Serious Eats: Recipes

The Lion's Tail

[Photograph: Paul Clarke]

There should really be a good backstory that goes with the Lion's Tail, but if there is one, I haven't found it. This rich, spicy mixture debuted in the 1930s, an unlikely mixture of bourbon, lime juice and the allspice liqueur known as "pimento dram". Right there in that simple list of ingredients, there are a few oddities that accompany this surprisingly satisfying drink.

First: bourbon with lime juice? Lemon, of course—add some sugar and you have a whiskey sour, one of the most simple and agreeable drinks ever made—but lime? Who the hell does such a thing?

Then, there's the pimento dram, an ivory-billed woodpecker of an ingredient that enjoyed at least a tiny bit of popularity from around the 1930s to the 1970s, when it appeared in assorted bit roles in Polynesian-esque punches, tiki drinks and assorted exotic-styled tipples, before going all but extinct pretty much everywhere except Jamaica in the latter part of the 20th century (only to be revived and recreated in the past few years as a "forgotten" cocktail ingredient). Finally, allspice with bourbon? Just about every reference to the liqueur I can recall has it joining rum, with which it marries exceptionally well, but putting it in a bourbon drink (and with lime, at that) would seem to put an odd Jamaican slant on a drink based on the spirit of Kentucky.

But, it works—and how. Rich, spicy and just tart enough to keep things interesting, the Lion's Tail may look weird on paper or in pixels, but in the glass? A keeper.

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