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Three Ways: The Stinger Cocktail

This tingling mix of Cognac and white crème de menthe has a predecessor, the Judge, that can be traced to 1892, the year it appeared in William Schmidt’s The Flowing Bowl. In the years that followed, someone omitted the simple syrup from the Judge’s recipe, and the simplified ingredient list was dubbed the Stinger. Adopted as a post-dinner pastime by the millionaire crowd (most notably Reginald Vanderbilt), the Stinger has historically been the notable exception to the rule that spirit-only cocktails should be stirred, not shaken. These days, bartenders have rejuvenated the classic formula with riffs that find complementary flavors in rum and beyond.

Midnight Stinger Sometimes a float is all that’s needed to shoulder the responsibility of a riff. At the Brandy Library in New York City, bartender Salvador Lazaro gives the Stinger a boost with funky Jamaican rum and a pinch of freshness courtesy of mint leaves. “We find that by adding Jamaican rum, the drink becomes more aromatically complex, and floating it on top changes the flavor profile in a pleasant progression as the drink is being sipped,” says Lazaro.

Add 5 to 8 small peppermint leaves, 1½ oz. of Cognac and ¾ oz. of white crème de menthe to a cocktail shaker filled with a few ice cubes. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Float ¾ oz. of aged Jamaican rum on top, then garnish with a peppermint sprig.

Stingray “When someone orders a riff on a Stinger, our bartenders usually will make the classic Trader Vic’s Stinger Royale with absinthe,” says John Dye, owner of Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee. “But sometimes we’ll make a unique variation, especially if the guest is looking for a change in the base spirit.” One variation Dye finds especially intriguing is from Bryant’s bartender Michael Morton, who employs rum as a base while capturing the classic Stinger profile using Branca Menta and absinthe.

To mix Morton’s Stingray, fill a rocks glass with ice and set it aside to chill. In a mixing glass, combine 1¼ oz. of dark rum with 1¼ oz. of Branca Menta, then stir until chilled. Remove the ice from the rocks glass and add a splash of absinthe, rolling the glass to coat the sides. Discard the excess absinthe, then strain the cocktail into the prepared glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass and then lightly rub the peel once around the rim before dropping it into the cocktail.

Tea Sting At Bateau, a French-styled steak house in Seattle, beverage manager Andrew Bresnik looked to time spent traveling in Morocco for his refreshingly floral riff on the Stinger, which emulates Moroccan mint tea through a green tea–infused Cognac. “The specific blend of green tea, sugar, mint and orange flower water is a wild flavor profile that’s one of my favorites,” he says.

To make the green tea–infused Cognac, rinse 25 grams of gunpowder green tea by pouring a few ounces of boiling water over the tea leaves in a strainer. Add the tea leaves to a quart jar, then pour one 750 ml. bottle of Cognac over the leaves. Let the Cognac steep for 30 minutes, then strain off the leaves. The Cognac will keep its flavor for up to a couple of weeks. To make the Tea Sting, stir 1¾ oz. of the green tea–infused Cognac with ½ oz. white crème de menthe in an ice-filled mixing glass. Use an atomizer to spritz a double rocks glass with one spray of orange flower water, then add a large ice cube to the glass. Strain the cocktail into the glass and give it another generous spray of the orange flower water. Garnish with gently tapped fresh mint leaves and an orange twist.

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