Cocktail revival resurrects old spirits

allspice dram

The growing cocktail revival has made an impact on the drink scene in many ways, not the least of which is resurrecting spirits that had all but disappeared. Two people who contributed heavily to this revival are Erik Ellestad, a San Francisco-based cocktail expert and former bartender who spent years working through every recipe in the classic Savoy Cocktail Book and Ted Haigh, the author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. When Haigh's book first came out in 2004, it included an appendix with a list of ingredients that were no longer produced. But by the time a revised version of the book was issued in 2009, most of those items has staged a comeback, with vintage stalwarts like Boker's Bitters, Swedish punsch and pimento dram returning to bars after decades of absence.

The article focuses on the last of these spirits, pimento dram a/k/a allspice dram. The latter name is more indicative of the flavor, as the pimento referred to in the former is the dried berry of the Pimenta dioica tree, whose flavor is suggestive of nutmeg and cinnamon and cloves all at once. Several cocktails in the EYB Library take advantage of this unique ingredient.

While spirits such as allspice dram have made a comeback, they still are not commonly available everywhere, or are terribly expensive. Lucky for cocktail enthusiasts, there are many DIY recipes so you can approximate some of these liqueurs even if you can't purchase them. Many of these homemade concoctions can also be found in the EYB Library, including a recipe for DIY allspice dram from Serious Eats by Marcia Simmons (pictured above).

Other vintage or hard to find cocktail ingredients for which you can find online DIY recipes include orgeat syrup, limoncello, and elderflower cordial. You can also find recipes for DIY versions of common cocktail ingredients that can elevate your drinks to the next level, like homemade quinine syrup for better gin and tonics, and DIY grenadine, which is miles above the high-fructose corn syrup version that you find on most liquor store shelves.

There is no shortage of cocktail recipes utilizing any of these great ingredients, either. In addition to the many cocktail books indexed on EYB, online recipes abound. For starters, you can try Winter wassail from Lucky Peach Magazine, which features allspice dram as well as Swedish punsch or a Mai Tai, which includes orgeat syrup.

1 Comment

  • hillsboroks  on  11/7/2015 at 1:41 PM

    My daughter just made off with the sack of quinces (with permission of course) I bought at last week's farmer's market to try to make quince liqueur. She is hoping to bottle it in small bottles and give it to friends as an unusual Christmas gift. I looked up several recipes for her and it really didn't look hard to do. We both thought it would be something fun for making cocktails. I purchased a bottle of quince liqueur last year from a small boutique distillery in Portland. It was very good but very expensive. If her experiment turns out, I may try to make some too.

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