Sunday 29 January 2023

The Mexican Blackbird

During lockdown the New Sheridan Club started entertaining the troops with a weekly virtual pub quiz, delivered via Zoom. This has continued post-Covid as a monthly treat, and a couple of months back one of the questions was actually a task—to create a cocktail in ten minutes using whatever ingredients were to hand, which the quizmistress then judged conceptually rather than by actually tasting it, obviously. One contestant let himself down by putting lighter fluid in his concoction (or so he claimed), whereas my invention was more conventional.

I had some crème de cassis which I’d bought for some other project, and I was reminded of the El Diablo cocktail from the 1940s, which combines this with tequila. I think I’d also recently restocked with Cocchi Americano, which I use as a substitute for Kina Lillet in vintage recipes. It’s bitter-sweet and I always feel it has an element of ginger to it, and I also think that tequila goes well with that flavour too (in fact the El Diablo is lengthened with ginger ale). So my cocktail was slightly inspired by the classic Corpse Reviver No. 2, which is equal parts gin, lemon juice, Kina Lillet (or Cocchi Americano) and triple sec, with a dash of absinthe. In this case I actually used two parts tequila to one part each of lemon juice, Cocchi Americano and crème de cassis. To make it more visually fun, I added the cassis last, pouring it through a funnel that I put into the drink, against the bottom of the glass, so that the liqueur formed a lower layer.

When it comes actually to drinking the cocktail, I would recommend mixing it all together: even if you have a sweet tooth and fancy the neat cassis, the rest of the drink is a bit tart without it. For me, I found I actually preferred it with only half a measure of cassis, as the Cocchi adds some sweetness too.

Mexican Blackbird*
2 shots tequila
1 shot Cocchi Americano
1 shot lemon juice
½ shot crème de cassis

I heartily recommend this cocktail. As you raise the glass you are first hit by the petrolly herbaceous note of the tequila. Then on the tongue is the unmistakeable blackcurrant unctuousness of the cassis, but any possibility of cloying sweetness is immediately scooped out by the tartness of the lemon juice and the bitterness of the Cocchi—making for a distinctly grown-up cocktail. You can taste all the elements and they riff off each other in a way that encourages contemplation.

*A song by the immortal ZZ Top