Evolution is a funny thing. The idea is that things grow and adapt in order to become better suited to their environment, but that is not always the case. Speaking objectively, some things get better and some things get worse, that’s just the way that it is, the way that it goes. Evolution is defined as “the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.” Of course, that’s just a broad standard that won’t get folks all twisted up. Not to worry, we aren’t going to talk about those great apes gradually developing into our questionably superior form as homo sapiens, nope we are just talking about drinks and how they change. So, in the spirit of getting better, gradually, won’t you join me now as we make the Trinidad Especial.
The Trinidad Especial was created by Valentino Bolognese for the Angostura European Cocktail Competition in Paris in 2008. He must have done something right because his drink won top marks overall. It was the first drink, I know of, to use Angostura Bitters as the base spirit, so I am sure it caught the judge’s eye, but it is truly a wonder. A year later, Giuseppe Gonzalez of New York’s Clover Club Bar, would create a modern classic, the Trinidad Sour, using this drink as his jumping off point. That sour is one of my favorite cocktails ever and was the subject of my very first “Cocktails from Quarantine” post on my birthday way back in April of 2020. So, when I discovered, this week, that it was actually a riff on an award-winning forebear, I knew I had to check the original out.
Grab your tins and pop in a full ounce of Angostura Aromatic Bitters, yeah seriously. To that add 1/2 an ounce of Pisco, I went with some leather-bound Ocucaje Puro I picked up in Lima a few years ago; 1 ounce of Orgeat and 3/4 of an ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice. Add some ice and give it a good shake to Tesla’s “The Way It Is“. When your tins are well chilled, double strain into some fancy stemware and garnish with three mint leaves clipped to the rim.
That’s tasty. Very tasty. It’s a close run to my beloved Trinidad Sour, but I think I prefer the next step in the evolutionary chain, I just like the way the rye whiskey plays in the second one better. My wife, on the other hand, really liked the simplicity of this one and the way that the Pisco doesn’t assert itself, leaving the citrus and orgeat to temper that bitter Ango all on their own. The mint garnish is really nice and definitely adds to the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t kicking this one out of bed for believing in the scientific method, but when it comes to Angostura based cocktails, I am going to continue to dance with the one who brought me to the party. No hard feelings Especial, maybe if we had met in another time and place things would have gone differently.
Honestly, I really enjoy both of these drinks and I mostly have to do it at home. If you see these on a menu definitely give them a try. Angostura Bitters are 44%-ish alcohol, a little under 90 proof, so they definitely stand up as a base spirit and they are full of flavor. It’s not a hard drink to make, once you figure out how to pop the dasher out of the bottle of ango, so why is this one so rare on menus? Easy, it is expensive to make. A standard bottle of ango bitters makes four of these drinks, so when paired with other high quality ingredients the per ounce cost is higher than many drinks and it is kind of niche, so most places fill their menu with easier to sell higher margin items, but if you find this one, it is a delight.
I am constantly amazed to see how drinks evolve. One ingredient swap here, a technique change there and suddenly you have not only a new drink, but a whole new style of beverage. It really is a testament to the creativity of bartenders that they keep finding new folds in the cloth of an industry that many declared had reached it’s height during Prohibition, just under a century ago. That’s why I keep playing around with things, reading old books, trying new recipes and just generally having a good time behind and in front of the bar. There are so many things to try and so little time, but I am working on it. Stay safe, stay hydrate and stay sane, my friends.
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