The West is dying, and there’s nothing Arthur, John nor Dutch can do to stop it except toast its name with this Red Dead Redemption-inspired cocktail featuring bourbon, vermouth, bitters and gunsmoke.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz sweet red vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Powdered cinnamon
- Orange peel (optional)
Form the cinnamon powder into a small pile and light. Wait for it to begin smoking, then upend an old-fashioned glass over the top, allowing it to fill with smoke. Meanwhile, add bourbon, vermouth and Angostura bitters to a mixing glass and stir briefly to chill.
Slowly remove the old fashioned glass from the cinnamon pile and return to an upright position. Strain your drink into the glass; the smoke should pour out. Flame the orange peel into the drink and drop into the glass. Serve!
Looking for other bourbon-based cocktails? Try out the Simpler Life Punch inspired by Stardew Valley.
“What the hell you bringin’ me, John? This ain’t bourbon, this is… hell, this is actually pretty good.” – Arthur Morgan, to John Marston, sharing the spoils of a successful train robbery.
Alcohol was kind of a big deal in the Wild West. Commerce, medicine, leisure—there were few activities in which a tumbler of bourbon wouldn’t find a home.
And if the Red Dead Redemption series was a simple Western where players gallivant around rolling hills and plains, shooting ne’erdowells and rescuing damsels in distress, we might throw in a sugar cube and some lemon juice into a shot of bourbon and call it a day. A simple drink for a simple game—no offence Old Fashioned fans.
But Red Dead is about a lot more than that. It’s about freedom, conflict, the process and progress of civilisation, and the ultimate demise of the ‘Wild’ part of the Wild West. As Arthur says to Dutch during one early conversation, the government “don’t want people like us no more”: the “us” here being Dutch’s gang of outlaws.
The civilizin’ folk think of Dutch’s gang as being nothing more than a plague that needs to be wiped out, rather than a group of people (ostensibly) trying to live free. Even if they are doing that mostly by killing and robbing people.
Forget Miracle Tonics—one of these Healing Potions is all John or Arthur would really need in a gunfight.
Whether you’re playing as John Marston or Arthur Morgan, this is the ultimate foe you’re facing: the death of your way of life, the death of a fundamental part of the West; individual freedom.
Even John, who did what the government wanted in Red Dead Redemption 1 just so he could be left alone to live peacefully, never got the freedom he was promised by the agents civilisation. Instead, he paid for his past transgressions and past identity as an outlaw with his life.
He just wanted to be left well enough alone, dammit, and those animals shot him like a dog.
So, in our cocktail, we don’t leave that bourbon well enough alone either. We creep up on it with some vermouth, an Old World beverage encroaching on the New World of the West, and add a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters—because it just tastes better that way, alright?
This combination of liquors (bourbon, vermouth, bitters) is traditionally known as a Manhattan—pretty suitable name, considering the setting—but it doesn’t quite capture the tension between the old and the new as it stands in Red Dead Redemption. No, it’s missing something: the inevitable firefight.
That’s why we smoke the glass before straining in our drink, providing a lovely billowing visual and an equally lovely smokey flavour too. The cinnamon smoke accentuates the fire of the bourbon and the sweetness of the vermouth, resulting in a drink that presents, in a sip, what Red Dead Redemption is really all about: fighting for freedom in a West that doesn’t want (or, apparently, need) men and women that want to live free.
Hope you enjoy this modified Manhattan, and that you remember to toast the name of John Marston as you do.
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