“People consider me someone who knows a lot about spirits, but I have to admit that my experience had not included a true introduction to three-penis wine,” Michael Rubel (Henry’s Swing Club) says of the ingredient with which Violet Hour bartender Patrick Smith challenged him to create a cocktail. Smith—”someone I thought was my friend,” Rubel says—found a bottle of the Chinese rice wine at a store in Chinatown and personally delivered it to Rubel.
Fermented with deer, dog, and seal penis, the spirit is supposed to increase male potency and virility. “There’s even admonitions that young boys shouldn’t drink it because they’re not ready, and adult men shouldn’t have too much,” Rubel says. “After tasting it, I agree that probably nobody should have more than a little bitty sip.”
He describes the taste as “like a vintage port that had gone really, really bad and hung out with some sherry and some prunes. I think the dog penis really comes through on the finish, which is quite prolonged.”
Rubel decided that an earthy, smoky liquor was called for: “I thought mezcal would be natural with deer penis.” He also wanted to use an amaro, and settled on Aperol. “The gentian and rhubarb brought out the brighter notes of the seal penis,” he says.
He made a swizzle—a drink originating in the West Indies that’s not shaken or stirred but “swizzled” using a swizzle stick. The cocktail involves lots of crushed ice, Rubel says, and should be as cold as possible, which makes it appropriate for his assigned ingredient. “Penis wines are best consumed chilled.”
After adding lime juice, simple syrup, Aperol, and mezcal to a glass with plenty of crushed ice, Rubel swizzled the drink and topped it with grapefruit bitters and a float of three-penis wine.
Asked if he’d had any false starts while creating the cocktail recipe, he said, “I think I maybe have had nothing but false starts. This may be another one. But this is the best that I could do.”
.75 oz lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz Aperol
2 oz Vida mezcal
.5 oz three-penis wine
Combine the first four ingredients in a glass, fill with crushed ice, and swizzle to mix. Add a few drops of grapefruit bitters and float the three-penis wine on top.
Rubel has challenged Stephen Andrews of Billy Sunday to create a cocktail with Fireball whiskey.