- Helen Armitage
The rise of mixology has seen the humble cocktail elevated to include all kinds of creative and crazy ingredients. We profile some of the weirdest, from Canada’s infamous Sourtoe Cocktail to a British twist on the classic margarita.
You need a pretty strong stomach to attempt the Sourtoe Cocktail served at the Downtown Hotel’s Sourdough Saloon in Dawson City, Canada. It’s a simple recipe whereby patrons choose a minimum of one ounce of alcohol of their own choosing, but what makes the beverage stand out is its vital ingredient, a preserved human toe. Yes; a real human toe.
The stomach-churning tradition dates back to 1973 when a group of friends clearing out an abandoned cabin stumbled across a perfectly preserved toe which, legend has it, belonged to rum runner Louie Linken before he lost the appendage to frostbite in the 1920s while attempting to smuggle booze across the border and for reasons unknown, decided it would be the perfect cocktail ingredient.
Consuming the drink properly (the rules state that the severed toe must touch the drinker’s lips) confirms your membership alongside 100,000 other brave souls to the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. Just don’t make the same mistake a few dozen patrons have and accidentally swallow the toe; not only will you have technically devolved into cannibalism, you’ll also owe the Sourdough Saloon a $500 fine. Luckily, since the original toe was consumed, several more have been kindly ‘donated’ and the Sourtoe Cocktail challenge remains today.
Downtown Hotel, 1026 Second Avenue, Dawson City, YT, Canada, +1 867 993 5346
Chicken Fried Bloody Mary
The cocktail costs $50, but before your purse strings tighten, consider the smorgasbord of ingredients crammed into the drink. A large jug containing over 80 ounces of Bloody Mary and a few obligatory stalks of celery, the drink is also garnished with cheese, pickles, olives, sausage, prawns, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, lemon, Brussels sprouts, ‘baconadoes’ (skewers of bacon-wrapped jalapeño cheese balls) and the pièce de résistance… a whole fried chicken.
Cocktail overload? Perhaps, but the cocktail is designed to quench and feed four people and Sobelman’s Pub & Grill kindly donates a portion of profits from the sale of each Chicken Fried Bloody Mary to local Milwaukee food bank Hunger Task Force, so all you need to worry about is who gets first dibs on the last piece of fried chicken.
Above & Beyond
Artesian at The Langham Hotel in London is known for its experimental cocktails; a quick glance at its new Surrealism menu reveals concoctions full of innovative ingredients like artisan coffee, oak smoke and patchouli and Above & Beyond, a cocktail created by head bartenders Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale in 2013, is one of its most adventurous and outlandish to date.
A cocktail that wouldn’t look out of place at a contemporary art exhibition, Above & Beyond begins with a fancy twist on a rum old-fashioned with a tumbler filled with fine Guatemalan Zacapa rum, 30-year-old Pedro Ximénez sherry, Fernet Branca, crème de banane and mandarin bitters. But here’s where it gets really avant-garde: when presented, the cocktail comes complete with an inflated balloon which, when popped, releases a fragrant burst of fresh forest aromas and a bag of Guatemalan worry dolls.
Theatrical it may be, but there is actually rhyme and reason behind Artesian’s creative madness with the addition of Above & Beyond’s complimentary worry dolls and forest air-filled balloon, referencing the origin of its Guatemalan distilled rum.
Artesian, 1C Portland Place, London, United Kingdom, +44 20 7636 1000
Spherified Margarita Shot
A concoction that could rival Artesian’s efforts in terms of sheer creativity, the Spherified Margarita Shot served at Sydney, Australia’s Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining combines molecular mixologist Doug Laming’s artistry with cutting edge technology.
Rabbit Hole is proud to be one of a few, exclusive bars to be pushing boundaries with a Cointreau Caviar Spherification Kit, a device, and one of just 12 in the world, that allows mixologists to create caviar-like ‘pearls’ of alcohol that burst in the mouth, crafting an experimental, sensory cocktail experience like no other.
More akin to something created in a laboratory than behind a bar, the Spherified Margarita Shot, Sauza Gold Tequila and Cointreau pearls served atop salt-dusted finger lime, elevates the classic margarita to a scientific art form.
Ridiculous Ultimate Caesar
Similar to the Chicken Fried Bloody Mary, but given a surf ‘n’ turf twist, the Ridiculous Ultimate Caesar served at The Dock at The Waterlot Inn (a chic waterside lounge at Bermuda’s Fairmont Southampton hotel) takes cocktail and food combo to extremes.
Featuring a huge glass of the classic Canadian cocktail (typically made with vodka, clamato juice, Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire sauce), the Ridiculous Ultimate Caesar might seem pricey at $99, but with the amount of food the beverage is garnished with (chicken wings, Italian sausage, oyster, shrimp, lobster claw, mini Wagyu burger, seared scallops, lobster tail and lastly, three ounces of Wagyu sirloin) it’s more than enough to keep any cocktail fan, and a good few of their friends, busy for at least an hour or two.
Fish & Chip Shop Margarita
The Shrub & Shutter, a trendy bar and restaurant, opened in 2014, in Brixton, London specializing in seasonal cocktails, takes the margarita and gives the quintessentially Mexican cocktail a distinctly local twist by loading on a miniature version of the much-loved British mealtime classic, fish and chips.
The Fish & Chip Shop Margarita starts off traditionally enough with Ocho Blanco Tequila, sugar syrup and saline solution before The Shrub & Shutter’s bartenders get creative adding lime and pea shrub and Jimmy’s Plaice bitters; a homage to a neighboring fish and chip shop of the same name made from batter scraps, Balkan vodka, more tequila, sugar syrup and a heavy pinch of salt and pepper.
Finished with a sea salt and vinegar rim, the Fish & Chip Shop Margarita is given an extra quirky twist with a tiny cone filled with fish, scraps and pea purée attached to the glass with a mini clothespin. Could there be a more British cocktail? Answers on a postcard, please.
Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
At Atlanta, Georgia’s Fork & Juniper, adventurous cocktail fans can try the imaginatively titled Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife; an off-menu drink ordered by those in the know and featuring some pretty creative ingredients.
Combining rum, chocolate stout, the mint-flavored Italian liqueur Branca Menta and two kinds of bitters, the cocktail is already an innovative concoction but offers drinkers an extra surprise in the form of (wait for it) a whole smoked baby octopus clinging to the rim of the glass.
Interestingly, the Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is inspired by a 19th-century, quasi-erotic Japanese ukiyo-e art piece of the same name featuring a young female abalone diver in a compromising position with an amorous octopus, which explains the addition of the smoked baby octopus… kind of.
Fork & Juniper, 125 10th Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA, USA, +1 404 443 1234