Cocktails: The Revolver

Many cocktail purists will try to tell you that the classics should never be messed with. And while I can certainly agree that there are some alterations that should be avoided – Looking at all you Old Fashioned fruit muddlers out there – I would also argue that some of the best modern cocktails created in the last few decades are essentially just variations on the classics. Towards the top of that list of modern cocktails derived from the classics is the Revolver.

The Revolver was created by Jon Santer in 2004 while working at Bruno’s in San Francisco. He later was involved in opening Bourbon & Branch, where the drink took off and became a sensation. At its core, the Revolver is a simple variation on a Manhattan – Trade the vermouth for coffee liqueur and opt for orange bitters rather than aromatic bitters and you’ve got it. Like so many other great cocktails, the limited number of ingredients means each of those ingredients will have a significant impact on the quality of what ends up in your glass.

A spicy, high-rye bourbon works best here. Bulleit was the original choice – hence the name – but a solid rye around 100 proof will suffice just fine as well. For the coffee liqueur, depending on what your regular store carries, you may not have a lot of options but go for something that’s not on the bottom shelf if you can. I picked up a bottle from Three Rivers Distillery out of Fort Wayne, IN last week in preparation for this. At around $25, it’s a little on the pricey side for a coffee liqueur, but it lacks the artificial, overly sweet characteristics that so many other major brands have. And for the bitters, I’m using some Bitter Truth orange bitters that I received in a gift set, but I’m also a big fan of Fee Brothers barrel aged orange bitters.

Making the Drink



  • 2 oz High Rye Bourbon

  • ½ oz Coffee Liqueur

  • 2-3 dashes Orange Bitters

  • Orange Twist Garnish




  1. Fill a martini glass with ice and water. Set aside to chill
  2. Add Bourbon, Coffee Liqueur, and Orange Bitters to a mixing glass
  3. Stir well for 10-15 seconds
  4. Empty martini glass. Strain cocktail into glass
  5. Garnish with a twist of orange peel, or a flamed orange zest (see below)


For a little extra flair, go with a flamed orange zest instead of a standard twist. This video in the link below is a pretty good demonstration, but it’s pretty simple – Heat the outside of a small piece of orange zest for a few seconds and then squeeze to express the orange oils through the flame onto the surface of the drink and drop in the orange zest. A fresh orange works best as this won’t work as well after the peel begins to dry out. A flamed orange peel can add a little bit of extra depth to the aroma and flavor of your cocktail…and let’s be honest, playing with fire is always fun!


Link: How to Flame an Orange Peel – DrinkSkool Bar Techniques



Blake Smith


Jordan GrigsbyComment