6 Spooky Cocktail Recipes
Nothing quite says “Halloween” like the color black. Even cocktails are looking spooky this month, with bartenders adding crushed black sesame seeds, squirts of squid ink and sprinkles of activated charcoal to feed into the holiday’s eerie vibe. This Halloween scare up a wickedly good time with these macabre potions (no cauldron required).
—Kelly A. Magyarics
Recipe courtesy Food Wine & Co., Bethesda, MD
Ursula, the half-human, half-octopus villainess from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, was the inspiration for this ocean potion. A swirl of squid ink evokes the opaque ink that Ursula emits when she’s angry, and the glass’s shape mirrors the hurricane of destruction that the dark witch of the sea causes in her final battle.
“For Halloween, we wanted to have a little fun and dip into our darker side,” says Renee Reardon, manager of Food Wine & Co. “Black cocktails are anything but ordinary, and represent the Halloween spirit.”
Brown sugar and lemon wedge, for rimming
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce blanco vermouth
1 ounce lemon juice
Several drops of squid ink
Squid tentacle, for garnish
Rub the outside of a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon wedge, and then rim it with the brown sugar. Add the remaining ingredients, except the squid ink, to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into the prepared glass, add a few drops of squid ink and swirl it with a toothpick. Garnish with the squid tentacle.
Recipe courtesy Zentan, Washington, D.C.
This ominous-looking variation of the Hemingway Daiquiri is fitting for Halloween, “considering Hemingway’s jilted outlook on the world, not to mention the more obvious foreboding image that ‘Death Before Dinner’ evokes,” says Matt Allred, Zentan’s lead bartender. He alters the classic crowd-pleasing recipe by adding orgeat syrup to round out the sweetness. Citrus juice infused with activated charcoal gives it a dark, gunmetal grey color.
1¼ ounce Flor de Caña 4 Year Rum
1 ounce activated charcoal-clarified grapefruit and lime juice (see recipe below)
¼ ounce orgeat syrup
¼ ounce maraschino liqueur
Grapefruit twist, for garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the grapefruit twist.
For the activated charcoal-clarified grapefruit and lime juice:
Add a pinch of activated charcoal to ¾ ounce of grapefruit juice and ¼ ounce of lime juice. Stir to combine.
Recipe courtesy Zentan, Washington, D.C.
An interpretation of a sesame-driven Japanese dessert in liquid form, Zentan’s drink gets depth (and color) from syrup made from black sesame seeds.
“Charcoal reinforces the black color of the sesame seeds and makes for a pretty aesthetic, especially as a canvas for the garnish,” says former bar manager Jon Harris, who created the drink. Though strawberry adds an accent, the sip is more foreboding and savory than fruity or sweet, making it both a trick and a treat.
1½ ounces No. 3 London Dry Gin
½ ounce Konteki “Pearls of Simplicity” Junmai Daiginjo Saké
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce sesame-strawberry syrup (see recipe below)
1 small pinch activated charcoal
Finely chopped edible orchids or other edible flowers, for garnish
Add all ingredients to a cocktail glass. Add ice, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with edible flowers sprinkled on top.
For the sesame-strawberry syrup:
Bring ¼ cup chopped strawberries and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium, and add 2 cups of sugar. Simmer until the syrup clarifies and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the strawberries, and pour the syrup into a blender. Add 4 teaspoons of toasted black sesame seeds and blend the mixture on high until the seeds are pulverized. Let the syrup cool, and strain out the sesame seeds. Store in the refrigerator until needed.
Recipe courtesy 2nd Floor on Clinton, New York City
The somber tones of artist Joseph Beuy’s images stirred fellow artist and mixologist Ektoras Binikos to recreate them in a cocktail. Activated charcoal is purely for aesthetics, but the best-selling drink gets floral and herbal undertones from muddled shiso leaves and Bergamot bitters.
“As a mixologist and visual artist, I have this idea that my cocktails are components of a large social sculpture,” says Binikos. The drink’s drab and gloomy appearance belies its fitting festivity at a Halloween soirée.
Smoked sea salt, for rimming
2 lime wedges
3 shiso leaves, divided
1½ ounces simple syrup
4 drops of Chios mastiha water (order from www.mastihashopny.com)
1½ ounces Absolut Vodka
½ ounce Becherovka
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce yuzu juice
3 drops of Hella Bitters Citrus (or another orange bitters)
Zest of 1 lemon or lime
2–3 drops of Miracle Mile Bergamot Bitters
Wet the outside rim of a cocktail glass and roll it in the smoked sea salt to rim it.
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lime wedges, 1 shiso leaf, the simple syrup and the mastiha water. Add the vodka, Becherovka, juices, citrus bitters, zest and activated charcoal powder to the shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain the drink into the prepared highball glass, and top with 2 shiso leaves and 2–3 drops of the Bergamot bitters.
Recipe courtesy PX, Alexandria, VA
Todd Thrasher, a partner at PX and its beverage director, was tired of guests requesting dirty martinis with stuffed blue-cheese olives, so he came up with this version that’s anything but clichéd and murky. He infuses Dolin Blanc Vermouth with a tablespoon of squid ink.
“It’s dark and dramatic, and perfect to serve up at a Halloween party when a regular martini needs to be a little more spooky and festive,” says Thrasher.
2 ounces Ketel One Vodka
¾ ounce squid ink-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth (see recipe)
Olive, for garnish
Add vodka and vermouth to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an olive.
For the squid ink-infused Dolin Blanc Vermouth:
Add 1 tablespoon of squid ink to a 750ml bottle of Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Shake or stir the bottle to combine the ingredients.
Recipe courtesy Del Campo, Washington, D.C.
Everything on the menu at this South American restaurant is smoked or touches the flame. Smoked tomato juice and a charred chili pepper give mouthwatering savory notes to the brunch eye-opener whose name translates to “panther.” It gets a facelift with a briny mixture of fish stock and a dash of squid ink.
“It’s spooky looking,” say Mary Kelly, the bar manager. “There is an animal crawling out of your drink!”
1½ ounces Macchu Pisco
½ ounce lemon juice
½ bar spoon of a blend of fish stock and squid ink (just a few drops to turn it black)
4 ounces applewood-smoked tomato juice (see recipe)
½ puréed grilled rocoto pepper (or another chili pepper)
½ ounce Worcestershire sauce
Horseradish, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Grilled cocktail onion, lime wedge and charred octopus tentacle, for garnish
Add the pisco, lemon juice, fish stock and squid ink mixture, tomato juice, puréed pepper and Worcestershire sauce to a pint glass. Stir to combine, then add ice and stir again. Add horseradish and salt and pepper (to taste), and garnish with the grilled cocktail onion, lime wedge and charred octopus tentacle.
For the applewood-smoked tomato juice:
Pour applewood chips into a smoker box, set on a grill and preheat to medium. Pour tomato juice into a shallow bowl or pan, set it on the grill and smoke for 20 minutes, or until desired flavor is achieved. (A stovetop smoker can also be used.)
- 2Ursula Martini
- 3Death Before Dinner
- 4Black Eye
- 5Absolut Kelly
- 6Black Martini