The Snake Oil: A Bitter, Boozy Cocktail Not For the Faint of Heart

The Snake Oil Cocktail, with a whole mini bottle of Underberg bitters.

If you’re familiar with the spirits industry, you may have encountered what’s called a Bartender’s Handshake: a shot of Fernet Branca, the painfully herbal digestif that industry folks shoot back as a matter of pride.

Even more of a cult favorite? Underberg—a German-made digestive liqueur with dozens of aromatic herbs and an aggressive herbal-bitter character. To put delicately, it’s an acquired taste. Sold in tiny bottles of less than an ounce, it’s no surprise that Underberg is regularly taken as a shot. But Benjamin Krick of San Antonio, who
developed the “Snake Oil,” envisioned another way to enjoy the bitter: In a boozy, nightcap cocktail.

Like all the cocktails in Nightcap: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, by Kara Newman, it’s the kind of drink you want to sip and savor and, thus, is perfect for closing out an evening.

“The Snake Oil has all the right elements for a one-and-done nightcap,” says Newman. “It contains a substantial dose of stomach-settling bitters, it’s strong, and yet it’s complex enough to sit with and enjoy as you wind down your day.”

Snake Oil
“This is our house nightcap,” says Benjamin Krick, of San Antonio’s Juniper Tar. Wait, a whole mini bottle of Underberg bitters goes in this drink? “It’s a little edgy,” he warns.

2 oz (60 ml) bonded (100-proof) bourbon
1 mini bottle (0.67 oz) Underberg bitters
1/2 oz (15 ml) Pedro Ximénez sherry
1 dash Bad Dog Barcraft Fire & Damnation bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Directions: In a mixing glass, stir together all of the ingredients with ice. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass. (No garnish.)

From Nightcap: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, © 2018 by
Kara Newman. Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books.

Carey Jones
Carey Jones is a San Francisco-based food, spirits, and travel writer. She is the co-author, with her husband John D. McCarthy, of Be Your Own Bartender, to be released in November 2018. She frequently contributes to Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Saveur, and many others, and formerly served as managing editor at the James Beard Award-winning food site Serious Eats.