Lately I have been all but obsessed with bittering up classic cocktail recipes. Though this may just be a consequence of having recently acquired a bunch of amari and quinquinas, almost all of my cocktail experiments have included something bitter. Recently, the Palmetto Cocktail in general has garnered a lot of attention in this respect. Simply a rum Manhattan, its recipe is relatively easy to manipulate in a variety of directions. Besides, the intersection of rum and either an amaro or fortified wine almost always yields interesting, tasty results.
Recently, I found myself craving a brown, bitter stirred cocktail. My thoughts instantly went to the Palmetto. Mind you, I wasn't looking for some extensive experiment, just a simple tasty three-ingredient cocktail. But when I opened the refrigerator, I discovered that I had run out of sweet vermouth. I was even out of Punt e Mes. This was unsettling on many levels. As I cautiously eyed the dry vermouth, I noticed inspiration hiding behind the sherry: half a bottle of Bonal. Eureka!
Though it is relatively new to the United States, Bonal has been around since 1885. Quinquinas like Bonal are very similar to vermouth in that they are aromatized, fortified wines, usually based on white wine or mistelle--non-fermented or partially fermented grape juice with alcohol added. What makes them different is what is then added. A variety of herbs are used in both to create the unique flavor, but generally quinquinas have a significant amount of cinchona bark. Vermouths don't usually include this ingredient, and if they do, in much smaller quantities. Vermouths, on the other hand, were known for their inclusion of wormwood--"wermut" is the German word for wormwood. This distinction has become less important over the years, though some vermouths do still utilize scant amounts of wormwood in their recipes.
Because vermouth and quinquinas are relatively similar in many ways, they can be substituted for each other in many recipes. However, the increased bitterness of a quina may require slight changes in the proportions in order to achieve the proper balance. Bonal in particular has a wonderful earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Because of this, I tend to pair it with rum, though not exclusively. I find that its earth depth plays especially well with rum's light, slightly sweet taste.
1 1/2 ounces rum
1 1/2 ounces Bonal
1/4 Cocchi Americano
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist, or not, as desired.
Notes on Ingredients: I used Bacardi 8, Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas Decanter bitters, and Angostura Orange bitters.
I got yer bitter right here, pal.
3 weeks ago