Mixologist’s Recipe: The Dark Wanderer

 The campfire flickers, dancing in tune to the cool desert air as it whips around it, casting eerie shadows across the flats just outside of Lut Gholein. While an older man sleeps on a bedroll, every once in a while mumbling gibberish to himself, a dark figure sits cloaked at the outer edge of the light, starring off into the darkness. Raising a weathered cup to his lips, he drinks a smooth blend, tinges of intense spice flaring up at the end of each sip, hinting at the figure’s own personal affection for warmth. In the distance, strange noises cry out from one of the deserts many creatures. The Wanderer pays it no attention. His mind is elsewhere, drawn away by a vision of  an armored hero arriving in Lut Gholein by caravan this very morning. Smiling for a moment, the Wanderer finishes his drink then turns to the sleeping man. “Marius!” he calls. The older man stirs and is instantly alert, eyes darting from side to side in search of danger. “Be still Marius, no harm has come, we must go, time is turning against us.” With a wave of his hand, the fire extinguishes, as Marius lights a lamp and the pair continue on into the heart of the desert, first light slowly beginning to creep over the horizon.

Apologies for the small bit of fan-fiction there, but it seemed wholly appropriate to introduce our new beverage that bears the moniker of the dark lord incarnate in Blizzard’s epic RPG (soon to be getting a three-quel, and by soon I mean when it’s done) Diablo II.

Johnny Walker Black, which is aged 12 years before bottling and sale, is the base for the drink. Other whiskeys or scotches can be used, but part of the character is this drink is its smoothness, so lesser whiskeys will tamper with that to some extent. Another main issue with the drink is balancing the sweet and the heat, which is why dry vermouth is specifically called for, not sweet. The soda will provide enough sugar to the drink.

The overall texture is very smooth; much of that being owed to the combination of the scotch and the vermouth. Though not a traditional pairing I really like the way these two spirits play together. The soda really just serves as an agent to carry and mix the other ingredients together. Lemon-lime soda works best, but you could use anything from Ginger Ale, to regular club soda, or seltzer if you preferred. More importantly because the soda is predominantly a water based beverage, it actually helps to accentuate the heat and flavor of the Tabasco sauce. Because Capsaicin (the active compound in chilis that creates heat) is alcohol soluble, it will not dissolve or wash away with the soda. Yet, the amount of alcohol in the combination of vermouth and scotch isn’t enough to remove it either. Yet the combination of the three works to even out the intensity allowing for longer but less overpowering sensations of spice.

The highlight of the drink is the Tabasco sauce (another similar red pepper “hot sauce” could be substituted, brand loyalty is not required). The subtle tinges of heat and spice will appear at the end of each sip and linger slightly providing a little warmth as it travels down your throat. All of this though, without overpowering the rest of the ingredients. After extensive testing I discovered that anything more than two normal dashes and the hot sauce begins to take over the drink.

If spice is not your thing, feel free to leave out the hot sauce. With enough fresh lime juice the drink without the heat is in fact rather refreshing and can serve as a great introduction to anyone looking to expand their drinking palette to include “scotch” but has not yet reached a point where he/she is ready to drink it “straight-up” on the rocks.

Ingredients:
2.5 ounces Johnny Walker Black
1 ounce dry vermouth
2.5 ounces of lemon-lime soda
Spritz of Lime juice (approx. 1 teaspoon)
2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Directions:

1) Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the whiskey, vermouth, and soda. Using a spoon, stir ( do not shake) the ingredients to combine.
2) Add the two dashes of Tabasco to the drink then stir again, ensuring the ingredients all meld together.
3) Using a lime wedge, spritz the top of the drink with lime juice, and serve.*

*I prefer a wedge of lime to concentrated lime juice for this. The juice will coat the top of the glass and top layer of the drink, so that with each sip you get a little bit of the lime flavor. Similar to the way salt is used on the rim of a margherita.