BRAINS!! takes on the Flaming Doctor Pepper

Super stoked on this project. BRAINS!! was conceived just a few short weeks ago. In lieu of explaining the project, I have decided to just post a snippet of the initial email I sent out trying to get folks on board. We are enjoying this. We hope you enjoy it too.

We are a group of ten NYC barmen who between us represent great cocktail institutions like Amor Y Amargo, Booker + Dax, D+C, Dram, Guthrie Inn, and Please Don’t Tell, amongst others. The thing we all share is a really, really nerdy interest in booze and how to enjoy it.

Side note: We need a legit photographer. If you or someone you know are in NYC and have a concept in mind for photographing brains events (2 hours every two weeks), please contact us at Must have experience styling / photographing cocktails. K. Here is that email.

The Ethos: The Red Headed Slut. The Woo Woo. Kamikazes. Lemon Drops. Melon Balls! What the fuck were we thinking?
The Idea: Every so often, say every 2 weeks, we meet at one of our bars, taste a shitty shooter and brainstorm about how to recreate it as something delicious. We’ll blog about the process and at the next meeting, with gathered ingredients, make a stab at resurrecting the drink. Once we’ve created and tasted the resurrected drink, we will taste and brainstorm about the next weeks shooter, so that each meeting there is an implementation hour and an hour where we taste the next drink, which we will reimagine at the next meeting, and so on and so forth.
The Needs: Someone to write about it. Myself, Payman or Mr. Wortman could do this. Additionally, someone needs to take photographs. Payman’s lovely wife Vanessa is a photographer and would be right for the job if she’s interested.
The Money: No idea. I’ll pay for the supplies if we can’t figure anything out. Shouldn’t be terribly expensive. If someone’s bar wished to be the home bar for this and we could do the booze at cost, that would be fantastic and they would have the project under their belt/ as a feather in their cap, depending on what they’re wearing.
The Location: Obviously the best candidate is Booker + Dax, since they have access to more ‘techmology’ and Dave Arnold’s brain, which will be the two most useful things. But really we could do stuff at any of our bars, and it might be fun to rotate it.
The Time: I think the best time would be on a Sunday or Monday afternoon, say 1-3. Open to suggestions on this as well. Would also be awesome to do it as a latenight thing some time. We could also do a special edition of it while we’re at Tales this year, if several of us are in attendance. Maybe invite some honorary guests. If you don’t have time for the meetings you can still contribute to the email thread for each drink, if we end up doing that. I am happy to devote several hours to write the blog posts.
The Personnel: The people included in this email thread are people who I consider to be fun and possess critical thinking skills. Doesn’t have to be a private thing though. Again, open to suggestions.
The Name: I think since we would be resurrecting cocktails, my mind immediately goes to zombies. Since a zombie is a drink and this aint a tiki convention, we could just called it something like BRAINS!!, since zombies eat brains and the idea is kind of a fun think-tank. Again, open to suggestions.
The Process Moving Forward: Conversation through email thread for now, with the first meeting being after the MCC. That gives us 7-8 weeks to plan, throw around ideas, get people on board, etc.
Lastly, before I throw up this drinks list, if you are not interested in being in on this project,just send an email back saying so and we’ll create a new thread without you. Not trying to blow up anybody’s inbox!

The LIST: Feel free to add drinks. Looking at this list, theres a variety of flavors, a lot of recurring themes, and a lot of bad memories.
Melon Ball
Lemon Drop
Woo Woo
Red Headed Slut
Chocolate Cake
Carrot Cake
Dead Nazi
Liquid Cocaine
Dirty Bong Water
Long Island (not a shooter either, but still…)
Mind Eraser
Soco + Lime
Texas Prairie Fire (tequila + Hot sauce)
Four Horsemen
Grasshopper aka Girl Scout Cookie
Panty Dropper
Cement Mixer (Ugh…)
Alabama Slamma
Buttery Nipple
Blow Job
Flaming Dr Pepper
Honey Dew Me
Washington Apple
E A T  B R A I N S ! !
Everyone seemed pretty pumped about the idea. Mayur Subarrao, who is a bartender/ spirits formulator/ innovator/ lawyer, said he would only be on board if the first drink we tackled was the Flaming Doctor Pepper. We all agreed!
Our first meeting was 4/16 at Booker + Dax, which is the new Momofuku cocktail bar, and it went pretty well. Some people couldn’t make it, but most of us showed up. At some point the Wall Street Journal showed up to do a  video so you might see that going on in the background.

