When you read a lot of cocktail blogs (and we do) you get a sense of the drinks the writer may prefer. Some like classics, some prefer new creations, some like herbs and infusions and some go tiki. We tend to gravitate to citrus-based, tiki and “sparklers”, cocktails with champagne as the base. But we do have a special place in our hearts for what we call the “alchemy” cocktails, drinks that combine numerous, seemingly mismatched ingredients, but blend into unique and enjoyable flavors. The Last Word (gin, lime, maraschino and Chartreuse) and the Corpse Reviver #2 (gin, Lillet, Cointreau, lemon, absinthe) are some of our favorite “alchemy” cocktails. (You could even argue that the Martini is one of the original alchemy drinks.) And this week’s cocktail, the Diamondback, features its own special form of alchemy.
The Diamondback is a simple combination of bonded rye whiskey, Laird’s bonded applejack and Green Chartreuse. All the booze is above 100 proof and there is nothing but the water from the ice to tame it. To say the Diamondback is a strong drink would be an understatement, it’s a bit of a punch to the mouth. But the flavors are true alchemy. The spicy rye mixes with the tangy applejack and the Chartreuse provides sweetness and herbal notes. In the end, you get a very strong, but warming and deeply flavored, sip. We like the Diamondback, but one is enough (and with 3 oz. of straight booze, don’t plan on driving) and it seems best to us as a fall and winter cocktail. But since its been raining and chilly, the Diamondback has been a treat at the very end of the day.
The cocktail supposedly is named after the (now defunct) Diamondback Lounge of the Lord Baltimore Hotel in Baltimore Maryland. The recipe is first documented in Ted Saucier’s 1950’s cocktail book “Bottoms Up“. Saucier was the publicist for the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York and seemed to know his way around a bar. “Bottoms Up” not only has the recipe for the Diamondback, but also one of the first published recipes for the Last Word. It appears that Saucier also enjoyed “alchemy” cocktails. We are all for it.
As for making the Diamondback, there are a few variations. We went with the “classic” version of 1 and 1/2 oz. rye and 3/4 oz. applejack and Chartreuse. We use Rittenhouse 100 proof for the rye. You don’t really have that much choice with the Applejack (Laird’s) and there is only one Green Chartreuse. Some people prefer a little less Chartreuse, as it is very sweet, and drop it to 1/2 oz. Other versions of the recipe suggest using Yellow Chartreuse. We tried that version, and while good, the softer, honeyed flavor of the Yellow Chartreuse really makes for a different drink. We’re surprised someone hasn’t made up another “snake” name for this version of the Diamondback, but as long as it is dangerous, and perhaps venomous, the name should stick.
- 1 and 1/2 oz. rye whiskey (Rittenhouse 100-proof)
- 3/4 oz. Laird’s Bonded applejack
- 3/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
- Place all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupé. Or strain into an old-fashioned glass with a large ice-cube.
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