Hands down one of the best drinks I had last year was the Bitter Mai Tai at Williamsburg’s wood-paneled cocktail den Dram. With sweet, citrus, hogo, richness and bitter, this drink satisfied many of my cocktail craving all in one brilliantly concocted package. Upon returning home, I set out to find a recipe so that I could recreate this transcendent creation. For the sake of a story I’d like to say I searched far and wide, but in reality a quick internet search turned up several recipes, including this one from Kindred Cocktails: 1 1/2 oz. Campari, 3/4 oz. Smith & Cross rum, 1 oz. lime juice, 3/4 oz. orgeat, 1/2 oz. curacao. Lacking Smith & Cross and orgeat (I know, shame on me for even thinking about making a Mai Tai without first ensuring that I had orgeat), I knew I had to look elsewhere. That’s when I stumbled across this alternate take on the Bitter Mai Tai, featuring Aperol in place of the Campari, anchored by a sturdy backbone of Jamaican and rich Black Strap rum:
Price of Rum (from Kindred Cocktails)
1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/4 oz Appleton Estate V/X
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
1/4 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz lime juice
1/2 oz rich simple syrup (2:1)
Shake and strain into a large rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
This is a stellar take on Dram’s creation. The use of the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao here is key. The bitter orange peel notes amp up the overall bitterness and tame what might otherwise be an overwhelmingly sweet drink. Plus there is something robust and authentic about the orange flavor created by the amicable pairing of the Aperol with the Dry Curaçao. Playfully sweet, balanced with splash of citrus, and cleverly dried out by a long and satisfying bitter finish, this drink is bitter tiki at its finest!
Top photo by Flickr user the cardinal de la ville