by Darcy O'Neil on February 2011
While I was thinking about what to write, I glanced up and notices my collection of Food & Drink magazines from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). I decided somewhere in one of those magazines there must be something that would inspire me to write. The first issue I pulled out was from the summer of 2004 and had a recipe for the Mint Divine, a rye, mint and lemonade recipe. Basically it’s a whisky sour with mint. Possibly something I could write about, but maybe there was something more interesting in another edition. In the summer 2005 edition of Food & Drink there is a recipe for a drink called the “Diablo.” Now that was interesting and is used tequila, so that is what I’m going to write about. But, there is also a recipe using brandy, so now it’s even more interesting. I've come across the Diablo cocktail before, but never actually tried one. When you look up the recipe though, if you look hard enough, there are a couple of versions. The first one I came across uses white Tequila, Creme de Cassis, lime and ginger ale. The second one uses brandy, vermouth, curacao and bitters. This seems to be one of those modern palette versus classic palette issues. Two types of bitters in one cocktail, amazing. You're lucky if you can find a bar with bitters in stock these days.
With this discrepancy at hand, I've decided that since it is Saturday night, of a long weekend no less, that both of these cocktails should be made and tested. A quick pop over the local variety store and I should have everything I need.
First up is the classic recipe. This looked like a pretty good recipe with good use of bitters and vermouth. I don't make too many brandy based cocktails, but it's something that I need to do more of because the Diablo is very good. The bitters compliment everything exceptionally well and provide that aromaticity that makes a great cocktail. The brandy is smooth, and the vermouth is complimentary. The orange curacao (Cointreau in this case) provides a nice level of sweetness and gives a subtle orange flavour which is really nice. This cocktail has just jumped into my top five cocktail favourites. I'm impressed, not only because I like it, but as a bartender this is something I can serve to someone who wants to experience a martini like drink and bitters, but doesn't want the shock value of straight alcohol, even though this drink is pretty much straight alcohol. This is a great introductory cocktail because it isn't overpowering, but has classic ingredients.
Now I'm kind of disappointed that I started with the classic Diablo recipe, because the modern Diablo can't be as good, or could it? Worst case scenario, it's a triple play Saturday and I'll make another classic Diablo to wash the other one down.
The modern Diablo is basically black currant sweetened tequila with ginger ale. Creme de cassis is a very sweet black currant liqueur. It goes well with lots of drinks, but in small quantities. The Diablo uses ½ an ounce, so it's not over powering. The lime juice will help cut back on the sweetness which helps balance the cocktail. Originally I thought the tequila would be overpowered by the creme de cassis, but I was wrong. The tequila comes through quite strong with the pepper and agave flavours. You can definitely tell that it is a tequila based drink. The ginger ale sits in the background on this drink. Overall, not a bad drink, but not as good as a classic Diablo.
Both the Diablo recipes are good for specific audiences. The classic version is good for someone moving into the classic cocktail world and the modern Diablo version is a good fruit based tequila cocktail. If someone wants a tequila based drink, I would recommend the Diablo since it's simple to make and tastes fairly good. If someone wants a classic cocktail or wants to understand the role of bitters better, the classic Diablo is the way to go.
All thumbs up to the classic brandy based Diablo. But now I need to do some research and see how this cocktail originated.