Although the Black & White looks nothing like the Southside, it is based on this classic, yet lesser-known cocktail. My preferred origin yarn is that it was a favorite tipple of Al Capone, because the harsh gin he bootlegged was balanced by the drink’s other ingredients: simple syrup, mint, lime or lemon juice. Others cite Long Island’s Sportsmen’s Club or the NYC Prohibition-era hot spot 21 Club as its place of creation. What is known for certain is that if you add soda, it’s a Southside fizz, and that the drink also spawned the Eastside, which includes cucumber.
When riffing on classical inspirations for the Black & White, Alchemy bar manager Tony Larson (Aston Manor, Still Liquor) looked to the Eastside for inspiration to create an “almost deceptive cocktail.” To create a fitting companion for the bar’s black and white color palette and Tess of the d’Urbervilles–style romanticism (think white candles, black wingback chairs, antique pictures, black leather couches, apothecary shelves and a communal table straight out of a gothic novel), Larson kept the gin base, but infused it with edible activated charcoal, delivering a rare, rich black color without adding any distracting flavor. (Take note: Activated charcoal can absorb certain drugs, including birth-control pills, tricyclic antidepressants and heart medication, if consumed within four hours of taking them.)
He also retained the fresh lime juice, mint and simple syrup, and added a dash of Bitter Truth cucumber bitters, which delivers notes of cucumber, rosemary and thyme, as well as slight floral notes. The drink alone is worth crossing the bridge for.
Larson adds an egg white, which, when seriously shaken, places a layer of thick white foam atop the glass.
The Final Taste
One can’t help but think it’s going to be a weighty drink. But it’s the exact opposite—light, tangy, minty, a little vegetal (from the bitters) and a tinge sweet. Deceptive indeed.
The Black & White
6–8 mint leaves
1 ounce liquid nitrogen (optional)
2 ounces activated-charcoal-infused Bombay London dry gin
1 egg white
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 dash Bitter Truth cucumber bitters
Mint sprig, for garnish
Add 6–8 mint leaves to a cocktail shaker. Pour in approximately 1 ounce of liquid nitrogen to freeze and preserve the mint.
With a muddler, tamp down on the frozen mint to crush it into a frozen powder. Add the gin, which will cause a billowing smoke effect as it interacts with the liquid nitrogen. Allow to dissipate. In a separate glass, add the egg white, lime juice, simple syrup and bitters.
Once the liquid nitrogen has dissipated, add the egg, lemon and simple syrup combo to the original shaker, along with a single ice cube to help
emulsification. Shake for about 30 seconds, frothing the egg white. Open the shaker and fill about halfway with ice cubes. Shake for 15 more seconds. Strain through a fine strainer into a goblet and let the drink sit until it separates. Garnish with the mint sprig.
Photograph by Chustine Minoda; The cocktail The Black & White
Note: While this drink is fun, it is a bit harder to make than many, and uses a few ingredients that involve safety warnings. The first is liquid nitrogen (Alchemy picks it up at Central Welding Supply, with a number of locations in Washington; centralwelding.com), which can be dangerous if used incorrectly, so take care when working with it. The cocktail also includes powdered activated charcoal, which you can find at Amazon.com.
Add an ounce of it to a 1-liter bottle of gin to make the charcoal-infused gin and create the black coloring.