Courtesy of Slowly Shirley

“It’s a drink that breaks a lot of rules."

Carey Jones
June 20, 2018

What happens when American whiskey, apple brandy, and a classic French herbal liqueur find themselves in a mixing glass? According to one Manhattan barman, you’ve got the perfect drink to cap off a great night. Meet the Diamondback.

“This has always been my go-to nightcap,” says Jim Kearns, beverage director at The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley in Manhattan’s West Village. 

Like many bar folk, Kearns has a soft spot for vintage cocktails that never quite hit the big time; the Diamondback was first published in Bottoms Up, a beloved 1951 cocktail tome from Ted Saucier of New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. 

“It’s a drink that breaks a lot of rules, but manages to succeed — based on the fact that it only contains big, full-flavored, delicious ingredients,” he says. “It contains only 80-to-100 proof booze, so it’s a doozy, as the name implies.”

And that’s an understatement. The cocktail starts with a good measure of American rye whiskey (Kearns uses Wild Turkey), a substantial base in itself. From there, it’s strengthened further with Applejack — another classic American spirit, barrel-aged like a whiskey but with unmistakable orchard flavor. The third component? Yellow Chartreuse, a complex and intensely herbal French liqueur that’s a staple of many classic cocktails. 

While the trio of ingredients sounds improbable, the drink comes together beautifully — spicy rye set off by the smooth applejack, Chartreuse contributing an herbal richness that binds the whole drink together. Powerful, memorable, and worth capping a night with. 

“If it’s that kind of night,” says Kearns, “a Diamondback is the perfect way to end it.”

Diamondback

1.5 ounces Wild Turkey rye
0.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
0.75 ounces applejack

Instructions: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very well-chilled. Strain into a chilled Nick and Nora glass or cocktail coupe (or, alternatively, pour into an iced carafe and serve with chilled glass alongside). Garnish with a cherry.