The modern cocktail scene is a complicated space. Flipping through many modern books will expose you to liquors and flavors that you have not thought of, and recipes that require dots and dashes of fairly specialized ingredients. There are also many drinks that are a simple evolution of something classic. The Gold Rush is a good example of this mode of thinking, substituting honey for sugar and changing the complexion of the Whiskey Sour. The latter thinking occurred more at the beginning of the craft cocktails boom, as it does for most shifts. Small changes to what is known lead to bigger and bigger shifts in thinking. Looking at the cocktails of the late 1990's and early 2000's are where we start to see a shift as cocktails went from rediscovering classics to starting to get irreverent with them.
Jon Santer was one of those early pioneers in the just-emerging San Francisco cocktail scene. The Revolver was developed in the early 2000's, just as the craft cocktail movement was starting to crest. He had a bottle of the brand new Bulleit bourbon, and was experimenting with it when he added some Tia Maria to the mix. It is based off the Manhattan, a well known classic, using the bourbon base and changing the vermouth to a coffee liqueur. As an important final touch, Santer flamed an orange peel over the cocktail to add a little citrus and smoke, as well as some theater, to the mix. In hindsight utilizing coffee liqueur is a simple shift. At the time, it was a huge leap. Santer's current home is Prizefighter, shifting the craft cocktail environment from a serious business to something fun and casual.
The Revolver (by Jon Santer of The Prizefighter Bar)
1.33 oz./ 40 mL bourbon (Bulleit is recommended)
.33 oz./ 10 mL coffee liqueur
2 ds. orange bitters
Garnish: Flamed Orange Peel
Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled, about 10-15 seconds. Strain into the coupe. Put a little heat into the pith side of the orange peel. Squeeze the peel over the cocktail while holding a flame in front of the skin side. There should be a brief flash of fire when you squeeze it. Then drop the expressed peel into the cocktail and serve.
Are there ways to say no to bourbon? If there are, adding coffee liqueur to it is not the way to go. The warm notes of vanilla and the spice of the rye in Bulleit blend well with the sweetness of the liqueur. I am always a fan of adding a burst of citrus to richer flavors; it cuts through and adds a little flair on the palate. It is simple to make and just under two ounces, which makes it a delicious way to end a meal. Possibly to relax with at the end of the day. I would just make it when the mood struck me, since it combines two of my favorite flavors. I can see why this is such a hit.