Some drinks are made to sip quietly in dark corners, while others are meant to be shared in big spaces filled with the sound of friends toasting each other. The Scorpion Bowl is the latter, and it’s a drink that pairs particularly well with the Korean barbecue at Insa (718-855-2620; 328 Douglass Street, Brooklyn).
Dillon Mafit, head bartender at Insa, became a Korean-food addict when he moved to New York. The first time Mafit wandered to K-Town was exceptionally memorable because he’d never tried Korean barbecue before. He was smitten — which might explain why Mafit was so inspired to create an epic drink list for Insa. He wanted to make drinks that could stand up to the hearty, spicy flavors in Korean cuisine. Mafit eventually settled on one of the menu’s standouts, the scorpion bowl, because the drink (like the barbecue) was strong and meant to be shared.
“It was called the Scorpion because it delivered a sting the next day because it was so potent,” Mafit explains. He thinks the cocktail pairs particularly well with Insa’s menu because “there are so many spices and flavors going on [with the food menu], it’s really nice to have something that is bright and citrusy.”
To make a drink meant to be shared by up to six people, Mafit based the recipe on a single serving — similar to how the original Scorpion was thought to be made at the Hut bar in Hawaii. The basic elements of the drink are consistent across the board: rum, orange juice, orgeat syrup, and gin. The variations on those ingredients (and the addition of others, like brandy or cognac) depend on the bartender’s imagination.
Mafit selected a dark rum that wasn’t too sweet but was heavy on molasses. He also chose a straightforward cognac and Gordon’s dry gin thanks to its mild floral notes. Mafit’s version of the Scorpion Bowl also includes two unique deviations from the original recipe: plum wine and toasted cinnamon. The plum wine fits in with Insa’s theme (Mafit uses it in place of a grenadine floater), while the flaming cinnamon stick provides a nice aroma and visuals. After all, when you’re out drinking with your friends, it’s fun to have the drink put on a show.
When crafting the large-format beverage, Mafit approaches it like he’s making any other single-serving cocktail. “You always start small, perfecting the ratio as a smaller drink,” he says. “I do a lot of keg cocktails, bigger cocktails. From that, I have an understanding of how to move proportions and keep them the same. If you do it right, there’s not really much of a change that occurs with the drink.”
For guests who only associate Scorpion Bowls with the spring breaks of many years past, Mafit believes the hangover special deserves a new, ballyhooed rep. After all, the era of “serious” tiki drinks is upon us.
“We’re kind of entering an era where people are moving beyond the 1920s Prohibition idea,” says Mafit. “These are the drinks that need to be made and taught.”
Mafit’s recipe for both a single-serving and party-size Scorpion Bowl can be found below. He notes that the drink gets better the longer it sits — so you don’t have to polish off a party bowl in one sitting.
Scorpion Bowl (Single Serving) by Dillon Mafit
2 oz Gordon’s Gin
1 oz Eldorado Dark Rum
1 oz Paul Masson
1 oz Plum wine
2 oz Pineapple orange juice
0.5 oz Orgeat
0.5 oz Cinnamon syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 Flaming cinnamon stick*
To make a party bowl (32 oz / 1 quart )
8 oz Gordon’s Gin
4 oz Eldorado Dark Rum
4 oz Paul Masson
4 oz Plum wine
8 oz Pineapple orange juice
2 oz Orgeat
2 oz Cinnamon syrup
4 dashes angostura bitters
1 Flaming cinnamon stick
*To prepare flaming cinnamon stick, soak in 151-proof rum for at least 5–10 minutes before lighting
Single Serving: Pour all ingredients — except cinnamon stick garnish — in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain and serve in a pint glass with fresh ice. Garnish with flaming cinnamon stick.
Party Bowl Serving: Pour all ingredients into a large bowl along with several large scoops of ice and stir until mixed thoroughly. (If you have quart-sized container with a tight seal, then the party-sized bowl can be shaken without ice prior to pouring into a serving bowl with ice.)