Split base cocktails are drinks in which the spirit foundation – it’s “base” – is a mix of two different types of alcohol. Often, it’s alcohols from the same general family, like bourbon and Scotch or tequila and mezcal. But every now and then, a confident (some would argue overconfident) mixologist will push the bounds of propriety with a clear spirit and a brown. That may sound like sacrilege, but some of these Frankenstein cocktails are really quite fantastic. Case in point: Death & Taxes.
Michael Madrusan dreamt up this magical potion while at the famous Milk & Honey in, where else, New York City. It calls for a base of blended Scotch and gin with the more classic modifiers of Benedictine and sweet vermouth (a la the Vieux Carré) to add sweetness, body, and some herbal complexity. The gin is the real flavor star here, so be discerning. I opted for the less Christmas-y Botanist, which, in addition to being well-balanced on the juniper front, features a bright mix of citrus, spice, and licorice that pair extraordinarily well with the Benedictine and my preferred vermouth, Carpano Antica Formula. The Scotch isn’t completely absent on the flavor front, contributing a noticeable maltiness that nicely rounds out all of that herbal and floral complexity. Skeptics will abound, but Death & Taxes is every bit as silky and rich as your typical Manhattan or Rob Roy with more memorable complexity. Like death and taxes, you can be certain of this one.
Death & Taxes
1 oz. blended Scotch
1 oz. gin
¾ oz. sweet vermouth
¼ oz. Benedictine
2 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.