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Kitschy cocktails have never really been my thing. Particularly ones themed for Halloween; they're always colored some violent shade, and more often than not, involve gummy worms. They're topped with sheets of crushed Oreos described as "dirt" (quotation marks on menus are always red flags something will be disappointing)—and given cutesy names like "Apple Scare-tini" or "Boo-urbon Grapefruit Punch." Please.
A few years ago, I visited mixologist Todd Thrasher at the cozy bar at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Virginia. Thrasher and the rest of Restaurant Eve's staff had just gotten into the bloody Showtime series "Dexter" and had created a few cocktails in the show's honor. One in particular stood out: a Cardamaro and vodka-based drink with a thick egg white layer sliced with a bright red streak of pomegranate molasses.
If ever blood splatter could look elegant and appetizing, this was it. That simple red streak managed to overcome whatever grousing I may have expressed in the past about themed drinks. No gummy worms, no crushed Oreos, no silly names. A single frightening smear is enough to be scary without seeming overwrought.
I asked Todd to share the recipe and he sent along this version for home cocktail makers. The egg white is what's key here—you need a base on which to drizzle something sinister-looking.
I wound up experimenting with a few other ingredients I had on hand for a sister cocktail to Thrasher's original; this time apple and bourbon based, drizzled with a rhubarb syrup.
And because I had apples on the brain, I've thrown in a spiked hot ginger cider for good measure. After all, there's only so many themed cocktails I can take.
Pomegranate Blood Splatter Cocktail
Shaken egg whites make for the loveliest canvasses, don't they? The drizzle of pomegranate molasses against the foam is striking, and I love how the deep purple liquid lurks underneath. The sweetness of the pomegranate juice and molasses is countered by their inherent tartness, and the Cardamaro imparts a pleasant, nutty flavor.
Apple Blood Splatter Cocktail
For this variation on Thrasher's bloody cocktail, I subbed in fresh apple juice and bourbon, along with amaro and rhubarb syrup. Try dripping the syrup along the rim of the glass for a bloody effect suitable for Halloween. (If you don't want to fuss with the rhubarb, you can use your pomegranate molasses for this one as well.)
Ginger Apple Cider With Applejack
Since even the cleverest and most restrained Halloween cocktails can get a bit tired after awhile, I always rely on a spiked hot apple cider to pick up the slack. This recipe amps up the classic mulled cider with a heck of a lot of ginger, which gives it a spicy quality perfect for cold nights. The applejack helps a bit with that, too.