Welcome to Group F, the group of Argentina.
Okay, there are three other teams that are fighting to be the group’s runner-up, but none of them have Lionel Messi. Argentina’s fortunes rise and fall with their star player, and we start with a cocktail as potent as Messi’s left foot. In fact, you’ll find that all the cocktails in this group are made with uniquely bold spirits, so you may want to strap in for this trio.
I was initially tempted to do another highball as part of this series, as Fernet & Cola is pretty much the national drink of Argentina (or so the Internet and its targeted ads tell me). But then I ran across a recipe from Imbibe that used Fernet Branca with Scotch. There has been a dearth of whisk(e)y cocktails in this series, so I jumped at this one.
(For those who want Fernet & Cola, it is: a shot of Fernet Branca into a Collins glass, add a few ices cubes, fill with cola to taste. Highballs are rather easy drinks.)
The Smoking Gun
2 oz – Islay (or other peaty style) Scotch whisky
¾ tsp – Fernet Branca
½ tsp –
brown sugar cordial real maple syrup
a couple dashes of Fee Bros. whiskey barrel-aged bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Add ice, shake, and strain into a Scotch glass or small cocktail glass.
In this case, the Fernet is acting as a light modifier to the smoky Scotch. It works because Fernet Branca is a potent Italian amaro (bitter liqueur). The original recipe calls for “brown sugar cordial,” which is essentially a simple syrup made with 2 parts brown sugar to 1 part water. I switched it up for maple syrup, because I love that slightly smoky maple liquid. Not enough cocktails utilize Canada’s amber gold, which is a downright shame.
… But I should move onto the other cocktails, otherwise I’ll just keep writing an unending ode to maple syrup. Looking at the group, Iran provides an interesting challenge. Technically, a Muslim citizen in Iran would not be able to imbibe alcoholic libations. And yet, there is widespread consumption of alcohol amongst this population. While Iran does not, therefore, have a national drink or spirit, a glass of arak from somewhere else in the Middle East (such as Turkey, Syria, or Iraq) would not be unknown.
Arak, however, is a potent anise-flavored similar to ouzo, and we already covered that. So instead, we turn to colors and team names. Iran is red & green, with the symbol of the lion. Nigeria, another team in this group, is famous for its green kit and it’s nickname, the Super Eagles. If we were to mix this all together, we might come out with a gryphon of green hue, which sounds like something out of an old alchemical text. Lucky for us, there’s a classic green cocktail named after a certain alleged alchemist, the Comte de Saint-Germain:
the Alchemist’s Gryphon
1½ oz – Green Chartreuse
½ oz – fresh lemon juice
½ oz – fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz – simple syrup
an egg white
Combine all ingredients into a shaker. WITHOUT ice, dry-shake the ingredients. Then add ice, re-shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled sour or cocktail glass. No garnish.
This cocktail can be found in the original Savoy cocktail book as the “St. Germain,” though that causes confusion today, due to a popular elderflower liqueur with the same name. I’ve left the proportions the same, as this is a delicious cocktail if you like Chartreuse and grapefruit juice (SPOILER ALERT: I love them). Chartreuse is a potent herbal liqueur made by monks, and it has a bit of notoriety as a “dare” shot, similar to how Chicagoans visit Malört onto unsuspected bar-goers.
The final cocktail of this group is also based around a strong spirit that may be an acquired taste: slivovitz. At its core, slivovitz is merely an eau de vie (brandy) derived from plums. It’s a national drink in Slavic countries in Eastern Europe, including Bosnia & Herzegovina. While it has gained a bit of a reputation as firewater, its sip-ability is just like any spirit: based upon the quality of raw product going in and quality of distillation technique.
While I could serve this one up by itself, there is a classic recipe that produces a nice showcase:
1½ oz – slivovitz
½ oz – fresh lemon juice
½ oz – fresh orange juice
¼ oz – Maraschino liqueur
barspoon of simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker. Add ice, shake until cold, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with candied plum, brandy-soaked cherry, or Luxardo cherry.
If you can’t find slivovitz (or other plum brandy / eau de vie), other unaged brandies can work. Grappa, kirschwasser, apricot brandy can all fill the role, but stick with slivovitz if you can. After all, the name of the drink is “plum dragon,” so plum brandy is the expected base. Don’t worry, it won’t bite you. Too badly.
Six down, two to go. Next time we visit the second “group of death,” wherein I’ll bring back brandy (both apple brandy and kirschwasser), and mix one of them with port wine.