Shot With a Diamond.
Sometimes you have a concept for a drink. Sometimes that concept stubbornly refuses to turn into anything anyone would actually want to drink. This is the story of such a drink. This is the story of the Shot With a Diamond. I’m telling this story in the hope that it contains some minuscule iota of hope for the frustrated cocktail architect.
The initial concept behind the Shot With a Diamond was to create a drink that was absolutely, positively, 100%, crystal clear. No tiny hint of colour would mar its perfect glacial transparency. Yet it would be perfectly balanced, packed with flavour and it would defy any expectations that might be based upon its simple appearance. For two or three years I’ve been working on this drink trying combinations of the (exasperatingly few) clear cocktail ingredients. Every sign of promise came to an eventual dead end. All was failure. I became a broken man.
Sometimes you just have to put a concept on the back burner and wait patiently for its time to come. I’d had the idea of using citric acid for sourness but it always ended up tasting too “bright” and “chemical” – close but never quite natural enough. But then whilst perusing Dave Arnold’s science-based cocktail manual Liquid Intelligence the solution was suddenly staring me in the face. Arnold says that a 2:1 combination of citric and malic acid comes close to the profile of lime juice but that he would never use it as a direct substitute. I, on the other hand, was willing to try anything to make my imagined drink a reality. Now if this sounds waaaay too like chemistry don’t worry; citric and malic acid are natural extracts of lemons and apples respectively. Better still they made from the by-products of the processing of those fruits and are therefore pretty environmentally friendly. You can buy them in powdered or crystalline form cheaply and easily – home-brew, wine-making and spice suppliers being good sources. One teaspoon of citric acid crystals, half a teaspoon of malic acid powder, 150ml of cold water and a teaspoon later and it was: sour component – check. I’d realised early on that the need for maximum flavour and clarity was going to make this a mezcal based drink but as we’ve discussed before mezcal can be a bit overpowering. This time I used gin to tone it down and add other subtle flavours. I’ve used a personal favourite, Blackwoods, but other citrusy dry gins would be equally suitable. A white 1:1 sugar syrup provides the balance to the sourness of the acids and I added a couple of squirts of absinthe because when you’re already colouring outside the lines so why not go all the way? Yes, well spotted; at its core the Shot With a Diamond is just a sour, but it’s a stirred sour which sets it quite apart from the rest of the genre. It also differentiates itself in that, while most sours are somewhat simple in flavour, the combination of gin, mezcal and absinthe, each with their own unique flavour elements, make the SWaD a far more complex creature. When all those elements finally came together and I took the first tentative sip I suddenly became a little dizzy and had to steady myself and, just like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, I felt “like I was shot, shot with a diamond, a diamond bullet, right through my forehead“. Mission accomplished. It only seemed appropriate to finish the drink off with a “diamond” of clear ice. I do realise this is exactly the kind of cocktail I’ve been known to rant against but I hope you’d forgive my hypocrisy just this one time.
Shot With a Diamond.
Spray a mist of absinthe (or swirl a few drops) in a perfectly clean and clear glass containing a single piece of perfectly clear ice, diamond shaped if possible.
In a chilled mixing glass full of ice stir well:
1oz / 30ml of good quality unaged “joven” mezcal (I used Atenco)*.
1oz / 30ml of dry gin (I used Blackwood’s)*.
0.75oz / 22ml citric/malic acid (see text).
0.5oz / 15ml simple syrup (1:1 made with white sugar).
Strain over the prepared glass.
Toast Marlon Brando and Loop.
*It’s a good idea to tinker with the proportions of these two until you find a balance you like which will depend on the particular gin and mezcal you have chosen. For example, if the mezcal flavour is overpowering the gin too much, cut the mezcal a little and boost the gin by the same amount (0.75oz mezcal / 1.25oz gin).