The Brain-Duster

Brain-Duster a Texas Whiskey Festival Cocktail

 According to the annals of cocktail history, the Brain-Duster got its name in 1895 by bartender George J. Kappeler. Now, and likely back then, a brain duster is what you give someone when you smack them upside the head, so you can see how it was a fitting name for this drink. In 1949, Esquire published the recipe in our Handbook for Hosts, warning, “Hold your hat.” The Brain-Duster goes by another name, The Waldorf, or so the Waldorf-Astoria bar called its variation when it served it up to clientele in the early 1900s. You don’t see it around much, but with authentic absinthe back in the U.S., there’s no time like now for a resurgence. (From an article in Esquire Magazine, by Sarah Rense.)


 The Brain-Duster 

This potent cocktail is a variation of the manhattan, using rye, bitters, and sweet vermouth – with the addition of absinthe. We chose Devils River Rye Whiskey and Lucid Absinthe. The mashebill for the rye whiskey is 51% rye, 45% corn, and 4% malted barley. This combination provides the pepper, oak, and fennel spice with an underlying sweetness. The clean finish rounds out the whiskey and pairs well with the absinthe.

The traditional recipe uses equal parts bourbon and absinthe. Since absinthe can be overpowering, we adjusted the mixture to 2 to 1. 


  • 2 oz. Rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. Absinthe
  • 1 oz. Italian vermouth
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters 

How to make the brain-duster

Add the rye, absinthe, vermouth, and bitters to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well to chill—strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


If you like this, try these

Other cocktails that contain a combination of absinthe and whiskey are:

Click here for more Texas Whiskey cocktails you can make at home

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