Czeching out Oddball Tiki – Punchy’s First Strike, The Strike Two, and Becherovka

The Strike Two cocktail (recipe below)
Sometimes you come across a cocktail recipe and think: “How on earth does this work?” Such was the case with the Punchy’s First Strike, a cocktail originating at Tavern Road in Boston. The recipe goes like this:
Punchy’s First Strike (Tavern Road, Boston)
  • .75 oz Cherry Heering
  • .75 oz Clement Créole Shrubb
  • .25 oz Allspice Dram.
  • .75 oz Becherovka
  • .75 oz lemon
Dry shake, pour over crushed ice in a double old-fashioned glass.
Garnish with 5 dashes of Peychaud’s.
Based on the ingredients, this recipe at first seems like it’s following the Tiki pattern – Cherry Heering and Allspice Dram are frequently used in Tiki drinks. The Clement Creole Shrubb is a rum-based orange liqueur from Martinique, similar in flavor, sweetness and proof to Grand Marnier. And while lime is usually used as the sour component in Tiki, lemon is the second most common citrus choice.

Yes, this is certainly starts out like a Tiki concoction – Just add a couple ounces of rum and we’re off to the islands. Except…. What’s this Becherovka? This isn’t rum! In fact, Becherovka is nowhere close to rum. Becherovka is a 76 proof herbal-bitter spirit from Czechoslovakia, made from a secret recipe of 20 spices and only the finest water with impeccable credentials, if you believe Becherovka’s marketing.

Becherovka
While Becherovka is labeled as a bitter, the bitters category is very broad. For instance, Campari and Jagermeister are both bitters. Campari and Montenegro with their strong citrus elements are on the opposite end of the taste spectrum from the central European kräuterlikörs such Jagermeister, Becherovka and Kuemmerling. To my palate, Becherovka is bracing and makes me think of Aqua Velva after-shave, but with nice touch of Christmas-y cinnamon warmth. I’m probably not selling the Becherovka well right now, but if you like other strong, bold bitters, you should grab a bottle. You could sip Becherovka but I prefer it for mixing in cocktails. The Cocktail Wonk never endorses shots, so put that idea out your head right now.

Back to our recipe – We have nearly a classic Tiki recipe, except that we’ve replaced rum with an herbal, after-shavey Czech spirit. Believe it or not, the end result is magical. The herbal bitters balance out the sweet orange and cherry components. While a ¼ ounce of Allspice dram can sometimes overwhelm a drink with clove, in the Punchy’s First strike the Allspice Dram plays nicely with others. At Tavern Road, the bartender told me they set out to create an “Adult Hawaiian Punch.” From that perspective the recipe really works – A little on the sweet side without going overboard. If you’ve ever needed an excuse to buy Becherovka this drink is a perfect reason. And if you decide to not go the Becherovka route, keep reading for a non-Becherovka variation.

When making this drink don’t skip or skimp on the Peychaud’s bitters. Use five healthy dashes at the end after the drink is ready to go in a full glass of crushed ice. It gives the drink a dramatic look, and if you don’t immediately stir it the Peychaud’s stays on top till you’ve consumed most of the drink, after which you get a nice uptick of flavor as you draw out the last few sips.

Lately I’ve been tinkering with the bones of this recipe to make something else a bit different. My efforts have focused on switching out the Becherovka for something else interesting using a bit more mainstream ingredient. The key thing I wanted to retail while replacing the Becherovka was the warm, spicy, Christmas-like element.

My first stab was to use Chairman’s Reserve Spiced rum as it has a lovely cinnamon-forward spice flavor that I thought would work well. However, with only ¾ oz of the Chairman’s Reserve the spice got lost in the orange and Cherry Heering Flavors. Next, I tried Fernet Branca as the stand in for Becherovka. If you’re down with the mouth-full-o-wintergreen-lifesavers aspect of Fernet Branca, it’s interesting but not as accessible as when using Becherovka.

Experimenting – Punchy’s First Strike at left, Fernet Branca version at right.
Finally, after one last futile scan of my liquor inventory, it hit me – A good Becherovka replacement is already in the drink! The five dashes of Peychaud’s bitters as a garnish on top are nice, but using a full ¾ ounce of Peychauds in place of Becherovka makes the drink outstanding. At 70 proof, Peychaud’s is roughly the same strength as the Becherovka and equally as bitter. It also has the pleasant cinnamon/nutmeg essence that I like about Becherovka.

Bitter, sweet, and very, very red! I’ve dubbed my version the Strike Two:

Strike Two
  • .75 oz Cherry Heering
  • .75 oz Clement Créole Shrubb
  • .75 oz Peychaud’s Bitters
  • .25 oz Allspice Dram.
  • .75 oz lemon

Dry shake, pour over crushed ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon slice.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *