Binny's Home Bartender: Brain Duster

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The Brain Duster cocktail has been around since the late 19th century when a good smack to the old noggin was considered a foolproof remedy for all manner of bad behavior and unhinged histrionics. People rarely go full “Will Smith” in everyday life anymore but back then most knew the sting of having their clock cleaned, their bell rung, the cobwebs cleared from their head... their brain dusted.

Binny’s Home Bartender has some serious doubts about whether this cocktail will cause you to snap to attention. We, in fact, believe the opposite to be true. Your thinking may get a tad fuzzy, and you may be filled with a warm sense of well-being but that is a far cry from the clarity of thought the name implies. On the other hand, it just might work wonders in that arena on those mornings when some sort of corpse reviver is an absolute must.

The Brain Duster also goes by the more genteel name, the Waldorf cocktail, and it did indeed serve as the N.Y. Waldorf’s signature drink in its original ratio of 1 to 1 to 1. As it turns out, and many a modern bartender has observed, that formulation makes for an extremely aggressive cocktail with absinthe’s intense wormwood and anise profile drowning out both rye and vermouth. This Home Bartender must confess (old habits die hard) that we thought we would be just fine with the original despite many advocating to cut the absinthe down to just a rinse of the glass.

We tried it and although nice for hardcore absinthe fans, we really wanted to taste the contributions from the other components. Given that a rinse is rarely enough to satisfy our longing for the aromatic lift absinthe lends to cocktails we mixed this several different ways and, in the end, it really just morphed into a Manhattan with an absinthe accent. But what an accent it is, like Tolouse-Lautrec singing along at Manhattan’s famed Monkey Bar, the absinthe really brings something different, transformative, to a familiar tune.

In these proportions; warming rye spice, complex botanical vermouth, absinthe’s black licorice and the all-purpose aromatic lift of Angostura bitters intertwine in a most pleasing way, weaving a complex tapestry of scent and flavor. This is an exceptional cocktail for cool weather drinking and if you are throwing a Halloween party, invite the green fairy to be the guest of honor by making this your signature drink. Party goers may not actually meet the green fairy, but it should help in conjuring ghosts and ghouls from the darkest recesses of their minds. Frighteningly delicious.

Brain Duster



  1. Combine all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass and stir until well chilled.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass.