How to Drink (And Make) the World’s Deadliest Cocktail

Your Old Fashioned could use a little "buah keluak" (warning: contains cyanide)

Black Old Fashioned cocktail recipe
Beware: The Black Old Fashioned at New York’s Laut Singapura
Emilio Pandika

The drinking equivalent to the deadly but delicious pufferfish? You’re talking about buah keluak, an ingredient you’ll find in an excellent Black Old Fashioned at New York’s Laut Singapura. 

Pro: Adds a heretofore depth to your drink. Con: Possible fatality.

“The buah keluak pods contain cyanide in deadly quantities when freshly harvested,” as Laut Singapura Barologist Colin Stevens tells us. “They can only be made edible through a form of cold fermentation.”

Buah Keluak Nuts
A sack of buah keluak nuts for sale at a Southeast Asian wet market
iStock / Getty Images Plus

So as not to die, we let Stevens — a bar consultant who’s also worked with The Top of the Standard and The Times Square Edition — guide us through a very Halloween-appropriate, intoxicating and — if done wrong — toxic cocktail recipe.

Before we begin, an appropriate Simpsons reference:

How to make buah keluak safe

First, soak the seed pods in fresh water for several days; they’ll also need to be scrubbed regularly. “The meat inside the pods will mildly ferment, which helps the water soluble hydrogen cyanide they contain to hydrolyze and extract into the bath,” explains Stevens. After this process is complete, the meat is extracted from the pods and the shells discarded.

What buah keluak adds to your cocktail 

Says Stevens: “I often compare the flavor to carob, which I used to eat a lot of as a kid. It can be similar to truffle or chocolate, as well, and strikingly tart.”

How to use buah keluak in a drink

Stevens uses the now-safe meat of the seed pods to craft a Black Old Fashioned. He starts with Suntory Toki as the base, which he notes is “fully flavored and spicy enough to work with the intensity of the buah keluak.” Then, add a syrup made from the keluak, palm sugar and orange peels. Bind the whole drink together with Angostura bitters and several dashes of Old Duff Genever gin to add “just enough botanical levity.”

What else can you make with buah keluak?

Turns out buah keluak is flexible. “The flavor is intense, but it also has tart qualities that keep it from being oppressive,” says Stevens. “I would add it to any already full flavored drink to bring it to a new realm. Try it in a tiki drink such as a mai tai, or even an unexpected Negroni riff.”

Below, Stevens shares his recipe for the Black Old Fashioned.

The Black Old Fashioned
The Black Old Fashioned
Emilio Pandika

The Black Old Fashioned
By Colin Stevens, Barologist at Laut and Laut Singapura (NYC)

  • 2 oz Suntory Toki
  • 0.5 oz buah keluak syrup*
  • 3 dashes Old Duff Genever
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients and serve in a rocks glass with a 2″ ice cube, garnish with an orange peel.  

Buah Keluak Syrup

  • 5 buah keluak pods
  • Peels of 1 whole navel orange
  • 500 g gula melaka
  • 600 ml water

Dice and briefly dry cook the buah keluak pods in a pot, then add water, gula melaka and the peels from 1 orange. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat, remove from heat and strain through cheesecloth or cloth coffee bag. Store refrigerated.  


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