She's back! Along with the Drag Race Thailand, The Lady Chablis was one of the most popular cocktails from Pouring Ribbons' drag-themed Legends and Icons menu from fall 2019/winter 2020. It is currently back at Pouring Ribbons for the final run of their Greatest Hits menu!
A tribute to The Lady Chablis, The Grand Empress of Savannah; a drag performer, actor, and author who first rose to fame as the real life character in the novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Her role in the film adaptation thrust her into the national spotlight, subsequently launching her autobiography Hiding My Candy to the top of the national bestseller list.
This savory, spicy Gold Rush just so happens to contain a bit of hidden candy itself...
The Lady Chablis recipe
1 oz Woodford Malt Whiskey
1 oz Fighting Cock Bourbon
.66 oz Tellicherry Black Pepper Honey Syrup*
.5 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp Cane syrup**
.5 tsp Hidden Candy Bitters***
Garnish: Salt & Pepper Sugar Half Rim****
Chill your coupe. Build the cocktail in your tin. Once coupe is sufficiently chilled, apply half rim. Add ice to tin, shake, and fine strain into the chilled, rimmed coupe.
Believe it or not, this drink actually started off as a Martini before switching gears and going the whiskey sour route.
Early on, I was hung up on forcing chablis wine into the cocktail. I drew inspiration from the only two chablis cocktails I could find (Brian Miller's Sentimental Journey and Simon Difford's Left Bank Martini) and wasted three bottles of wine before scrapping the entire concept and starting from scratch.
This was well into the r&d process and nearing the menu launch. Thankfully I caught a glaring omission: there was no whiskey/shaken option in the works for the new menu. I used this as an opportunity to start over and fell back on the familiar template of the Gold Rush, a simple honeyed whiskey sour which also served as the jumping off point for the Oro Cubano on Pouring Ribbons' Cuba 1958 menu.
Gold Rush cocktail
2 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon
.75 oz honey syrup
With the whiskey sour concept locked in, I needed to do two things. The first was to make the honey syrup more interesting by replacing the water content with something, anything, more flavorful. The second was to put baijiu on a hecking Pouring Ribbons menu, a challenge I achieved through a delicious technicality.
Read on for the full ingredient breakdown:
Woodford Malt Whiskey
This expression from Woodford has a mash bill consisting of 51% malted barley, 47% corn, and 2% rye making for a soft, delicious whiskey with enough bite to please a wide variety of whiskey drinkers. Lots of toasted oats and from nose to finish, plenty of Corn Flakes-esque breakfast cereal, and a fruity, peppery palate and finish which echoes the tellicherry black peppercorns in the honey syrup.
Fighting Cock Bourbon
I r&d'ed with Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey through most of the process for thematic reasons, but was having trouble balancing the overall profile on account of its low proof.
A simple, straight-forward bourbon was called for to lengthen the pricey Woodford Malt. Simo suggested one of his secret weapons: Fighting Cock. As you'd expect from a Heaven Hill whiskey at this price point, it isn't incredibly complex, but it works well in cocktails and provides plenty of heat to play against. It's an excellent, underutilized workhorse whiskey.
Old Grand Dad 114 makes for a great substitute.
Tellicherry Black Pepper Honey Syrup*
To quote Dr. Steven Brule, “Ever wonder why ice cubes taste so boring? Its 'cause you make 'em out of stupid water, you bimbo!"
Turns out, when you apply the word "syrup" in place of "ice cubes," you can open up a whole new world of compound syrups. I was eager to explore this concept specifically with honey syrup because, to be completely honest, I don't love whiskey sours and I tend to like honeyed sours even less.
I found success with black pepper syrup when r&ding for a pop-up I did in Taipei at the year prior; it works great with whiskey and pairs magically with honey. In fact, this is a cocktail I cited in my Flavor Bible Book Recommendation because every flavor and component in this cocktail neatly pairs with and compliments every other ingredient.
Tellicherry peppercorns are a variety of black peppercorn from Tellicherry, India which are prized for their delicate spice and bright, fruity flavors. When toasted, aromas of cinnamon and apple are drawn out. I crushed the toasted peppercorns and steeped them in boiled water to make a black pepper tissane, which I used to cut the honey in place of water.
After trying both wildflower honey and clover honey, the lighter clover ended up playing nicer with the fruitiness of the black pepper.
The standard .75 oz of lemon juice proved to be too much for this sour on account of the softer sweeteners. Dialing back to a half ounce of juice provides the perfect level of acidity and lends itself to a texturally richer cocktail.
Because the honey is diluted with black pepper tissane at a 2:1 ratio, the final cocktail ended up a bit thin and astringent. The cane syrup provides some fat and texture, without throwing the balance of the drink off with more black pepper honey flavor.
I r&d'ed with rich demerara syrup early on, but settled on cane ended as it compliments and elevates the honey without overpowering it. As long as the syrup is 2:1, any sugar will technically work.
Hidden Candy Bitters***
Hiding my Candy contains a section of original food and drink recipes which includes a punch containing pineapple, lemon/lime Kool-Aid, ginger, and Everclear. Sounds pretty gross, but somehow also like the tasting notes to Ming River Baijiu (no shade, I love the stuff).
Cutting Angostura bitters with baijiu works incredibly well, almost like an herbstura. This sneaky little treat was also the only way I could convince Simo & Staff to put baijiu on a Pouring Ribbons menu after three years. I'll take it.
Salt and Sugar Black Pepper Rim****
The night before I tasted Brooke and Joaquin on this drink I texted them a simple warning: “I'm going to taste you on a sugar-rimmed whiskey sour for the menu. I'm sorry in advance.”
I'm a sucker for a crusta and I wanted to make use of the “spent” Tellicherry peppercorns as it seemed a shame to waste something so delicious. The salt ties everything together with a savory little bow. The addition of a hit of bee pollen echoes the honey and adds earthy depth.
*Tellicherry Black Pepper Honey Syrup
20g Tellicherry black peppercorns
220g hot water
16oz clover honey
Toast 20g Tellicherry Black Pepper until aromatic. Crush and steep in 220g (about 8 oz) hot water until cool (at least 20 minutes) to make Black Pepper Tissane. Strain and save crushed peppercorns.
Combine Clover Honey with black pepper tissane at a ratio of 2:1 by volume. That's two parts honey to one part black pepper tissane by volume.
300g cane sugar
150g hot water
Combine sugar with water and blend hard. [Yields 12oz of cane syrup.]
***Hidden Candy Bitters
Ming River Baijiu
Combine Angostura Bitters and Ming River Baijiu at a 2:1 ratio by volume. That's two parts Angostura Bitters to one part Ming River Baijiu.
****Salt and Sugar Black Pepper Rim
100g white granulated sugar
20g tellicherry black peppercorn
20g sea salt
10g bee pollen powder (optional)
Dehydrate crushed black peppercorns from black pepper tissane. Run through a spice grinder and combine with 100g white sugar and 20g sea salt.
Optional, but highly recommended: Pouring Ribbons sources its honey from Ballard farms, where we were also able to source bee pollen powder. 10g of bee pollen powder was added to the mix.
Photo credit goes to Joanna Lin!