If you're into thinkin' and drinkin'

Episode 46: A Sloe Death – Blackthorn Cocktail


The Blackthorn Cocktail is a real puzzler. It’s an example of another cocktail that has multiple versions, which is not that unusual, but in this case the resource we’re using has the outlying recipe.

The name of the cocktail sounds sinister but it’s nothing more than a connection to a berry bush indigenous to the British Isles…a plant festooned with small plum-flavored berries commonly used to make a liqueur called sloe gin.

Learning that I was excited because…plums…YUM!

But in our book, the recipe uses no sloe gin, no sloe berries, not even any plums, yet is supposed to remind of plums…and it’s not even (as far as we can tell) the original recipe for the cocktail that actually contained sloe gin. We can’t find the recipe that’s listed, but we did find several others, one containing sloe gin, and one containing Irish whiskey, which at least has a circuitous connection to blackthorn.

So we’re kind of at a loss as to why this cocktail appears as it does. We assume a reason; we just don’t know what it is. But this drink definitely has some age, appearing in Harry Johnson’s book in the late 19th century.

The recipe we tried from Ted Haigh’s book is as follows:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 3/4 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
  • 3/4 oz. Kirschwasser

We all roundly disliked this drink. It looks beautiful, but it was unexpectedly harsh and not really very plummy at all. Generally speaking, we’ve decided that kirschwasser is a ruiner of drinks and we’re anxiously awaiting the kirschwasser drink that doesn’t taste like ass.

Because Jay revealed the other two versions of the blackthorn, we also wanted to try those. The version of the blackthorn that contained the sloe gin was remarkably better. It tasted of fruit, though some of the tasting team preferred the sloe gin straight. The second alternate version was Irish whiskey and absinthe which everybody swooned over (though nobody reported any hallucinations as per Jay’s story at the end of the history section)


Transition music: Cephalopod by Kevin MacLeod
Closing Music: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Kevin MacLeod – PI Tchaikovsky

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