John Filkins, the beverage director at Officina and Masseria in Washington, D.C., wanted to create a richer version of a Boulevardier, including adding a whiff of smoke. The Revenant was the outcome; its name means “the returned,” usually in the context of returning from the dead, and it includes an unconventional form of smoke. Rather than using an exceptionally peaty scotch or adding a mezcal float, he instead boils Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters and cardamom bitters. Since the bitters are both glycerin-based they smoke rather than burning the way those made from alcohol would. Filkins uses a Turkish coffee pot—also known as an ibrik or cezve—whose high heat tolerance means it nearly instantaneously smokes the bitters when they hit the hot surface.
To capture the smoke, invert a snifter over the hot pot until it’s filled, then quickly place a coaster over the mouth of the glass to seal it. At Officina and Masseria, bartenders or servers will bring the glass to the table and pour the drink from a carafe over the smoke, bringing spectacle to the service. “The smoke adds a wow factor when it goes to the table, and chocolate and cardamom bring aromatic complexity and warm baking spices,” Filkins says.
While the Revenant is based on the Boulevardier (a whiskey-based variation on the Negroni), it uses neither Campari nor vermouth. Instead, vermouth is replaced by Chinato, a fortified and aromatized wine that is flavored with quinine, the same ingredient that gives tonic water its telltale bitterness. That quinine is necessary for balance, as the Revenant substitutes dry curaçao, an orange liqueur, for the usual Campari that would lend the drink bitterness. “Chinato is a great replacement for vermouth and adds an herbal complexity, [while] dry curaçao helps to lift it,” says Filkins.
Heat an empty Turkish coffeepot. When it begins to steam, add the Aztec chocolate and cardamom bitters.
When it begins to smoke, fill a chilled snifter with the smoke and cover with a coaster.
Add the bourbon, Chinato and dry curaçao to a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Remove coaster from prepared glass and strain drink into it.