Exploring Nontraditional Cocktail Elements – Sage and Smoked Paprika


Perhaps it’s the seasonal herbs or perhaps it’s synchronicity, but here I am enjoying another cocktail that features sage. I’ve also been on a smoked paprika kick in my cooking, and as outlandish as it may seem this cocktail perfectly combines those elements. I realize I’m personally drawn towards savory and bitter cocktails, and the Medicine Man has a savory element that is different from that of a Bloody Mary – which I’m not a huge fan of. On the nose you pick up on the sage. The initial flavors that hit the palate are the sweetness of rum and maple syrup, which are soon balanced out by the lemon. The drink finishes off with more sage and the lingering sweetness of the smoked paprika. There is no spiciness to the drink, only layers of complexity that keep you returning sip after sip.

It’s worth noting that I found two versions of this recipe. After additional research to ensure I was correctly crediting the creator of the drink, Ian Scalzo, I found that the version featured on Serious Eats does not include orange bitters and uses half as much paprika as the recipe found in The 4-Hour Chef. Also worth noting is that the cocktail pictured in The 4-Hour Chef is served on the rocks, while the written recipe in the book calls for it to be served “up”. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve enjoyed multiple iterations, including one with a bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. Whether you choose to serve it “up” or on the rocks I’d suggest including the orange bitters. I’d also suggest performing a double strain with a super fine mesh strainer – too much paprika floating around isn’t appetizing. Overall, I’d encourage you to experiment with this nontraditional flavor combination and make it with various bitters and syrups. Let me know how it goes in the comments or on social media.

– Andrew

Medicine Man
Recipe Type: Cocktail
Serves: 1
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • ½ ounce maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 sage leaves (1 set aside for garnish)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  1. Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled.
  2. Double strain and serve in rocks glass filled with ice.*
  3. Garnish with sage leaf.
*This recipe works well either on the rocks or served up. Ian Scalzo’s recipe calls for it to be served up. I’d suggest using a superfine strainer and then double straining to remove excess paprika regardless of serving method.

Additional Resources:
The 4-Hour Chef
Bourbon & Branch
Smoked Paprika
Angostura Orange Bitters
Trader Joe’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

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