Psst. You. Yeah, you. Looking for something new, something strange? Look under the sea.
Squid, and cephalopods in general, are able to release a burst of jet black ink when threatened by predators. This is an ancient evolutionary tactic, and has fascinated thinkers since at least the time of Aristotle.
On the other end of the animal kingdom, bartenders and other adventurous drinkers are able to ingest a batch of jet black cocktails when threatened by monotony. This is a recent trend, and has fascinated drinkers since at least the time of mid-2014.
Preparing food with ink is nothing new. Picture Italian black pasta or arroz negro. So why not wash these down with a pitch-black Martini?
Most commercially available ink is actually cuttlefish, not squid, but that name just doesn’t roll off the tongue. The exact chemical composition of the ink varies by species, but the color itself comes from melanin, the same stuff that pigments human skin and helps protect us from the sun. Thirsty yet?
HOW TO USE IT
I purchased some fresh ink in a tiny to-go salsa container from a supermarket seafood counter. It was viscous, jiggly and opaque, like a nightmare JELL-O.
The ink has a mild briny and saline taste, so it works easily in drinks like the Margarita, Bloody Mary or Dirty Martini. That seemed too easy, though. As long as we are using the weaponized guts of an undersea monster, why not go (further) outside the box. How about a funeral-black twist on the Corpse Reviver No. 2?
Try this one at home. Hell, try something weirder. Just make sure to send us the pictures afterwards.
The Corpse Unreviver
- 5 Blackberries
- 1.5 oz Blanco tequila
- 1 oz Lillet Blanc
- 1 oz Cointreau
- 1 oz Fresh lemon juice
- 1 splash Absinthe
- .25 oz Squid ink solution*
Garnish: Lemon twist and blackberry
Add the blackberries and all ingredients except the absinthe and squid ink to a shaker. Muddle, add the remaining ingredients and fill the shaker with ice. Shake well, and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and blackberry.
*Since you need so little ink to color, and because it is easier to work with if already in solution, you can lengthen it with two parts squid ink, one part water.
For this recipe, the standard absinthe wash is upped to a splash. The added opacity helps the black to pop, and the sweet licorice flavor (plus the blackberries) helps counterbalance the squid-ink funk.
You’ll want to fine strain the drink, both for the blackberries and because fresh squid ink can have an unsightly habit of not fully incorporating, leaving small globules of black on the surface of your drink.
Matt Merkin is a writer and photographer currently based in Oakland, CA.