The Dark Side cocktail was created by Washington, D.C., bartender Adam Bernbach at now-closed Bar Pilar. It features gin and Barolo chinato, an aromatized wine similar to vermouth that includes quinine bark, the same ingredient found in tonic that gives tonic a bitter edge. Peychaud’s bitters brings it all home with its trademark hint of anise.
In addition to making a lot of local drinkers happy, the DarkSide was also included in Derek Brown’s book “Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World.” According to Brown, Bernbach ran a unique program called Cocktail Sessions. “Guests could cozy up to the bar and order a cocktail tasting where Adam would fix three original cocktails using twists on classics,” he says. That’s where the Dark Side made its first appearance.
Bernbach’s recipe confirms that drinks don’t need more than three ingredients to be delicious, but as it became more popular, the Dark Side changed tack a few times. Certain iterations featured Plymouth gin, while others called for London dry. You may find the cocktail garnished with a lime twist and star anise pod, while other recipes, including this one, call for a cherry.
Whichever route you go, the Dark Side is rich, moody and complex. The chinato’s bittersweet character and baking-spice notes merge seamlessly with the botanical gin and yield a drink that is reminiscent of the classic Martinez but with a quality all its own. The modern-classic is a nod to D.C.’s influence on drinking culture and a reminder that the East Coast has more than one influential cocktail city.
2 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce Barolo chinato
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Garnish: brandied cherry
Add the gin, Barolo chinato and bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a brandied cherry.