Black Cocktails Are the Antidote You Need to Tiki Drinks

Your dark and stormy isn’t dark enough.

How do you create an eerily jet-black drink? Mixologists have discovered an unconventional ingredient: activated charcoal powder. “It’s an exciting way to make a cocktail dark, inky, almost scary,” says Courtney Colarik, a bartender at Pouring Ribbons in New York.

Activated charcoal is flavorless, but its chalky texture can be off-putting. In her Heart of Darkness, Colarik combats this by fine-straining it.
Activated charcoal is flavorless, but its chalky texture can be off-putting. In her Heart of Darkness, Colarik combats this by fine-straining it.
Photographer: Janelle Jones for Bloomberg Businessweek; Prop Stylist: Alex Brannian

Health-minded juice shops embraced the food-safe charcoal for its absorptive and detoxifying properties. (It’s fair to call these health benefits unproven.) Bartenders love that it’s flavorless, unlike squid ink or other esoteric ingredients, such as Italian amari, that could impart a similar tint. “The taste doesn’t echo the color at all,” Colarik says. “I’m intrigued by making a drink that’s refreshing, yet looks dark and smoky.” Her tequila-based Heart of Darkness picks up smoke from mezcal, fruit flavor from raspberry preserves, and its blacker-than-black hue from, of course, the charcoal.

’Coal Country
Try these three variations:

Black Gold
Tusk, Portland, Ore.
A brisk gin, sherry, and lemon juice drink that bar manager Tyler Stevens first created for the brunch menu as a detoxifying hangover tonic.

Black Thai Optional
E.P. & L.P., West Hollywood, Calif.
Beverage director Adam Nystrom makes his own coconut husk charcoal for this reinterpretation of a lychee martini, with blackened gin under a contrasting egg-white foam.

Activated Pop Shandy
Hotel San José, Austin
Rather than shaking charcoal into the cocktail, lounge manager Breezy Mayo freezes it in a charcoal-lemonade ice pop, then pours Shiner Blonde beer over the top for an offbeat shandy.

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