When the bartender and co-owner of Bar Boca, a charming, quirky bar-coffee shop-cafe in Oslo’s hip Grünerløkka neighborhood, asked for my cocktail preferences, I talked about my dislike for crushed ice, how I enjoy something spirit forward, but a touch of sweetness. In other words, not a mai tai and not a Manhattan. She asks about bourbon. no problem at all.
Somehow from my vague preferences she crafted the perfect drink that seemed identical to what my palate seeked, but couldn’t put into words. The drink had just the right bourbon expression, with hints of spice, fruit, and nuttiness. And of course, served up.
Afterwards I requested the recipe and she enthusiastically wrote it down. The recipe was shocking.
4 cL each of Angostura bitters, orgeat syrup, and fresh lemon juice, with just 1 cL of bourbon (forget the type she used, potentially Knob Creek). Angostura bitters are usually just used for a finishing touch, merely a few drops. Orgeat syrup? It’s best known from flavorless mai tais and the artifical syrup in Starbucks almond flavored lattes. Lemon juice, now that’s a great ingredient anywhere.
But, the bourbon, whose taste is clear in the drink, relegated to being just 1cL? It’s as if the Angostura bitters and bourbon swapped spots.
Either way, the drink is flawless. The orgeat’s almond notes provide smoothness to the bitters’ spice, and the smokiness from good ol’ bourbon. The drink channels Kentucky through the tropics, enjoyed in Norway. It’s a small, small world.
Yet the real shock is the revelation of how impressive Angostura bitters can be as a cocktail’s headline ingredient. After some research, the Trinidad Sour was first created by Giuseppe Gonzalez of Brooklyn’s Clover Club, one of our fine drinking country’s premier bars. It’s a variation on the Trindad Especial, based on pisco. Gonzalez’s recipe is 1 ounce each of Angostura bitters and orgeat syrup, 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice, and just 1/2 oz. of rye whiskey. I can certainly seeing a peaty Scotch such as Laphroaig working too.
Everything works and even if it seems like the drink hides the bourbon, it doesn’t. Norway may have some fascinating beers to dominate your attention during a visit, but the mixology circuit from San Francisco to Brooklyn has now made it to Oslo, with an assist from Trinidad.