A Swan-and-Skunk Cocktail at Canlis

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Photo by Zibby Wilder
Something caught my eye when I read the cocktail menu at Canlis last week: a $24 drink. And the description was weird. The Nonesuch of Von Rothbart is made with apple-infused Bols Genever (gin), Arrack punch, Charles Heidsieck Brut champagne, and a quail egg preserved in white-truffle vinaigrette.

The result is an extremely interesting tasting cocktail. I initially didn't even know how to describe the thing, other than "skunky."

I was right! Canlis head barman James MacWilliams says he got the idea from pairing Piedmont white wines with truffles--a combo that creates an earthy, skunky, savory flavor.

"That funk," says MacWilliams, "comes from the Arrack punch. The base spirit is Batavia Arrack. It is a distillate of fermented sugar cane and a small percentage of red rice infused with young palm flower. Out of the bottle, it is high proof. But diluted in the punch, it takes on a smokey, musty aroma and flavor. Some mold may be added during fermentation, as in sake. It is this funk and acid and bubbles of the Champagne that pair so well with truffle and egg."

The only thing funkier than the taste of this cocktail is its name.

"I was asked to create a drink for the movie Black Swan by the New York Daily," MacWilliams explains. "In creating this cocktail, I was looking to explore the powerful duality brought to Nina by the sorcerer Von Rothbart in a dream. Even as top dancer in the ballet, dark ambition pushes her past earthly limits; it's magical, dank, and poetic all in one."

MacWilliams says his original recipe, which included sage smoke and caviar atop the quail egg, was nixed for the Canlis menu. "It just wasn't practical. And no one but myself and the members of the wine team appreciated the caviar. A little too piquant."

We may never get to taste that original N.Y. Daily version, but we can see it! Here's a photo:

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