Foundation Cocktail (for the Feast of Peter’s Confession)


  • 1.5oz Dry Gin
  • 1oz Sweet Vermouth
  • .75oz Green Chartreuse
  • .5oz Olive Brine
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 dash Walnut Bitters
  • Garnish with Olive

Thematically, you should build the cocktail in the glass with the ice, but this is a lot of liquid. So the other option is to stir all ingredients in a mixing glass and pour over a large ice cube and serve the rest in a sidecar glass on the side. Garnish with an olive speared by two picks.

* * * *

And on this rock, I will build my… cocktail.

January 18 is a multi-layered date in the Christian Church calendar. Primarily, it is a feast day to celebrate the moment when Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. But a lot of other things happen in this same passage that are also included in this day.

Peter gets his name changed from Simon to Peter. Catholics would say that Jesus appoints Peter as the first pope here. Jesus also says the word “church” here for the first time, as he says he will build it on this “rock” of Peter, so this is also considered the honorary birthday of the church.

Lastly, the World Council of Churches chose this feast day as an appropriate kick-off for the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. So like I said, it’s a lot, and so is this cocktail.

The drink is strong and maybe the most subtly complex drink I’ve ever made. It has a lovely progression from light saltiness in the front into a deep, quiet sweetness in the back. It’s an acquired taste, but one I’d proudly feature on a cocktail menu. So enjoy the drink while meditating on the church’s foundational moment and praying a prayer for Christian unity

To honor Peter, I knew I wanted something with olive brine, in which we have the olives of his homeland and the saltiness of the fisherman’s sea. The rest is a riff on a Bijou, where the name means “jewel”. It makes me think of how this biblical moment is a jewel in the Gospels that is a major turning point in the narrative; and though I don’t see Peter as “Pope” here, I do see him and the apostles as a jewel in the crown of the church.

The drink is garnished with a green olive pierced by silver and gold cocktail picks to represent the crossed Keys of Heaven, a traditional symbol for Peter. I also wanted to use Green Chartreuse to honor the church and the history of the papacy, as it is still made by the same Carthusian monastery that created it nearly 300 years ago.

Ingredients & Technique

Thematically, if you want make the “on this rock I’ll build my cocktail” joke, you need to build the drink in the glass with an obscenely large ice cube. However, this is a lot of liquid for the drink and probably won’t all fit. So you may need to forgo the joke, mix the ingredients separately, and pour what you can in the glass with the large ice cube. The rest can be served on the side as a sidecar to add as you drink.

Use any gin you’ve got, though dry works well. I used Cocchi di Torino sweet vermouth which worked really well. You’ll want a deeper, richer vermouth here. I used Regan’s Orange Bitters, regular ol’ Angostura, and Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters. I did not experiment with different olive brines, but just used Jack Rudy Olive Brine I had and garnished with a pimento-stuffed Manzanilla Olive.

On a closing note, the R&D for this cocktail was rough. But I learned something valuable: mixologists have already figured out all the possible liquids that go well with olive brine. There are no more. None. I tried them all so you don’t have to. In case you were wondering: no, olive brine does not go with creme de cacao, coffee liqueur, any whiskey (even peanut butter whiskey), rum, campari, fernet branca, banana liqueur, etc. It only goes with Vodka, Gin, Tequila, and Mezcal. The one new thing I found which worked was Walnut Bitters. You’re welcome.


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