Ash Wednesday Cocktail


  • .75oz Mezcal
  • .75oz Peated Scotch
  • .75oz Aperol
  • 5 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 2 dashes Smoke and Salt Bitters

Build drink in an old fashioned glass over a large ice cube. Stir all ingredients. No garnish.

* * * *

With a new church season, we have a new cocktail. This one is named after Ash Wednesday, the holy day that begins Lent.

Lent is a season of fasting, reflection, and repentance. We focus on our mortality, our sins, and the darkness in the world that led Jesus to the Cross.

Ash Wednesday specifically is a time that Christians have crosses drawn on their foreheads in ash as an outward sign of their internal awareness of their death and sins. It is reflective, somber, simple, elemental, and dark.

With that in mind, I crafted this cocktail, which is strong, dark, and smoky with a subtle bittersweetness underneath it all. It really is meditative and lovely, while also packing a real punch.

Ingredients & Technique

Use any Mezcal you like, though I like the old bartender standby of Del Maguey Vida. You can also use whatever peaty Islay scotch you have, but I would use a really smoky one, not a regular scotch with a little smoke note in it. Though I prefer Ardbeg as my smoky scotch, here I used the Laphroaig 10-year, as I think the more iodine-forward smoke flavor works better than the almost bacon-y flavor of other Islay scotches.

When I originally crafted this, I used Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro, a fantastic red amaro that is sweet and brightly herbal with a balancing bitterness. However, it’s a pretty niche ingredient that’s difficult to get, so here I substituted Aperol, which is very easy to find. It really works, but the Aperol is darker and more in the background than the pop you get from the Lo-Fi. So feel free to adjust the ratios to your taste.

Lastly, I used Regan’s Orange Bitters and the always fascinating “Pooter” Smoke and Salt Bitters. And I know 5 dashes seems like a lot for the orange bitters, but you really need it to cut through the other flavors and enhance the Aperol.

This drink all booze, so we stir it. I wanted to make it as simple as possible, so build it in the glass. But that also means you need a larger ice cube that won’t melt as quickly. If you don’t have that, then stir the drink separately and pour it over fresh ice. You can also strain the ice and enjoy the drink neat. No garnish.


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