3 Pitch Black Cocktails Made with Charcoal

© Stephanie Breijo
By Justine Sterling Posted October 23, 2014

If you want a black-hued cocktail, the go-to colorant is squid ink. That’s fine if you’re okay with a briny cocktail. But if you want a black-as-night gimlet, you don’t want the flavor of the ocean to take over your limey drink. Enter charcoal.

If you want to create a black-hued cocktail, the go-to colorant is squid ink. That’s fine if you’re okay with a salty, briny cocktail (like this ebony take on a martini). But if you want, say, a black-as-night gimlet, you probably don’t want the flavor of the ocean to take over your fresh, limey drink. Enter charcoal. Just a small amount of charcoal from over-the-counter activated charcoal capsules can turn any cocktail into a spooky, eerily black Halloween drink in seconds—without adding any flavor.

Here, three midnight-colored cocktails from three innovative bars.

Death Before Dinner; Zentan, Washington DC
According to bartender Matt Allred, drinking this eerie but refreshing take on a Hemingway daiquiri won’t just make you look cool, it will also help minimize a hangover thanks to charcoal’s purifying elements. To make the Death Before Dinner, shake 1 1/4 ounces Flor de Cana 4 Year Old rum with a pinch of activated charcoal, 3/4 ounce grapefruit juice, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/4 ounce orgeat and 1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur, then strain into a coupe and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Absolut Kelly; 2nd Floor on Clinton, NYC
Created by Ektoras Binikos for the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City, the Absolut Kelly was inspired by Joseph Beuys, a German conceptual artist who used a lot of gray in his work. “He had a theory based on the idea of the anti-image,” says Binikos. “By using gray he tried to make you experience colors. So the goal with this cocktail was to create a transformative experience.” Binikos uses the non-color of the cocktail to enhance the complex flavors of the citrusy, herbaceous drink. To make the cocktail muddle two lime wedges with a shiso leaf in a cocktail shaker with 1 1/2 ounce simple syrup and 4 drops of Mastiha water. Add ice along with 1 1/2 ounces Absolut vodka, 1/2 ounce Becherovka (a bitter, herbal liqueur), 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce yuzu juice, 3 drops Hella Citrus Bitters and 100 mg activated charcoal powder. Shake then strain over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with two shiso leaves and two to three drops of Bergamot bitters.

Black Mamba Margarita; The Carbon Bar, Toronto
In an effort to imbue the cocktail menu with the bar’s namesake element, general manager Adam Teolis decided to use charcoal-infused tequila in the bar’s signature margarita. To give the cocktail a smoky flavor, he also mixes in Scotch and, to put it over the edge, he finishes the cocktail by igniting a spritz of Bacardi 151. To make the cocktail at home first create the charcoal-infused tequila by adding 2 tablespoons of activated charcoal powder to a full bottle of tequila and shake. Then in a shaker full of ice shake 1 1/2 ounces charcoal-infused tequila with 1 1/2 St-Germain, 3/4 ounce lime juice and two dashes orange bitters. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and spritz with three sprays of Bowmore Scotch.

Related: 13 Spooky Halloween Cocktails
10 Orange-and-Black Foods
12 Reinvented Classic Cocktails

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