How to make killer drinks like Death and Co.

Nothing makes music to a goth girl’s ears like the word “death” in the title. I am a semi-retired goth. After all, I do enjoy pink from time to time. But old habits die hard and therein lies the reason I was thrilled to get sent a copy of Death and Co. by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day. Anything with the words black, skull, dark, death, or blood in the title will probably make me happy and smiley . . . which is not goth, but there ya go.

To call Death and Co. a cookbook is to sell it short. Yes, it is chock-full of drink recipes. But it is also a gateway into the magical world of the actual bar named Death and Co. Well, I’ve only visited in my imagination. Make a drink from the book then close your eyes, take a sip, and you’ll be amongst the renegades that dreamed up such a lovely place. Opened in 2007 in New York City’s East Village, Death and Co. became the one of the hottest bars in town. It was and is a leader in the craft cocktail movement. It is known for its drinks, its service . . . pretty much its everything. It is the bar that helped the world accept more than just vodka and see the the smoky light of mescal.

Fun fact: they use four different types of ice there. Hmm. And in this book, they break down WHY they make drinks the way they do. By the time I finished reading about the exercises one does to master technique, I was taking measurements in my freezer and stirring empty practice glasses. This book makes me want to be a better bartender, even though my breakfast bar is the only one where I am currently serving boozy bevs.

Another cool thing about Death and Co. is the entire section on how to create your own unique drink. It breaks down the elements of the drink by ingredient and advises how to mix and match them. It provides templates, of a sort, to get you started on your own mixing adventures. It even counsels you on how to name your drink. Maybe I should invent a Goth Girl Special. You gotta have ambitions in life.

I decided to start with a drink invented by them, but had no problem finding one with a name suitable for a goth, so maybe I don’t need to go inventing things. The Death and Co. drink called Black Magic fit the bill. This book is incredibly specific about what types and brands of alcohol they use, and I am sure this recipe would have been even more sublime if I had used them, but I had reasonable substitutions. If I had made the drink with the same creme de menthe they use, it would not have been a wicked shade of green. But the darkness of my drink was whispering sweet goth nothings into my skull-earring studded ears, so no harm, no foul.

Please note: this is a mere listing of cocktail elements. If you read the book, you will discover all sorts of details that take it to the next level: how big and what sort of ice to use, how to measure it, proper stirring technique, and so on. But telling you all of these things would require, well, writing a book, which is what they did (and a handsome one at that). This big book would do your coffee table (or cocktail tray) proud.

If you are not into mint cocktails, you probably may not care for this. But if you are, you should find this to be a delightfully potent potable (sorry, random moment of Jeopardy geekery). What is a Black Magic? Yes, Alex, that is my answer.

Black Magic adapted from Death and Co. by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day

  • Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe (I used Grande Absente)
  • 1 ounce Hine H Cognac (I used Courvoisier Cognac)
  • 1 ounce Angostura 5-year Rum (Ok, so I had Bacardi. Hanging head in shame)
  • 1/2 ounce Marie Brizard White Crème de Menthe (Mine was Hiram Walker and green. I know, again with the shame)
  • 1 tsp. Fernet-Branca (I had it because I LOVE Fernet. Go forth and get it.)
  • 1 tsp. simple syrup (Essentially fine sugar dissolved in an equal portion of water)

Pour a dash of absinthe into a coupe and swirl to coat the sides. Discard any extra. In a mixing glass, stir the remaining ingredients over ice then strain into the coupe.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy in advance, but in no way was compensated for writing this. I fully stand behind this as possibly the best and most comprehensive cocktail books I’ve seen so far.