Friends, we want you to be in on a flavor that’s currently warming our hearts and cooling our jets. A flavor we’re pretty sure is the last word on summer refreshment with a decidedly manly tint. That magnificent flavor is smoked strawberry.
We recently sat down with our hero Chris Lowder of the NoMad in New York, fleeing the withering heat of a deep-summer city, and begged him to concoct “something to drink on a boat.” And our moment of febrile fantasy is now your ticket to sweet Scotch-based relief.
The key assets in Lowder’s creation, the Top-Sider Fix, are twofold. First is the heavily-peated Port Charlotte, a single-malt Islay whiskey from Bruichladdich. It has the smokey, briny flavors typical of island whiskeys, accentuated by Bruichladdich’s airy still house, where the brisk North Atlantic winds permeate the barrels. And its intensely smokey flavor, as bracing as it is alluring, is due to one of the peatiest formulations in all Scotland—a bygone local tradition Bruichladdich is working dutifully to revive.
Cocchi Americano Rosa, on the other hand, is the Top-Sider Fix’s other key component and is Islay Scotch’s antithesis in both flavor and temperament. A boutique Italian vermouth whose very label makes you want to hop a Vespa straight to the beach, its floral and berry flavors are laced with spicy herbal notes, making for a juicy aperitif that begs for playful summer mixing.
In pairing this unlikely duet, Lowder notes that salt pairs excellently with strawberries, making for an easy romance between the briny Scotch and the juicy vermouth. He added that the introduction of salt (or a salty ingredient) to a bitter cocktail also has the effect of taming the bitterness, allowing the drink’s soul to be more elegantly and flavorfully revealed.
The result is like a popsicle made out of a delicious cigar. No, really—just go with it. You won’t regret it.
- 1.5 oz. Port Charlotte
- .75 oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
- .8 oz. fresh lemon juice
- .25 oz. cane syrup
Make cane syrup as you would simple syrup, for a fuller, more natural flavor & texture: 2 parts cane sugar to 1 part water.
- 2 medium-sized strawberries
Aim for organic, local strawberries, which will be more flavorful, juicy, and aromatic.
- Place one strawberry in your cocktail tin; don’t bother cutting the top off.
- Add cane syrup, lemon juice, Port Charlotte, and Cocchi Americano Rosa, and muddle. Set aside.
- Prepare your crushed ice by placing ice cubes into a clean dish towel, folding it closed, and beating the ice cubes with your muddler or other blunt, heavy object. Enjoy it! Get that stress out! Then pack the crushed ice into a double rocks glass.
- Add a few whole ice cubes to your cocktail tin and shake for about four seconds to aerate and immulsify the drink.
- Strain over the crushed ice, and add a little more ice to the top to form a dome. Stick in a few cocktail straws, garnish with the second strawberry, and enjoy with gusto!
Chris Lowder is a rightly adored personality at the Michelin-starred NoMad Hotel, where he shakes cocktails under Leo Robitzchek (Eleven Madison Park) and also serves as the NoMad’s Head of Bar Education. Lowder’s team was the recipient of a James Beard Award for America’s Most Outstanding Bar Program and earned the NoMad the title of World’s Best Hotel Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Chris was also a Northeast finalist in the 2014 Diageo World Class global bartending competition.
As it happens, Mr. Lowder has just returned from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, the world’s premier cocktail festival, where he was named one of the nation’s “Ten Bartenders to Watch.” Congratulations, Chris! And readers, get watching—and drinking! A seat scored in front of this cocktail master will make you fall in love with drinking all over again.