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Cocktail Recipe – Cortez The Killer by Brent Butler of Blackbird San Francisco

Submitted by Tim Brice on May 24, 2011 – 10:28 amNo Comment

DSC003921 768x1024 Cocktail Recipe   Cortez The Killer by Brent Butler of Blackbird San Francisco

Cortez the Killer by Brent Butler of Blackbird Bar

“They carried them to the flatlands and they died along the way but they built up with their bare hands what we still can’t do today.”

from Cortez The Killer, by Neil Young


Bartenders will claim virtually anything as the inspiration for naming a new drink.  From plays off the origins of a drinks constituent ingredients to the nickname of an old lover, historical figure or serial killer.  The possibilities are endless.  For Brent Butler of Blackbird Bar in San Francisco inspiration came in the form of the story of Montezuma’s fall at the hands of Cortez as told by Neil Young. 

From that genesis, Butler mixed a combination of Lunazul blanco tequila, Bonal aperitif and creme de cacao and placed them into a used whiskey barrel for up to two months.  The concoction was drained off into bottles to stop the aging process and ready them for service. 

The result was a truly unique cocktail that suggested the pressence of smoke mixed with a slight herbaceousness.  The smokiness was not similar to mezcal or to a scotch with heavy peat, rather it was the suggestion of actual smoke.  It is an essence that is not suggested by the ingredients listed until you mix them and age them in a used whiskey barrel.  This aspect of aging a cocktail where the barrel itself is an ingredient and not just a mellowing agent demonstrates the true range possibilities that aging brings to certain drinks. 

Cortez The Killer was one of Blackbird’s two barrel aged offerings from the 2011 winter menu and has received quite a bit of recognition.  It has been mentioned on numerous websites, in the San Francisco Chronicle and, most recently as one of the 101 best new cocktails in the world in gaz regan’s ANNUAL MANUAL for BARTENDERS, 2011 Cocktail Recipe   Cortez The Killer by Brent Butler of Blackbird San Francisco

The recipe below allows you to make an unaged version at home.  It is still a great drink but lacks the extra depth that is achieved through aging.

The current Spring seasonal menu at Blackbird Bar offers two new barrel aged options: an aged Vieux Carré and and aged Rhum Negroni.  Both are spectacular and quite innovative.  You can see their current menu here.

Cortez The Killer


1 Barrel is filled with the following with the portion per drink ratio as follows:

2 ounces Lunazul blanco tequila

3/4 ounce Bonal aperitif wine

1/4 ounce creme de cacao

1 small orange twist, as garnish


Mix all ingredients in large enough quantities to fill a used bourbon barrel and age for one month.  Do not re-use the barrel.  Decant from barrel into glass bottles to stop the aging and close tightly until service.  To serve, pour cocktail into chilled shaker and shake to cool then strain into chilled coupe glass.

article clipper Cocktail Recipe   Cortez The Killer by Brent Butler of Blackbird San Francisco

Related posts:

  1. Cocktail Menu – Blackbird Bar San Francisco

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