7 Cocktails to Make with High-Proof Liquor

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7 Cocktails to Make with High-Proof Liquor

High-proof liquor isn’t just for people who want to get super drunk, super fast anymore. With distilleries releasing carefully made small batches of high-proof whiskey, gin, and other spirits, high-proof liquor has become popular with serious sippers in both bars and at home. Cocktail drinkers love it because you can add more ingredients to a cocktail that’s made with high-proof liquor while still keeping it potent, while many of those who prefer their liquor straight feel that the character of the spirit shines through better when it’s less diluted. The names of many such spirits that you’ll find at the liquor store, such as “cask strength,” “barrel strength,” or “barrel proof,” imply exactly what they are—strong drinks that are taken straight from the barrel, with little to no water added.

But high-proof liquor is far from a fad. In fact, high-proof gin is called “navy strength” thanks to its historical roots. Dating back to the eighteenth century, navy strength gin was used by sailors in the British Royal Navy to fight scurvy (primarily by drinking gimlets). The Brits decreed that it needed to be 114 proof (57 percent alcohol by volume) to be truly effective (and, perhaps, for the sailors to get as fucked up as they wanted to be).

Here are seven cocktails that showcase high-proof liquor from my book with Dylan March, Dangerous Cocktails: Adventurous Recipes for Serious Drinkers.


Trust Fund

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I call this drink the “Trust Fund” because it’s a high-rolling version of a classic drink called the Boulevardier—which is an old-school term for a wealthy socialite who would stroll down the boulevards of Paris. Drink a few of these before you crash a party full of rich kids and you’ll have the guts to smile at the bouncer as you strut on by.

Ingredients:
1½ ounces cask-strength rye
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
¾ ounce Campari
Orange peel garnish

Directions: Stir with ice until cold and blended. Strain into double rocks glass with ice. Garnish with orange peel.


Serious Sazerac

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This serious cocktail is a high-proof version of the Sazerac, the oldest cocktail that’s still served in bars today. Like the ancient spirits it’s comprised of, it was originally medicine—developed at a New Orleans apothecary in the 1840s by none other than Mr. Peychaud himself, Antoine Amedie, who also created the famous bitters. Like the original, this version rinses the glass with absinthe, giving it a bigger aroma and more medicinal properties.

Ingredients:
4 dashes absinthe
1½ ounces cask-strength rye
1½ ounces cognac
½ ounce simple syrup
4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon peel garnish

Directions: Add absinthe to double rocks glass and rotate to rinse glass with absinthe. Stir remaining ingredients with ice until cold and blended. Strain into glass. Garnish with lemon peel.


Trade Winds

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If you’re wondering what to do with those chocolate bitters your girlfriend got you for your birthday, try out this original drink created by Dylan. Bonus: It will give you an excuse to go buy a bottle of Averna Amarao, a mind-meltingly delicious amari that contains notes of baking spices, chocolate, and peppercorns. Add a few drops of cold brew coffee and the herby Suze and you have an appropriately strong complement to Mellow Corn whiskey—which is both the name of a distillery and an apt description for their 100-proof yellow-tinged whiskey.

Ingredients:
1½ ounces Mellow Corn whiskey
¾ ounce Suze
½ ounce Averna Amaro
¼ ounce simple syrup
3 drops cold brew coffee
2 dashes chocolate bitters
Orange peel garnish

Directions: Stir with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass with no ice. Garnish with orange peel.


Death in the Afternoon

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Enjoying absinthe doesn’t have to involve a ton of other liquors and mixers. Sometimes, it’s as simple as layering some bubbly on top of it and sipping at your leisure. Perfect for afternoon drinking après a morning full of mimosas, this high-proof drink was supposedly one of noted lush Ernest Hemingway’s favorites.

Ingredients:
1 ounce absinthe
Champagne

Directions: Pour absinthe into Champagne flute. Top with Champagne.


Naval Martini

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If you’re a regular gin martini drinker, it’s time to enlist in the higher-proof version. It will pistol-whip you into happy hour and it won’t apologize.

Ingredients:
2½ ounces navy strength gin
¾ ounce dry vermouth
3 dashes orange bitters
Lemon peel or olive garnish

Directions: Stir with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel or olive.


Corpse Reviver #2

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Yes, there is a Corpse Reviver #1, but no one ever makes it. This high-proof twist on the popular #2, which features the floral Lillet Blanc aperitif, uses navy strength gin for even more necromantic properties.

Ingredients:
¾ ounce navy strength gin
¾ ounce lemon juice
¾ ounce triple sec
¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
¼ ounce absinthe
Lemon peel garnish

Directions: Shake with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.


Morning Prayer

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I don’t go to church, but if I did, I would drink this cocktail that Dylan created for just such a purpose beforehand. A twist on the classic cocktail the Vesper that highlights the vodka rather than gin (less booze on your breath!), it also features Dimmi, a delicate peach-blossom liqueur from Italy that’s hard not to fall in love with.

Ingredients:
1½ ounces vodka
½ ounce navy strength gin
½ ounce Dimmi liqueur
¼ ounce Lillet Blanc
¼ ounce yellow chartreuse
2 dashes celery bitters
Lemon peel garnish

Directions: Stir with ice until cold and blended. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon peel.


Jennifer Boudinot is a freelance writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Her most recent book, with Dylan March, is The Book of Dangerous Cocktails: Adventurous Recipes for Serious Drinkers.

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