The whiskey sour is so classic that it appears in the earliest volumes written on the subject of cocktails. The simple blend of whiskey, sugar, and lemon juice inspired much experimentation, and in the decades following the Civil War, variations abounded. One such variation was the New York sour, which differentiated itself with rye or bourbon whiskey and a little floater of red wine on the surface of the drink.
Whereas the New York sour was a take on the whiskey sour, the Badlands is a play on both of them. At the Theodore, preparation begins hours before the cocktail is served, when red wine is infused with spices and simmered until reduced; once the wine has cooled, it is poured into spherical molds and frozen. At the bar, bourbon and a bit of cognac (to tame the whiskey) are shaken with lemon juice and simple syrup, then strained over the ruby-hued ball of frozen mulled wine into a double old-fashioned glass. Thus the Badlands evolves from a whiskey sour to a modified New York sour, changing flavor and appearance as you drink it.
Perhaps what is most remarkable about this cocktail is its habitat: the Theodore, opened by Tim Byres (Smoke, Chicken Scratch) in the fall of 2015, is a hip and lustrously appointed restaurant in the NorthPark Center shopping mall, taking up space that might have otherwise gone to yet another fast-casual chain and proving that inspired cocktails are indeed the new black.
1 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce VSOP cognac
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Combine ingredients and shake with ice to chill. Strain over a sphere of frozen mulled red wine.*
*Add about 1/4 cup mulling spices to a liter each of dry red wine and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain out solids and chill liquid overnight. Pour into large, spherical molds and freeze until solid.