Squid ink has long enjoyed popularity in Italy and Spain, where it often finds its way into pasta, risotto, or paella.
The ink itself comes from a number of sources, including squid, cuttlefish, and octopus, all of which are cephalopods. Ironically, while we enjoy squid ink as a delicacy in various dishes, the squid uses it as a murky cloud of self-defense.
Just a drop to any food or liquid can add a deep, inky black tone without imparting much more than a slight salty flavor. It isn’t surprising that bartenders have started employing it in drinks. Bartender Millian Palma, of The Melrose DC, likes to “incorporate savory elements to switch things up from the usual sweet cocktails.” A bar spoon is enough to add a savory note, not to mention that intriguing “is this really black?” tone to his Black Mamba.
Here are some of Palma’s tips on using this intriguing ingredient.
What is the flavor profile of squid ink?
Squid ink tastes like sea salt – it’s not at all fishy like some may expect. It adds the perfect amount of saltiness for a more nuanced mixed drink.
How is it best used?
Sparingly. A little definitely goes a long way and you don’t want the saltiness to overpower the other flavors of the drink. A small bar spoon adds just the right amount of salinity and the perfect inky-black finish.
What spirits and mixers does it work best with?
I find squid ink goes well with quite a few other alocohols and mixers. Vodka is my favorite because it is a versatile base that lends itself to mixing with many different flavors.
What are some tips for using it?
I use the squid ink sparingly to add a subtle effect to the cocktail. The ink adds a stunning visual – although some guests are taken off guard by it, once they give it a taste they can’t stop drinking it.
What cocktails are you featuring it in right now?
We are using squid ink in the ‘Black Mamba’ on our savory cocktial menu. It features Stolichnaya Vodka, Bloody Mary mix and of course squid ink. The real showstopper is the garnish – a whole braised baby octopus. It’s a fun, dramatic drink that guests get excited to see coming.
- 2 1/2 oz. Stolichnaya Vodka
- 1 bar spoon Squid Ink Sauce*
- 4 oz. Housemade Beef Bouillon Bloody Mary Mix**
- Garnish, Braised Baby Octopus
Preparation: Add 2 1/2 oz. of Stoli Vodka in a mixing glass with ice, followed by 1 bar spoon of squid ink, and 4 ounces of Bloody Mary Mix. Stir well until all the mix is evenly black. Pour it in to a collins glass and serve.
*Squid Ink Sauce
Take 2 oz. of squid ink, add 1 oz. of water, plus salt and pepper to taste. Put it in a saucepan and bring it to boil. Cool and store.
**Housemade Beef Bouillon Bloody Mary Mix
- 1 can Tomato Juice
- 5 oz. Beef Bouillon (Beef Stock)
- 1 tsp. Ground Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 tsp. Celery Salt
- 1 tsp. Horseradish
- 2 1/2 oz. Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tbsp. of Tabasco Hot Sauce (for Heat)
Preparation: Mix all ingredients together. Store in refrigerator.