The Black Pearl is another Minneapolis original by Johnny Michaels. With its sweet combination of vodka, sparkling wine, and blackberry syrup, it is, as Michaels says, “another vodka-based favorite for the peoples.”

The Black Pearl is my contender for amusing garnish of the year. (That orange Mohawk on the Handsome Devil is good competition, though.) The “Black Pearl” is a silver- or pearl-dust coated Haribo blackberry or black raspberry candy, skewered and skimming the foam atop the cocktail glass.

The Black Pearl Cocktail, photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Black Pearl Cocktail
The Black Pearl Cocktail
Johnnie Michaels, La Belle Vie

  • 1½ oz vodka
  • ¾ oz blackberry syrup (Monin)
  • ⅓ oz lime juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 1 oz egg whites
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • 4 drops orange flower water
  • 1½ oz sparkling wine (approximately)
  • garnish: key lime wheel, 1 Black Pearl garnish on 6-inch skewer (see below)

Add all liquid ingredients but sparkling wine to a shaker, and shake 6–7 seconds; add ice and shake vigorously another 5 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail stem and top with sparkling wine. Mount key lime on rim, and place skewered candy across the top of the glass.

The Black Pearl garnish is simple to make. The Haribo candies are a sort of gum candy, like gummi-bears, only shaped like fruit. I don’t know how widely they’re distributed, but they seem to be easily available in my groceries. The pearl coating is “Luster Dust,” which you should be able to find in good kitchen or baking stores. Dampen the candies—barely—with some gin or vodka. (As Michaels says, “Try not to soak them, because doing so increases the likelihood of jet-black candy dye…staining your shirt.”) Shake a bit of the dust over them, tumbling them a bit, until the coating suits you. Set them aside for awhile to dry. You can store them in a covered jar to keep them from humidity.

The Black Pearl Cocktail (detail), photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.While we’re on the topic of garnish, the recipe calls for a round of key lime. Those wee limes are elegant, if you can get them. Regular limes will do nicely.

Michaels prefers Cava for his sparkling wine. It’s easier to find a decent champagne or California sparkling wine, which work well. You don’t want to overdo with the wine—just enough to fizz up the drink is all you’re looking for.

The Black Pearl is a light, sweet and very attractive charmer. It is, I think, just the champagne companion for a New Year’s Eve.