Army of Darkness
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
“All right, you primitive screw-heads, listen up! See this? This...is my boomstick!” - Ashley Joanna Williams
Moving right along with my cocktails from Pouring Ribbon's Midnight Movies menu, I present the Army of Darkness!
An homage not just to the 1994 action/horror/comedy, but to the entire original Evil Dead trilogy, the Army of Darkness is packed with thematic references to the films. While it may read a bit like an aperitivo style cocktail, between the bourbon, navy strength rum, white peach liqueur, three different Italian amari, and a healthy pour of sparkling rose Lambrusco, this cocktail packs a heckuva punch.
Army of Darkness recipe
1 oz Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
.25 oz Pusser's Gunpowder Proof Rum
1 oz White Peach Compound Syrup
1 tsp Aperol
1 tsp Select Bitter
1 tsp Cappelleti Sfumato Rabarbaro
.25 tsp Acid Phosphate
Bottom: 2 oz Fiorini Corte Degli Attimi Rosé Lambrusco
Ice: One Large Shard
Garnish: Ash's Severed Hand Orange Twist & Necronomicon Coaster
Build the cocktail in your tin. Bottom the Collins glass with the Lambrusco and add ice. Short-shake the cocktail and fine strain into the glass. Express the orange hand twist and insert as a garnish.
Ash from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness is known for a few things: quippy one-liners, cutting off his possessed hand and replacing it with a chainsaw, and of course, his shotgun which he affectionately refers to as his “boomstick.”
I immediately went for a riff on a French 75 since a drink named after a cannon seemed like an apt parallel to Ash's Boomstick. I'm a huge proponent of the serve popularized by Jeffrey Morgenthaler which sees the French 75 (gin or cognac) served in a Collins glass over ice rather than in a champagne flute. I dialed that in further by pivoting to a French 95, the bourbon-based sibling of the gin and sparkling wine cocktail.
French 95 cocktail
1 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon
.75 oz simple syrup
3 oz sparkling wine
Now, based on my description and all official Army of Darkness promotional material, you may be thinking that Ash is some kind of super badass akin to Escape from New York's Snake Plissken.
You would be wrong. For all his talk and bravado, our signature hero is a notorious wimp, and I can't think of a wimpier drink than a Bellini. It's literally baby food in sparkling wine.
3 oz sparkling wine
1 oz white peach puree
Once I had an idea for the style of cocktail (royale/collins), the real fun began. I went all out on the theme for this one. Every alcoholic ingredient ties directly to an element from one of the Evil Dead films. Read on for the full breakdown:
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon
Evil Dead was filmed in Tennessee, a state most known for its whiskey, so I felt that a whiskey base (albeit not Tennessee style) was appropriate.
Old Forester Signature 100 Bourbon was the original call because I found the name evocative of the forest setting of the first two Evil Dead films. Unfortunately, it was too hot to play well with the bitter ingredients and clobbered the sparkling wine.
Enter my favorite mixing bourbon: Elijah Craig Small Batch. No matter how hard I try, I often end up falling back on this one for its agreeable proof and warm, confectionary flavor profile which seems to work with just about everything.
If you don't have access to Elijah Craig, feel free to use your favorite bourbon, but I recommend you try keeping the proof well under 100 and the rye content in the mash bill closer to 10%.
Pusser's Gunpowder Proof Rum
While I tend to reach for Plantation OFTD when I need a spike of overproof dark rum, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to use anything with “Gunpowder” in its name for a French 95 riff.
As it turns out, Pusser's Gunpowder Proof Guyanese rum goes incredibly well with Elijah Craig at a 1:4 ratio.
If you choose to substitute the rum, I found a teaspoon of Pusser's standard rum or Ron Pampero Aniversario Venezuelan rum combined with a half teaspoon of Plantation OFTD or Hamilton 151 worked nicely.
White Peach Compound Syrup
Pouring Ribbons almost always opts for fruit purees cut with simple syrup when a fruit syrup is called for. This ensures consistency from batch to batch, season to season.
I wanted to use blood peach to reference the over-the-top gore the Evil Dead trilogy is known for but settled on the milder white peach since they were in season for the entire duration of the menu.
