When it comes to cultural touchstones, it’s hard to think of a singular piece of media with such profound, long-lasting influence as “Star Wars.” Since the film introduced us to Luke, Leia, Han Solo and Darth Vader in 1977, the Force can be found everywhere. The Rancor’s Toothpick is an example of the the way Star Wars can even show up in drinks. Named for the monstrous, toothy creature that Jabba the Hutt would feed his victims to in “Return of the Jedi” (no, not that toothy monster Jabba would feed his victims to, the other one), the drink was created by bartender Timothy Miner of New York City’s beloved Long Island Bar.
Miner created the cocktail as a nod to his brother-in-law, who’s fond of giving family members disposition-appropriate “Star Wars” nicknames. “My brother-in-law Joey Carnevale is called The Rancor because he can be, well, unpredictable,” he says. “He’s also particularly fond of a well-mixed bourbon cocktail.” After all, a good cocktail can take you from cranky to calm in a sip, and Miner says that this one will do just that, even if you’re feeling as rattled as a gnarly-toothed Rancor.
Essentially a take on the lush and boozy Boulevardier, the Rancor’s Toothpick substitutes Cynar for Campari. An herbaceous amaro, Cynar is made with artichoke, though the plant lends it subtle vegetal notes rather than giving it overt artichoke flavors. For whiskey, Miner uses Old Forester Signature 100-proof bourbon, which is an excellent choice for the price point. The stronger proof works well in a drink with amaro and sweet vermouth, making a bold, yet balanced, cocktail. And while his brother-in-law may be a bourbon fan, there’s nothing wrong with substituting a rye whiskey. Rye’s inherent spice means you won’t need a higher proof whiskey to compete with the assertive notes of sweet vermouth and Cynar. Either way, it’s a drink for those who like spirit-forward flavors.
One major deviation from the Boulevardier recipe is the addition of bitters; normally, the drink relies on Campari and vermouth to bring the bitters and botanicals, but the Rancor’s Toothpick gets an extra bite from smoky, chocolatey mole bitters. You could substitute Angostura bitters, if needed, but that will lead to more of a Wampa than a Rancor.
- 1 1/2 ounces Old Forester Signature 100-proof bourbon
- 1 ounce Cynar
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes mole bitters
- Garnish: orange peel
Add the bourbon, Cynar, sweet vermouth and mole bitters to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a frozen double Old Fashioned glass over 1 large ice cube.
Express the oil from a large orange peel over the top of the drink, and discard the peel.