Does the word "diamondback" conjure visions of the deadly snake? Do you channel your inner Indiana Jones ("I hate snakes") and shudder? A drink based on a venomous snake gives you good reason to hesitate. The Diamondback is based on the markedly less venomous turtle. The diamondback terrapin is the official reptile of the state of Maryland. The Diamondback, which first appeared in 1951 in Ted Saucier's book Bottoms Up (not to be confused with the Van Halen song), was named for the Diamondback Lounge in the Lord Baltimore Hotel.
Combine in a shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir with a turtle's deliberate pace, and strain into a chilled glass. Luxardo cherry garnish optional.
Use whichever rye you like. As we learned in Comparing Apples to Apples, the modern difference between apple brandy and applejack is the latter is a blend of apple brandy (35%) and grain neutral spirits (65%). Most recipes today call for applejack, but if you want to be historically accurate use apple brandy. Modern applejack didn't exist until 1968, so when Saucier wrote about the Diamondback bartenders would have used apple brandy. Also, apple brandy gives the Diamondback a more pronounced apple flavor.
Many modern recipes of the Diamondback use green Chartreuse (110 proof) instead of the slightly sweeter yellow Chartreuse (80 proof). Stick with the original. Ms. Cocktail Den and I tried both versions, and the one with yellow Chartreuse was the clear winner for us. It gives you a balanced cocktail with subtle hints of spice, apple, and sweet. Using green Chartreuse, a component of classic drinks such as the Last Word, overpowers everything else.
Considering its high proof spirits, the Diamondback does have a bite. Even though it has a sharper taste than similar cocktails such as a Widow's Kiss (a base of apple brandy and yellow Chartreuse) and the American Apple (a base of rye and apple brandy), the Diamondback is a very satisfying drink.
So if you root for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the University of Maryland Terrapins, both, or neither, everyone can be a fan of the Diamondback cocktail.