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Black Maybe From Leah & Louise

Black Maybe

A deliciously sweet and smoky mix.

Leah & Louise in Charlotte, North Carolina, which is spotlighted in our September/October 2022 issue, makes it a point not to let anything go to waste. So when bar manager Justin Hazelton accidentally burned his smoked brown sugar syrup, he created a whiskey cocktail around its surprising richness and complexity. Amaro Montenegro rounds out the flavors.

“Later someone asked me what color the drink would come out, I replied, ‘Maybe black,'” he said. That inspired the cocktail’s name, which is also the title of a song by Common. “The first line of the song goes ‘I heard a white man’s yes is a Black maybe.’ This line has rung true in so many facets of the Black experience in America,” Hazelton said. “We have come a long way but have so far to go to reach true equality.”


  • 1 1/2 oz. whiskey (Hazelton uses George Dickel 12)
  • 1 oz. smurnt (smoked and burnt) sugar syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Amaro Montenegro
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • ___________________________
  • Smurnt Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups smoked brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped ginger
  • Tools:shaker, strainer
  • Glass:rocks
  • Garnish:Mint sprig, lemon wheel


Combine all of the ingredients in shaker with ice and vigorously shake. Strain into a glass over fresh ice and garnish.

Smurnt Brown SugarIn a pot cook the brown sugar only on low heat until fully melted. Increase the heat to high and cook the sugar until it starts to smoke and turn dark brown (almost black). Take the pot off of the heat and add water. Put the mixture back on medium heat until all the burnt sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup come down to room temperature and then pour it into a blender. Add the mint and ginger and blend on high for 1 minute. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer and refrigerate. Lasts up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

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