Touch Of Evil

I can’t seem to help but name my drinks after music or film (Mexican Spitfire, Gun For Hire, Black Rider, etc). It’s probably because I spend all my time outside of work watching movies and listening to music, so I guess that makes sense. Quite a while ago I experimented with a Martinez-variation (including tequila, mezcal, Carpano Antica vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters) that got lost in the pages of the Pourhouse cocktail idea book (as so many good drinks seem to do). Somehow, this particular smokey, musky concoction reared its ugly (but delicious) head when we were working on the new cocktail list last month. The drink is named the “Touch of Evil,” after one of Orson Welles’ most famous films, released in 1958.

This film follows a Mexican narcotics officer played by Charlton Heston who is caught up in a drug war involving both Mexican and American police and crime families. He finds corruption in the most dangerous of places, an American Police Captain played by a bloated and slimy Welles, and the more he uncovers the more he puts both himself and his new wife (Janet Leigh) in danger. This movie is dark and disturbing (including a surprisingly unsubtle gang-rape scene), visually ahead of its time, and has a last act that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Interestingly, at first Welles wanted nothing to do with the picture, and when he became involved the script underwent some major changes. Heston actually agreed to do the film under the impression that Welles was going to direct, but this was a misunderstanding as the studio had no such intention. Heston supposedly refused to do the film unless Welles did in fact direct, and the studio changed its mind. Unfortunately, Welles was essentially fired after the shooting was finished and made major alterations to the editing of the film. Before his death, Welles left instructions on how he wanted the film recut, which were carried out and the film was re-released in 1998 to his specifications (but sadly, he wasn’t alive to see it).

This cocktail smells and tastes of smoke and dark spices, reminding me of Welles in this film, puffs of his cigar billowing around him, masking the stench of musk and stale cologne. It is still quite smooth, however, and the proportions and addition of Bitter Truth’s Jerry Thomas bitters make it delightfully dry. Cloves and vanilla lend an unexpected approachability, and although the drink is stiff, I find it quite easy to drink. On a further conceptual (and silly) note, the Martinez is an American drink with a Spanish name and we are using Mexican spirits rather than the usual English gin. In Touch of Evil, Heston – an American actor – plays a Mexican whom they call “Mike,” a typical American name. All in all it’s just a fun twist on a classic. Head down to Pourhouse and try it!