The Flaming Dr Pepper.

I dont think anyone expected the drink to be good. It really wasn’t. Payman (who is ALSO a lawyer… In NYC you are always the underachiever of the group) said that he thought the hops were important. Tristan Willey, who runs the bar program at B+D with Dave Arnold, suggested maybe we should get some Dr. Pepper and taste it. I volunteered.

As I walked to the bodega, I realized maybe there were other tools to be purchased. Two things I thought were essential elements to the drink were “the show” of it (the flaming drop-shot) and the element of WOOOOHOOOO that people seem to have when they down this monstrosity. I purchased a rose for us to hold in our teeth while we drop the shot, which I deemed an improvement, and a small vial of 5-hour energy.

After I returned with the stuff, we all tasted the Dr. Pepper. Dave Arnold immediately suggested that we just blend Dr. Pepper with 200 proof grain alcohol and recarbonate it. I think this is why he is the food scientist and I drink beer for breakfast. At some point, it kind of became clear that a group of chiefs with no indians would just keep throwing out idea after idea, so I think next time we may use a whiteboard or an easel to keep things organized.

Tristan and Dave watch that fucker burn

Dave Arnold enjoys the Flaming Dr Pepper

Sother Teague pointed out that the carbonation needed to be tighter than what it was in the drink. We all agreed that it was much better with a hoppy-ish darker lager, like Negra Modello (fortunately, *ahem*, we did have a Certified Cicerone on hand to weigh in on beer options.)

Someone suggested maybe we could use an amaro like Cio Ciaro to add some orange-y cola flavors, but after trying one or two variations, we did not really see much improvement to the drink. I was getting a nice buzz, though, so I think it was good to try a few ideas like that…

We definitely all agreed that the flaming part was essential to the drink, and someone (Sother or Polsky, I think) suggested lighting the rum in a metal pitcher and drizzling it out slowly onto the drink, which I didn’t think was a bad idea. It definitely has the show-y aspect and I think the caramelized flavors of the burnt rum with the bitterness that is added with the liberated aromatics added a nice touch to the drink. At this point, the camera crew from WSJ showed up and Dave Arnold had to go behind the bar. We made a lot of Rupert Murdoch jokes and then moved on. If I find that video online, I will post it. It will definitely be interesting to watch it knowing that there was a peanut gallery there giggling the entire time.

Chris & Polsky

I think we all liked a few of the variations and most of us agreed on what we didnt like. Just to summarize what we’ve decided so far: carbonation good, some hops good, slightly darker beer good, flame good. Mind you, the purpose of the meeting was not to come up with the exact drink; it was to come up with a hypothesis that we can test at the next meeting and decide on whether or not we got it right.


I think that one thing we didn’t really touch on was the specific dominant flavors of Dr. Pepper. I notice vanilla and cherry in it, and wonder if it would work to rotovap (a vacuum distillation machine, essentially) some vanilla, cherry, and other botanicals, with the rum, so that we are making the drink more “Dr. Pepper”y as well as adding all the booze. Then perhaps we could recarbonate the whole thing using forced CO2 or an iSi.

Sother Teague/ Josh Wortman/ Chris Elford

It is also important to consider that the purpose of the drink is to get ya swerve on, and so the more booze in this drink, the better. Perhaps we could find a higher alcohol dark lager (bock, anyone?) and if it needs more hops we could make a hop hydrosol or tincture (or even use Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit bitters) to add a bit of that spicy punch back into the drink.


Payman Bahmani/ Sother Teague (@paystyle and @CreativeDrunk, respectively)

But yeah, we definitely want to have the rose there. Maybe we should be shirtless when we serve it.

All in all, a great first meeting. The next one will be great when we recreate the Flaming Dr. Pepper with the recipe we all decide on, and get to taste the next shooter we want to tackle! I hope it’s the Lee Harvey Oswald or the John Lee Malvo. SHOOTER JOKE!

And yes, of course Dave had to freeze the rose with liquid nitrogen, smash it into dust, and use it in a Margarita. SCIENCE

EMAIL TWITTER @brainsnyc


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