Cocktail of the Week #3: The Medicinal Compound

Listen up kids, because this is one recipe you won’t find in your fancy books or favorite blogs. Presented by Astor Center’s Jenn Smith as part of her “Drinking During Prohibition” class, the Medicinal Compound shows off the sort of potent, simple fare that one might’ve found in a clandestine speakeasy. If they were lucky.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • 2 parts Rye
  • 1 part Amaro (Ramazzotti works well)
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 Orange Twist as a garnish

Stir with cracked ice and strain into a chilled coupe.

You could take a part to either be an ounce or 3/4 an ounce, depending on your glassware (at 3/4 an ounce, the drink is only 2.75oz total volume or so, post-stirring). One thing to note is for the Orange Bitters, you want 1 dash per ounce of Rye. And, speaking of Rye, your choice is wide open here, but if you want something to fit the Prohibition spirit, go for either Old Overholt or Rittenhouse Bonded.

As mentioned above, Ramazzotti is a good amaro choice here and a relatively inexpensive amaro to begin with. And for those of you wondering what this amaro even is, it’s one of a class of Italian liqueurs (called amari, the plural for amaro) that have a bittersweet flavor and are often enjoyed as digestifs. There’s a surprisingly wide range of amari, from the very light and citrusy Amaro Nonino to the witchking of bitterness itself, Fernet Branca. Ramazzotti is right in the middle.

If you make or taste this one, you’ll see why it’s called the “Medicinal Compound”. The amaro lends a root-ish flavor to the drink which, when coupled with the spice of Rye and citrus from the bitters and the garnish, make this drink a bit, well, medicinal — in a good way. Fans of stirred and boozy drinks are probably going to like this one.

One of the best things about this cocktail is that it demonstrates how easy it is to take a small number of ingredients, apply a common ratio and produce an excellent drink. If you recall our stirred & boozy ratios from the Stock Your Bar: For $100 guide, you’ll notice this is a 2:1 ratio with accompanying bitters. A few things to try on your own:

  1. Swap out the Rye for other whisk(e)y, such as Scotch, Bourbon and Irish. What works and what does not?
  2. Try “lengthening” this drink out by using smaller volumes (perhaps 1/2oz = 1 part) and adding ice/club soda to the end result.
  3. Use an amaro as a substitute for a fortified wine in another cocktail (e.g. sweet vermouth) and take note of the differences. Try both your amaro and fortified wine side-by-side.

Questions? Comments? Discoveries you need to share before you go to bed half-drunk? Let us know.


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