combination, but trust me it is very, very good. Served over ice, it has some “heat” from the pepper but it is also refreshing. The Washington Post already covered the D.C. Craft Bartenders contest, so we can bring you the complete recipe.

Black Pepper Gin Rickey
Note: You’ll need a soda siphon or ISI charger to make this cocktail. Makes 1 serving.

Ingredients:
For the black pepper-lime soda
• 8 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
• 8 ounces black pepper syrup (see below)
• 4 ounces water
For the drink
• Ice
• 1 3/4 ounces gin, preferably Bombay Sapphire
• 4 1/2 ounces black pepper-lime soda (see above)
• 3 thinly sliced lime wheels, for garnish

Directions:
For the black pepper-lime soda: Combine the lime juice, black pepper syrup and water in a soda siphon or ISI charger. Shake and charge with CO2.

For the drink: Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add the gin and the black pepper-lime soda. Garnish with the lime wheels by placing them around the inside of the glass.

For the black pepper syrup: Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup whole black peppercorns and 2 pinches of crushed red pepper flakes; toast for 30 seconds, shaking often to prevent burning. Carefully add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature, then strain the syrup, discarding the solids. (This makes more syrup than is called for in this recipe; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.)

Recipe Source: Justin Guthrie, bar manager at Central in Washington, DC.

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