Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 4, 2010

Clash of the Cocktail

The Washington City Paper is conducting their 2010 “The Clash of the Cocktail” event, featuring Don Julio tequila and Ketel One vodka recipes made by almost 20 of DC’s prime bartenders. You can see all the recipes and vote for your favorite here.

Last night I tried Sean Quinlan of Bar Rouge’s tequila cocktail, Too Much Chocolate and Tequila Makes Me Want A Siesta. It’s basically a heavily-bittered tequila Old Fashioned. Here’s the recipe:

Too Much Chocolate and Tequila Makes Me Want A Siesta

1.5 oz. Don Julio Reposado
1 oz. Agave Nectar
10 Dashes Xocolatl Mole Bitters (Bitter Truth)

I built this cocktail in a mixing glass, filled it with ice, stirred the heck out of it, then strained it into an Old Fashioned glass with one giant ice cube.

I tried this cocktail out of all the delicious submissions for a number of reasons. First, I love Old Fashioneds and this is an Old Fashioned to a T, as it has been known since 1806. It’s just a spirit, bitters, sugar and water (from the stirred ice). Second, there seems to recently have been a lot more cocktails made with inordinate amount of what are traditionally thought of non-potable bitters. While one ounce of Angostura Bitters  in the Trinidad Sour still puts Quinlan’s drink to shame, 10 dashes is a lot of bitters…and a lot of bitters are fun.

The Too Much Chocolate and Tequila Makes Me Want A Siesta has a very rich, earthy taste driven by the chocolate bitters and agave nectar. It even has a very creamy mouth feel and taste, again driven by the agave. It’s clear that agave and these chocolate bitters really blend together well.

But how does it work as a cocktail? The heavy sweetness makes this drink accessible for people who may not like drinking tequila cocktails, but it isn’t very remarkable. The tequila flavor is easy to get at, but you have to sort through a lot of sugar to find the savory tones.

It’s too sweet for my taste and not bitter enough in the right ways. This is a drink that looks like an Old Fashioned, but with dramatically more sugar and bitters. What it isn’t is a real bitters-driven cocktail, thanks to the heavy hand with the nectar. It could have been a tequila Old Fashioned or a bitter-based cocktail, but it tried to straddle both and failed.

I wonder if the cocktail might better from having more than one kind of bitters. The bitter component becomes fairly one-dimensional with all the agave and might have been expanded if there were a second kind of bitters, say Fee Brothers Aztec Bitters or even good, old Angostura Bitters.

There are a lot of good ideas floating in Quinlan’s simple, three-ingredient cocktail, but in the end, I doubt this is something that will win out in the Clash of the Cocktail.

Update (7/27/10):

Last night I was one of three judges for the finals of Clash of the Cocktail. Sean Quinlan’s cocktail was one of four finalists that was reviewed. The version Sean made for us included Bar Rouge’s house agave nectar, which starts with a commercial brand then has over 20 spices added to it. The result was a cocktail that was not as cloying as the one I’d made with Partida’s agave nectar – and thus a far superior cocktail to the one I’d made at home and reviewed in this post. I was glad to have Sean’s version as he intended it to be made. The drink ended up coming in fourth, but was a strong competitor in a strong field of finalists.



  1. I tried a modified version of this with añejo tequila, 1/2 oz of agave nectar, 2 dashes Angostura, 5 dashes of Bittermens’ Xocolatl Mole, and a splash of 360 Double Chocolate Vodka. A little more balanced and a little less sweet, but still with the little Mole spice at the back of the tongue. Definitely a better, drink, I think.

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