The delicate flavor of the white peach was lost against the other punchy ingredients so a quarter teaspoon of Giffard Creme de Peche was added to boost the profile.
I incorporated three different bitters to represent Ash in each of the three films. The Aperol represents Ash's young, soft naïveté in the first Evil Dead. It's also bittered with rhubarb which echos the Sfumato and compliments the peach.
Contratto Aperitivo works well in its place.
The original bitter of the Venetian style spritz, the Select represents Ash's toughening up in Evil Dead 2. As the bloodiest of the three films, I also wanted something deep red to skew the overall color of the cocktail.
I believe I tried almost every red Italian-style aperitif bitter on the market at the time and this was the only one that played harmoniously in the drink.
If you're wondering how Select compares to Campari, here's my brief rundown. Campari brings wormwood, grapefruit, and orange to the table. We know it, we love it.
Select, though, is infinitely more interesting in my opinion. It's slightly sweeter/less bitter with cinnamon, sage, orange, lemon, and gentian on the nose. The palate is heavy on gentian, orange, and rhubarb with wormwood, orange, and vanilla on the finish.
I think a combination of Amaro Montenegro and Campari at a ratio of 1:1 makes for an okay substitute.
Cappelleti Sfumato Rabarbaro
The smoke from the Sfumato references Ash's Boomstick. It's also the darkest, most bitter of the three amari which is in line with Ash's bitter, resentful attitude in Army of Darkness.
I haven't found any real substitute for Sfumato. Zucca Rabarbaro doesn't have the desired smokiness, but in a pinch, it's probably your best bet.
Acid phosphate is a flavor-neutral acid that provides a tingling sensation on the tongue. It is one of the original ingredients in soda pop. It works wonderfully when you need to add acid but don't want to use citrus, vinegar, verjus, or any other acidic component which provides flavor.
I ran into a problem with the balance of the cocktail toward the end. Lambrusco is not wildly effervescent, so serving it over ice with even a small amount of fruit puree destroyed much of its carbonation. It also needed a little acid, but the white peach was completely lost against even scant amounts of citrus.
Acid phosphate provides a perfect, flavorless solution that allows the delicate white peach flavors to shine. It also provides a faint sensation on the palate akin to carbonation, so it increases the perception of the Lambrusco's effervescence.
We used Extinct Chemical Company's Horsford's Acid Phosphate.
Fiorini Corte Degli Attimi Rosé Lambrusco
Frizzante Lambrusco was the first ingredient I settled on. Lambrusco is a red wine made from the grape of the same name and is often slightly effervescent. I wanted to create a blood-red cocktail to best visually represent the buckets of blood the franchise is known for.
Unfortunately, because Pouring Ribbons had such a limited wine program, if a wine was brought in for a cocktail, it also needed to be one of a handful of featured menu wines. There was no way a Lambrusco was going to replace the sparkling Rose for a summer menu, but thankfully we found the perfect compromise!
This Rose Lambrusco came at the suggestion of Joaquin as it was a personal favorite of his and was used in a delicious Pouring Ribbons deep cut called the Sprezzatura Royale. It's bone dry and full of strawberry from nose to finish if you're looking for a substitute.
Ash's Severed Hand Orange Twist
Yeah, I'm a jerk, but I promise this is the last time I made my co-workers carve ridiculous citrus twist garnishes to order. The severed hand reaching out of the glass represents the possessed hand Ash removes in Evil Dead 2.
For years Pouring Ribbons had been repurposing boxes from liquor and produce shipments to make coasters, sometimes coating them with thermochromic paints, sometimes spray-painting stencil designs.
The Necronomicon was an easy visual to call on and I knew it would look great after some wear and tear, but as I have no graphic design experience, Rachel Gallea (who has designed every Pouring Ribbons menu since Revolutionary Artists) whipped this one up.
*White Peach Compound Syrup
200g white peach puree
200g simple syrup**
20g Giffard Peche de Vigne (.5 oz)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until fully emulsified. [Yields 12oz of syrup.]
250g white granulated sugar
250g hot water
Combine sugar and heated water in a blender and blend until fully emulsified. [Yields 12oz of syrup.]
Photo Credit to Joanna Lin, who managed to channel Sam Raimi's off-kilter framing.