Bring Back the Angel’s Tit

Bartender Mikki Kristola updates this salacious 1930s-era maraschino and cream concoction.

“You can’t mix angels and alcohol,” warns country legend Alan Jackson on his album Angels and Alcohol. “I don’t think God meant for them to get along.” This ecclesiastical precaution arrived about a century too late for a generation of Jazz Age bartenders who collectively produced an entire flock of cocktails inspired by heavenly beings.

This “squad of angels who never had wings,” as raconteur Charles H. Baker described them, varies in composition, but a few characteristics apply across the board. Evoking the milky clouds in which cherubim and seraphim supposedly reside, “angel drinks” (Angel’s Blush, Angel’s Dream, Angel Face, Angel’s Kiss) typically feature dairy in some form; they’re small, painstakingly layered in the Pousse Café style in a single-ounce cordial glass; and they’re sugary, often calling for liqueurs like Crème de Cacao, Crème Yvette, Crème de Violette or apricot brandy.

Within this family tree dwells the Angel’s Tit. Sometimes prudishly renamed the “Angel’s Tip,” it might be the earliest entry into the category of bawdy cocktails more frequently associated with the 1980s—the age of the Blow Job shot and Sex on the Beach. Consisting of a 2-to-1 ratio of maraschino liqueur to cream, poured in distinct layers, Lesley M. M. Blume, author of Let’s Bring Back, a compendium of curiosities from yesteryear, describes the cocktail as an “impish version of a Shirley Temple.” The drink is finished with a cherry on top, placed “in location diametrically exact,” per Baker in The Gentleman’s Companion.

But it was in Ted Saucier’s 1951 book, Bottoms Up, that Los Angeles bartender Mikki Kristola first encountered the Angel’s Tit. The seminal text was one of many sources she and her colleagues mined for ideas during her tenure running The Varnish in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2018. “We were all on the hunt to see if there was a sleeper cocktail in there that we could add to our compendium,” recalls Kristola.

While the salacious name did pique her interest—“I imagined someone feeling a thrill ordering it in a dark-lit bar, their date choking in embarrassment”—Kristola was also curious about the historic drink’s contemporary potential as a post-meal treat. Saucier’s suggested recipe “wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever had,” says Kristola, but she saw room for improvement.

Instead of layering the core ingredients in a glass, Kristola decided to shake them together to create a uniform consistency. She increased the proportions of maraschino and cream to equal three-quarter-ounce measures, adding a barspoon each of Fernet Branca and Cherry Heering. The amaro, she says, adds that whisper of digestivo astringency that works well after a meal, while the Heering provides complementary cherry notes.

Though it’s designed to be lingered over, rather than dispatched as a shot like the original, Kristola’s interpretation stays true to the dessert-minded spirit of its predecessor. “This drink can hold its own against an after-dinner Grasshopper,” she says, noting that it’s an apt choice to commemorate a special occasion, too. “It’s a slice of cake, in liquid form,” says Kristola. “Happy retirement, have an Angel’s Tit.”

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