Underserved is a recurring Y&H feature highlighting the best cocktails you’re not ordering.
What: Black Jack Iced Tea with Fernet Branca, Byrrh, Grand Marnier, Cocchi di Torino, Cocchi Americano, lemon, lime, and sugar
Where: Black Jack, 1612 14th St. NW
What You Should Be Drinking Bar Manager E. Jay Apaga set out to put a drink on Black Jack’s menu that was a throwback to the sugar bombs college kids sip. He settled on a Long Island iced tea, despite his own disclaimer: “If you’re 30 plus and still drinking Long Islands, the more power to you, because they are the grossest thing.” Apaga’s variation replaces the firewater of basic booze with trendy apéritifs and digestifs. The drink has become a favorite among bartenders who recognize ingredients like Fernet Branca and Byrrh, but not so much among regular patrons. “When someone does order it, I point to them and yell, ‘Adventurous!’” Apaga says. He gives props to those willing to drink a pint glass full of the unfamiliar alcohol orgy.
Why You Should be Drinking It The result of Fernet Branca, two Cocchi products, Grand Marnier, Byrrh, citrus, and sugar coming together is a sobriety-busting sip that tastes of apricot and mint despite the absence of those ingredients. It’s a magic trick that takes the Long Island iced tea out of the bachelorette party realm. Byrrh, a spunky red wine-based French apéritif, helps please the palate. Apaga says its heyday was in 1930s France—that’s why you can spot Byrrh posters plastering the walls in the final 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. The apéritif, which was only reintroduced to the United States in 2012, has become a bartender plaything because of its unique root beer or Dr. Pepper flavor. Apaga concedes a Long Island iced tea has never been the marker of a good bar, but this version might make an exception.
Photo by Laura Hayes