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Where: Nopa Kitchen + Bar, 800 F St. NW
Bartender: Milton Hernandez
Mystery Ingredient: Marmite. The British yeast extract is an acquired taste, that’s for sure.
Bartender Response: “That’s something different,” Hernandez says, with considerable trepidation in his voice. “That’s definitely different.”
What We Got: A firecracker of a drink with Black Bottle Scotch, fresh grapefruit juice, and a generous helping of turmeric and cayenne pepper. Hernandez glopped some of the gooey marmite along the rim of the glass with a palette knife. (“The knife is my paintbrush,” Hernandez says.) How did it look? Quite pretty, with an eye-catching orange color.
How It Tasted: The drink itself was knock-out spicy, but the marmite made the cocktail taste as savory as a bouillon cube, followed by an odd, lingering sweet flavor. A lot was happening here. The grapefruit and smoky whisky was somewhat masked by the one-two punch of the spice and the marmite, but it did temper the heat somewhat. The drink had a gutsy, in-your-face boldness.
Improv Points (1 to 5): 2. If only the marmite was incorporated more cohesively. Obviously the challenge factor was high: Marmite has a bad reputation, and we aren’t sure if this drink could change that. Hernandez had never tasted marmite before or encountered it in real life, but he was game to experiment with the flavor.
1.5 ounces Black Bottle Scotch Whisky
.5 ounces grapefruit juice
1 ounce sour cherry mix
1 teaspoon of turmeric and cayenne pepper mixture
Combine ingredients, shake and strain over ice. Paint marmite on the outside of the glass.
Photo by Adele Chapin