Whiskey Cocktail Hour, Halloween Edition: Dark Soul

It’s almost Halloween and I wanted to do something spooky for our cocktail this month. I’ve made black cocktails before and there are several ingredients you can use to achieve that deep dark hue that reflects our collective sense of hope going into this election. I’ve used both squid ink and activated charcoal for black drinks in the past, and both have pros and cons.

Squid ink, contrary to what you might think, does not taste fishy at all. It does however have a slight salinity to it, and using too much will render your drink a bit salty. Some salt can be a really nice addition to a drink that leans sweet or just needs a little balance.

Dark Soul cocktail

The Dark Soul cocktail (image via Emily Ross-Johnson/The Whiskey Wash)

Activated charcoal doesn’t impart a taste, but it does come with the risk of being an ingredient known for removing impurities from both distilled spirits (yup, the inside of those whiskey barrels aren’t charred for nothing), and your body. Charcoal has been used by medical professionals to detox patients with overdoses. That said, they are typically using extremely high doses of it to do so. I consulted with a poison center professional, and they confirmed that small doses of charcoal, like what I used for this cocktail (260mg) are unlikely to impact you, but if you are taking any kind of medication, it’s best not to have charcoal until at least an hour after taking your medication, and if you’re on any kind of life-saving medication at all, it’s best to avoid it just to be safe.

Now that we’ve gotten the safety portion of this black drink out of the way, let’s talk flavor profile. Since this was going to be a dark cocktail, I really wanted deep flavors as well. I love Cutty Sark Prohibition. I was lucky enough to work on the brand when they launched it in NYC several years ago. Where as standard Cutty Sark can be a bit of a boring blended whisky, Cutty Pro is anything but boring. The flavor profile reminds me a bit of a Black Forest Cake, with notes of dark chocolate and deep cherry. I thought this might make for an interesting Sazerac variation.

There’s usually a pretty intense spice to a traditional Rye Sazerac, but there are some lovely stone fruit notes when you make the drink with Cognac (the supposed pre-cursor to the Rye version), and I wanted to play on those darker, sweeter notes in this version. I decided to double down on the chocolate notes by adding some chocolate liqueur. Chocolate liqueur can be overly sweet, but the New Deal Mud Puddle is a bitter chocolate liqueur, so it’s not cloyingly sweet and adds a nice earthiness to the drink. If you do use another chocolate liqueur, don’t use any syrup or your cocktail will likely turn out too sweet.

Dark Soul cocktail

The Dark Soul cocktail (image via Emily Ross-Johnson/The Whiskey Wash)

Then of course there is the absinthe rinse. It might seem weird to pair chocolate notes with the licorice notes of the absinthe, but it’s a super common flavor combo, especially in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. If you’ve ever had any candy from Scandinavia, you’ll know that there is an abundance of licorice, and salty licorice in particular. If this is a flavor profile you enjoy, then using the squid in in this cocktail will be a good choice for you. I happened to use charcoal for this one because I didn’t have any squid ink on hand.

This drink is dark, earthy, herbal, and a bit sweet and I’m excited to mix these up for Halloween this year. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your arsenal this holiday!

Dark Soul

  • 2 oz Cutty Sark Prohibition
  • .25 oz Demerara Syrup
  • .25 oz New Deal Mud Puddle
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
  • 2 dashes Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
  • 1 capsule Activated Charcoal or 1 bar spoon Squid Ink
  • 2 dashes Absinthe
  • 1 Lemon Twist

Add all ingredients but the Absinthe to a mixing glass. Stir without ice to incorporate the ink or charcoal. Then add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Add absinthe to your glass and swirl to coat the interior of the glass. Pour off the excess. Strain drink into glass and express lemon twist over drink. Rub the flesh side of the peel (the side without the pith) on the outside rim of your glass and discard.


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