Cocktail Challenge: Truffle oil | Cocktail Challenge | Chicago Reader

Cocktail Challenge: Truffle oil 

Wade McElroy of Sportsman's Club crafts a fungi-infused pousse-cafe that passes the taste test.

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The Lone Pousse: layered grenadine, truffle oil-infused chartreuse, and kümmel

The Lone Pousse: layered grenadine, truffle oil-infused chartreuse, and kümmel

Peter Holderness

"I 'm not a fan," said Wade McElroy, a partner in the forthcoming Sportsman's Club, of truffle oil, his challenge courtesy of Lone Wolf bartender Austin Skiles. In McElroy's view, it's a desecration of one of the world's great ingredients. Moreover, it's so "incredibly savory, incredibly pungent" that it's capable of overpowering just about everything. What he needed was a containment strategy.

For that he turned to the pousse-cafe (literally, "coffee pusher"), an after-dinner layered drink traditionally served in a demure little tulip-shaped glass—all the better to confine the truffle oil's telltale odor.

The layers of a pousse-cafe are "stacked" by virtue of their relative densities, with the bottom layer typically a sugar-heavy ingredient, followed by those higher in alcohol, hence less dense; the B-52, for example, consists of coffee liqueur topped by Irish cream topped by Grand Marnier or triple sec. For his bottom layer, a rich red in color, McElroy used grenadine made in-house the classic way, with pomegranate juice (a recipe follows).

He'd tried using truffle oil as a layer in its own right, but found it objectionably slick as well as nasty tasting. So instead he used a tiny drop to infuse a bottle of green chartreuse, hopeful that the liqueur's high proof and scores of botanicals would help camouflage the truffle fug. This forms the golden-colored middle layer.

For his top layer McElroy turned to kümmel, a German liqueur flavored with cumin, caraway, and fennel, a combination he thought would complement the savory qualities of the truffle oil.

But most crucial to the drink is the mode of delivery, so to speak. The way McElroy put it, "It's up to your mouth, you shoot the whole thing," and that's that. But, he said, while his cocktail passed the taste test—"We made a bunch of them and everybody liked it"—it still fails the smell test, reason enough for it to be "the lone pousse-cafe I'll ever make with truffle oil."

The Lone Pousse

1/2 oz pomegranate grenadine*
1/2 oz truffle-oil chartreuse
1/2 oz Gilka Kaiser-Kümmel liqueur

* Reduce four cups of pomegranate juice to two. Add two cups sugar, stir to dissolve, and let cool.

Slowly and carefully pour each ingredient into a pousse-cafe or tall shot glass, one atop the other. Serve as a shooter.

Who's Next:

Continuing the savory theme, McElroy has challenged Dan Smith of Barrelhouse Flat with fermented black-bean paste.


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