Cocktail of the Day: Dirt ‘n Diesel

A couple of things have prompted this post, beginning with our trip to Seattle a couple of months ago. We’re very lucky to have great friends up there, several of whom are bartenders, so when in Seattle we drink really well. This trip was no exception, as our livers were given a vigorous workout and we FINALLY got to sit across the bar from Murray Stenson — a terrific guy, and a bartender’s bartender.

One of the places we hadn’t been to yet was Tavern Law, and as I’d heard and read so much about it I wanted to make it up at the top of the list along with Zig Zag. They have a spectacular cocktail menu and seriously talented bartenders, one of whom, Cale Green, took care of us that night. My memory-jogging notes from that evening are sadly somewhat liquor-sodden, so I don’t have names or proportions, but that evening Cale made us cocktails consisting of:

1) Rye whiskey, Amaro Montenegro, Punt E Mes, Angostura bitters
2) Bourbon whiskey, Amaro Ramazzotti, dry vermouth, Peychaud’s bitters
3) Laird’s bonded apple brandy, Swedish punsch, sweet vermouth, lime juice

These are EXACTLY the kinds of drinks I love, and Cale’s the kind of bartender who, after chatting with you for a bit about what you like, can come up with amazing drinks.

We had been hoping to get to the speakeasy-style bar above Tavern Law, a place called Needle and Thread, a hidden room which one enters by passing through a bank vault (gotta love existing architectural details in your building!). Cale also works up there, but alas, they were closed that evening. No worries, though — we’ll hit them next time, and that evening we had a wonderful time, had world-class drinks and made a new friend.

The other bit prompting this post was GQ magazine’s publication of its list of the The 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America (as they see it). Number One on that list is, unsurprisingly, The Zig Zag Café, where Murray works alongside Ben and Erik and Kacey the whole gang there who make it such a wonderful place. I was happy to see some of our local L.A. bars (Tiki-Ti and Cole’s Red Car Bar, plus a mention of The Varnish in the back of Cole’s), one of our New Orleans watering holes (Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, although I’d have thrown Cure and Bar UnCommon into that list, at least whenever Chris McMillian is behind the stick at the latter) plus one I frequent in Houston whenever I’m there visiting family (the wonderful Anvil).

And right there at Number 25 was not Tavern Law (although I think it deserves high mention in such a list) but Needle and Thread upstairs. GQ said:

“I spend all day on a tractor. Make me a drink that reminds me of the farm. You know, of dirt and diesel.” This is how an organic farmer from Portland ordered his drink here, because that is how they encourage drinks to be ordered. Get poetic about it; you’ll wind up with something like the Dirt ‘n Diesel.

I found out from Cale later on that the aforementioned bartender was himself, and the Dirt ‘n Diesel was his creation. It’s a cousin to the Corn ‘n Oil, with inky black Black Strap rum as its molasses-heavy base, with additional bitterness from the Cynar and plenty of dirt from Fernet. This is a terrific drink, and makes up for the fact that we never get out to the farm. Stop in at either of the two aforementioned bars where Cale works, and see what he’ll come up with for you.

(by Cale Green, Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, Seattle)

2 ounces Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 ounce Fernet-Branca
1/2 ounce Demerara sugar syrup
1/4 ounce Cynar
1/4 ounce lime juice

Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.


8 Responses to “Cocktail of the Day: Dirt ‘n Diesel”

  1. Tiare said:

    Oct 08, 10 at 1:43 am

    Very entertaining and interesting post Chuck. I so wish i could find Cynar here but no way..and no Cruzan Black Strap either. That dark wasteland the Conf of Dunces talks about gotta partly be here.So somehow,someday i might get these things so i can try this cocktail! At least i got the Fernet;-)

  2. Lauren said:

    Oct 08, 10 at 10:11 am

    Interesting. We’ve been drinking a very similar cocktail that Paul created using Black Strap, Fernet, Maraschino, Honey Syrup and Lime. He calls it a Maduro and it’s fantastic.

  3. Chuck said:

    Oct 08, 10 at 12:23 pm

    Ooo, that sounds good. Feel free to share the recipe.


  4. Cocktail Crush said:

    Oct 16, 10 at 4:53 am

    Nice recipe, I actually had a Corn n’ Oil just a few days ago for the first time bizarrely, it was delicious. Really looking forward to making one of these up, sounds like it has a more complex flavour. Fantastic name as well which seems very fitting.

  5. Pakistan Society of Nuclear Medicine - PSNM said:

    Oct 22, 10 at 4:17 am

    thanks for the recipe.

  6. Chuck said:

    Oct 22, 10 at 10:50 am

    You’re very welcome, doctors of the Pakistan Society of Nuclear Medicine. I’m curious to hear what you think.


  7. Cale said:

    Oct 24, 10 at 12:59 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Chuck. Wendy and Dane send their regards from Needle and Thread.

  8. Dana said:

    Nov 03, 10 at 7:45 pm

    I hadn’t stopped by in a while and didn’t realize you were in town! Too bad, would love to have met you finally. We too love Tavern Law and Needle and Thread – just had the pleasure of being there while Phil was tending last week. Craig at their sister bar, Spur, is our bartender of choice.

    Drop us a line next time you’re around – would be nice to meet up after reading you for over ten years. 🙂