San Francisco bar group The Bon Vivants and their flagship bar Trick Dog are responsible for some of the modern cocktail era’s most creative drinks. That creativity extends to the Polar Bear, which features a quartet of ingredients that, outside of this cocktail, may have never existed in the same glass.
The Polar Bear calls for mezcal, blanc vermouth, creme de menthe and a homemade angelica tincture—or, if you want to simplify the last step, store-bought celery bitters. Trick Dog uses La Puritita Verdá mezcal, which is distilled from Espadin agave in the Oaxacan mountains. It’s savory and mildly smoky, with earthy undertones. The mezcal pairs deftly with blanc vermouth, a light and floral vermouth that is sweeter than dry vermouth (a Martini staple), while often containing hints of honey, fruit and spice.
The creme de menthe comes from Tempus Fugit, a company known for recreating classic and sometimes forgotten liqueurs. In this case, they created a true representation of an old-school creme de menthe, made by macerating and then distilling peppermint and botanicals. The 56-proof bottle is fresh and minty, with herbal complexity and a kick of cane-sugar sweetness. To keep the cocktail clear, be sure to choose white creme de menthe, not green, as the latter will muddy your drink with a green-hue. And no one’s ever seen a green polar bear.
The angelica tincture is very easy to make at home by mixing dried angelica root (find this online or in a spice shop) with Everclear, a highly-potent grain alcohol that works well as a flavor extractor. If you don’t want to take this extra step, no problem—you can sub out the angelica tincture for celery bitters.
The Polar Bear is a fun take on the classic Stinger, a pre-Prohibition cocktail composed of cognac and white creme de menthe. In later years, the Stinger underwent some experimentation, in which the cognac was swapped for other base spirits, like gin. Consider this drink a Mezcal Stinger, but with a couple Trick Dog flourishes.
1 1/2 ounces La Puritita Verdá mezcal
3/4 ounce Dolin blanc vermouth
1/2 ounce Tempus Fugit creme de menthe
6 drops angelica tincture* or celery bitters
Add the mezcal, blanc vermouth, creme de menthe and angelica tincture (or celery bitters) to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
*Angelica tincture: Add 2 ounces dried angelica root and 12 ounces Everclear to a Mason jar. Seal and let stand for 48 hours, shaking twice daily. Strain through a coffee filter and transfer to a dropper bottle.