The Whiskey Scout
The inspiration for a new cocktail can come from many places, but in the case of Robert Adamson’s “Eagle’s Fist,” it was a revisit on a previous cocktail attempt that hadn’t gone quite as hoped. “We were having this competition for Espolon (a Tequila brand),” Robert explains. “I created a chorizo-style cocktail with mole, agave, mescal, and a chorizo syrup using the spices but not the fat. The idea was to create a smokey, savory cocktail.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. “To be honest,” Robert admits, “the cocktail wasn’t very good.” While it might not have been good enough for the competition, it was interesting enough to encourage further experimentation. He decided to follow the smoke, and it leads him to Del Bac, a mesquite-smoked American single malt whiskey from Tuscan, AZ. The wood and smoke suggested a mesquite Old Fashioned. “I wanted to go with a barbecue theme,” Robert says while pouring a small sample of Del Bac. “It’s not the smoothest thing going down,” he warns, “but when it’s combined with all the ingredients it works out really well.”
Speaking of ingredients, Robert shares a little insight into the creative process: “When you try a single ingredient, don’t ever judge the entire cocktail based on that. It’s like saying. ‘I hate salt, and therefore I do not like chocolate chip cookies,’ which is a bald-faced lie!” Choosing the main ingredient is just the beginning. “You’re trying to figure out what flavors are going to work with this particular whiskey and how it’s all going to come together.” Robert’s goal when creating a cocktail isn’t just flavor. “I have to develop an experience for someone,” he says, and this dedication to the end product is a process. “I have this rule,” Robert confides, “If I can’t get it on the fourth try, then I put it off to the side, leave it in a book, and I come back to it later.” The Eagle’s Fist cut it close. “I got it on the third try!”
Once the recipe is mixed and stirred, it’s still not quite ready. It then gets smoked inside a custom-designed bell jar to further infuse the cocktail with mesquite. And, of course, garnished with a strip of bacon. “Because there are not enough cocktails with bacon,” Robert says with a laugh.
So what is the Eagle’s Fist experience? Robert starts with first impressions, “We always want to start out with the nose, getting that smokiness because we smoked the cocktail with the mesquite wood chips. Bring it to your lips; you’re going to get the fuller body of everything combined together. You’re going to taste the savory umami of the Amaro 14, which is going to have a bacon taste to it. It’s going to have almost a blended Irish whiskey reference to it, in a way that’s less of a new-oak style whiskey. You’re going to pick up a little sweetness from the maple syrup and finish with a spice in the back of your throat courtesy of the barbecue bitters.”
Asked about the perfect pairing, Robert doesn’t hesitate, “It goes great with a burger.”
The real question is, and it’s one you’re going to have to answer on your own, is when do you eat the bacon?
1.5 oz Del Bac Dorado mesquite smoked American single malt whiskey
.25 Amaro 14
8 d Memphis bbq bitters
8 d chocolate mole bitters
.25 maple syrup Grade A Extra Dark
Cocktail: Eagle’s Fist
Creator: Robert Adamson
Location: The Blind Rabbit
440 S Anaheim Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92805
Writing as The Whiskey Scout, Eric Strand has reviewed over 1,000 whiskeys and can be frequently seen judging cocktail competitions all over Orange County. He uses knowledge and humor to make the world of spirits accessible to all without the usual pretense. His personal goal is to introduce everyone to their favorite drink.