Rum and brandy can be employed in many classic and modern drinks. The same goes for sherry, scotch and even amer, a lesser-known French liqueur that’s loaded with bittersweet orange and spice notes. And bitters, of course, are an essential tool in any bartender’s arsenal. It’s not often that one harnesses all of the aforementioned ingredients into a well-balanced cocktail, but that’s exactly what you’ll find with the Spanish Armada.
This complex cocktail can be traced to Vol. 39, a sleek, spirit-forward bar hidden on the second floor of the Kimpton Gray hotel in Chicago where Old Fashioned variations and a six-Martini flight are de rigueur. The Spanish Armada by bartender Jessica Lambert charts its own course, channeling a diverse array of ingredients into a multi-layered drink.
Lambert begins with equal measures of El Dorado 12-year-old rum from Guyana and Lustau Brandy de Jerez, a solera-aged Spanish brandy. Lustau PX sherry adds velvety notes of dates, raisins and figs, while Bigallet China-China amer lends a bitter orange accent. The drink’s peaty, nuanced secret? The Famous Grouse Smoky Black blended scotch—at only a quarter ounce, the scotch punches out of its weight class and makes itself known among the other strongly flavored ingredients.
Finally, the savory spice layers unfold with a trio of bitters: Bittercube Jamaican No. 1, Angostura and The Bitter End curry bitters. There’s a lot going on in this drink, but the rich and complex experience remains balanced from beginning to end.
- 1 ounce El Dorado 12-year-old rum
- 1 ounce Lustau Brandy de Jerez
- 1/4 ounce The Famous Grouse Smoky Black blended scotch
- 1/4 ounce Lustau PX sherry
- 1/4 ounce Bigallet China-China amer
- 1 dash Bittercube Jamaican No. 1 bitters
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 3 drops The Bitter End curry bitters
- Garnish: orange peel
Add the rum, Brandy de Jerez, blended scotch, PX sherry, China-China amer and all three bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled
Strain into a Nick & Nora glass.
Express the oils from an orange peel over the top of the drink, and garnish with the peel.