A few weeks ago, the Whistler announced their Friends and Family Cocktail Challenge. Twenty-four hours later, I started experimenting. Who cares if I don't live in Chicago anymore? It's still my favorite bar. Billy, Eric, and (formerly) Paul played a huge part in forming/fueling both my palate and my love for interesting, well-made cocktails. I jumped at the chance to get on their menu.
I found out today that my cocktail, Oh My Word, had been selected from over 60 entries as one of the ten winners, and it will appear on tonight's menu. Since I've always been really interested in how certain cocktails came to be, I figure I'd share my own process.
I've always been pretty obsessed with The Last Word—I'd probably consider it my favorite of the classic cocktails—so I knew I wanted to start there. We'd also been drinking a fair amount of Gamle Ode's dill aquavit at Westra manor (we're Minnesotan, give me a break), and I knew that Bittercube's Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz had created their own Last Word variation, Det Sista Ordet, swapping dill aquavit in as the base spirit.
I like the Det Sista Ordet, but I wanted to try upping the bitter factor. Enter: Malört.
If you don't live in Chicago, or drink a LOT of booze, you might not know Malört. Swedish for Wormwood, it's an unrelentingly bitter liquor. Jeppson's is the classic Chicago brand (though, actually distilled in Florida since the 70s), but it's not going into a cocktail. Jeppson's is going in your body as a shot, or not at all. Recently, Chicago's Letherbee distillery started making their own version of Malört, which is arguably more drinkable. It's a little more anise-y on the front, and in the right amount, theoretically perfect for my needs here.
My first few iterations were fucking horrible. Horrible. But there seemed to be something there (or my tastebuds were so blown out I had no business tasting anything else that night). Each early variation of the dill, Malört, and standard Last Word ingredients (Green Chartreuse, lime, maraschino) were clashing. I thought that maybe dialing back the dill, splitting the Chartreuse and Malört, and bringing gin back into the fold would help balance things out. It did.
So where did I end up? Well... with a shitload of ingredients. BUT, they all work, even in these smallish amounts. I did try to drop one or two of them out (for example, using just Maraschino or simple syrup instead of both) but it threw everything out of whack again. Cocktails are weird like that.
In the end, I'm really pleased with it. It's an extremely herbal, full-flavored drink that's bitter but still refreshing. It's also strong. Real strong.
Oh My Word
- .75 oz Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit
- .5 oz Letherbee Gin
- .25 oz Letherbee Malört
- .25 oz Green Chartreuse
- .5 oz Maraschino liqueur
- .5 fresh lime juice
- .25 simple syrup
Combine all ingredients, shake, strain, and serve down in a rocks glass with a lime wheel
If you're in Chicago, head to the Whistler tonight and try it. Best of all, 25% of the proceeds will be going to Logan Square charities. Otherwise, make it at home. I'd love to hear what you think.