Another one for you anise-curious out there – and this Black Licorice Manhattan is one you’ll tip back far too easily. It’s a strong one, so you’ve been warned. I wanted to use up some oleo saccharum I’d made a few weeks ago for some other cocktails and was surfing through the Flavor Bible for pairings that might work with the orange citrus from the sugar syrup. One suggestion was orange + chocolate + licorice. I love licorice and have several kinds of absinthe so it was off to the races.
I didn’t care for the taste of licorice as a kid, but now that I’ve gotten into cocktails and mixology, I can’t get enough of it. It’s bitter, yes, but also cooling on the tongue, and refreshing in a way I’d never experienced eating that terrible candy that turned my teeth black as a child.
And I hadn’t thought of pairing chocolate and anise together, but given that those are the two flavor notes I get most from my favorite amaro (Foro) along with coffee notes, it made sense once I thought about it.
I put in a quick guess of proportions based on the fact that I was using Copper & Kings ginger-infused absinthe – a very high proof, flavorful absinthe, added ice for a stir and took a quick taste test.
Oh my god.
I was dancing in the kitchen the taste was so good. It is a sweet cocktail, with the oleo saccharum and the chocolate liqueur, but the anise is strong enough to cut through that and pull it back so it’s not overly sweet. At least not to me.
When you make a cocktail that makes you throw you head back and sigh at the first sip, you know you’ve got one you’ll be putting into rotation. It might even be a good one as a hostess gift if you’re going to a party where you know your friends enjoy the taste of licorice. I’ve got a couple of friends in mind once travel is back in business.
Back to the cocktail. Licorice and chocolate work together, I think, because they are so different they don’t compete with one another. And to make sure the chocolate and orange notes stayed forward on the palate I added a bit of Bitter Truth dark chocolate bitters and Woodford’s orange bitters.
For a base spirit, I sampled several, but the best match for me was something I wouldn’t normally put in a cocktail as it’s a high quality, complex bourbon on its own, and doesn’t really need much in the way of mixers to improve it. But with this cocktail, Barrell Bourbon batch 15 at 9.5 years old and 107.6 proof had the complexity and the strength to make this cocktail superb. And very strong.
I left the garnish simple, an orange wheel with a few star anise on it, but if you had a chocolate orange, a wedge of that on the edge of the glass, or shaved onto the surface of the cocktail would be delightful.
Go find your favorite absinthe and chocolate liqueur (make sure to use a non-creamy one) and put this one together. I promise you’ll do a little dance, too.
If you’re a licorice fiend, check out this wildly popular Hibiscus Absinthe Frappe, or if you love oleo saccharum cocktails, check out this Oleo Old Fashioned.
Exit Strategy – Black Licorice Manhattan
- ½ oz oleo saccharum
- ¾ oz Ballotin chocolate whiskey do not use a cream-based chocolate liqueur
- ¼ oz Copper & Kings absinthe
- 1.5 oz Barrell Bourbon batch 15
- 10 drops Woodford Reserve orange bitters
- 2 dashes Bitter Truth chocolate bitters
- Garnish: orange wheel with star anise or chocolate shavings
- Combine oleo saccharum, chocolate whiskey (or liqueur), absinthe, whiskey, and bitters in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange wheel and a star anise. Sip slowly and savor it.