The Black Advent (a Holy Day Cocktail)


  • 1oz Black Rum
  • 1oz Brandy
  • 1oz Averna
  • 2 dashes Chocolate Bitters
  • 2 dashes Citrus Bitters
  • 1/4tsp Fernet Branca

Stir with ice, and strain neat into a rocks glass. Garnish with two cherries and add some of the juice into glass as well.

* * * *

I have been crafting cocktails for Holy Days and seasons for a little bit now, inspired by Michael P. Foley’s amazing Drinking with the Saints, and I’m going to start posting them on the blog.

We begin the Church Calendar with this drink, “The Black Advent”. You would think that celebrating the same seasons every year could get old and dry, but I find each year brings out specific themes and emphases.

This year, it has felt like the pastors and theologians have really emphasized the darkness aspect of Advent–the need to really sit in contemplation, grief, and longing before we get to the joy of Christmas.

For that reason, this year’s Advent cocktail is one for the darkness. It’s a stirred drink served neat (no ice), so that you can sip it’s silky texture for a long while. This isn’t a super boozy drink. It is smooth, dark, and a little sweet.You could easily turn down the sweetness and still have a great drink. It has notes of chocolate, orange peel, and mint.


For the base spirits, I used Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and E&J XO Brandy. Gosling’s makes a high-proof version of this that might work better here and give it a little more bite.

Brandy is a traditional spirit for this season, and this specific one is really good for how inexpensive it is. My favorite brandy is probably Christian Brothers Sacred Bond. It’s a high proof brandy that drinks more like a bourbon. If you like more dimension and bite, I’d recommend that. But this E&J is so, so smooth, with little to any bite. If that’s what you like, then this is the one.

I also added an equal amount of Averna, one of my favorite Italian amaros. It tastes like dark chocolate covered oranges. It is indulgent and has practically no bite to it. It’s the main source of sweetness in the drink, and you could pull this back to 3/4 or even 1/2 an ounce for a less viscous, more spirit-forward.

To finish the modifiers, we have some Angostura Cocoa Bitters, Jack’s Citrus Bitters, and the great polarizer Fernet Branca. These cocoa bitters give a bitter dark cholcate finish to any drink and are really great.

Jack’s Citrus Bitters are made by Philadelphia Distilling and use the same citrus-forward botanical profile as their gin. It’s nice, but regular orange bitters are better. These bitters are more floral and light, so they don’t contribute a lot of fruit flavor.

Fernet Branca is incredibly bitter, dark, and herbal, with eucalyptus and mint flavors. People either hate or love it. I happen to love it, and I think it is a necessary ingredient here. It really adds complexity and lends this drink its Advent character, as it is a surprising flavor and brightness that pops up in the midst of all the darkness.

If you try this drink, let me know what you think! Next, I’ll be doing some very special cocktails for the “O Antiphons” in the seven days leading to Christmas.


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