Return of a Classic Cocktail
The venerable martini has been through so many permutations since its birth in the late 19th century. Indignities, too (dozens of candy-assed, vodka-based apple-choco-lemon-girly-tinis).
Before I became a Pretend Bartender, I liked vodka martinis, dirty, shaken, extra olives. Now, I prefer gin martinis, stirred, with a twist of lemon. My current favorite variation pre-dates prohibition, and includes a few dashes of orange bitters (because that’s the way they rolled pre-Capone).
Orange bitters used to be hard to come by (which probably contributed to why the pre-prohibition version fell out of favor). But now, thanks to heroes/cocktail enthusiasts like Gary “Gaz” Regan and Angostura, a couple of great alternatives can be found in your neighborhood liquor store and online.
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
2-3 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
1 lemon peel
Fill a mixing glass and a coupe glass with ice. Cut a lemon peel*. Pour the gin and vermouth over the ice in the mixing glass. Add the bitters. Stir. Rub the lemon peel around the lip of the coupe glass then strain the drink mixture into it. Squeeze the lemon peel over the cocktail, and drop it into the glass.
*I suck at lemon peels. In the photos, you’ll notice that mine is unnaturally large. Hopefully, yours won’t be. Using a vegetable peeler helps, but I still need lots of practice, practice, practice. The most important thing is to minimize the pith. Otherwise, you’ll have a unpleasantly bitter, facial contortion-inducing cocktail.
A New Orleans Original
It wasn’t long ago when I assumed that New Orleans cocktails required freezing and a yard-long plastic cup. How remarkably short-sighted of me. Blasphemous, even.
Like jazz, the Sazerac was born and bred in Nola. In fact, some claim that it is the oldest known American cocktail.
Apothecary Antoine Peychaud (the Louis Armstrong of mixology?) created the drink that stars his namesake bitters and served it in an egg cup called a coquetier. It’s said that his non-French patients/patrons misinterpreted the name of the cup, asking instead for a “cock-tail”.
Although you no longer need an egg cup, there are a few conundrums regarding Sazerac ingredients and preparation:
- The Sazerac was named for a brand of cognac, but most now use rye as the central ingredient. I haven’t had much luck finding Sazerac-brand rye in Atlanta, but I’ve been more than happy with Rittenhouse as a substitute.
- While Peychaud bitters are crucial, the amount is up to you (I make mine the PDT way — three dashes of Peychaud, plus two dashes of Angostura).
- Some use sugar crystals, others, simple syrup. I like sugar cubes — dashing the bitters right on top, waiting for them to turn red, then muddling everything into submission.
- You don’t need to spend a lot on Absinthe since you only need a minuscule amount (unless you’d like to have a nice bottle around).
- What to do with the lemon peel? Purists toss it out. Rebels toss it in.
2 oz. rye (Sazerac brand, if you can find it)
3 dashes Peychaud bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sugar cube
Just enough Absinthe to rinse a rocks glass
Fill a rocks glass with ice, then set it aside.
Drop a sugar cube in a mixing glass. Dash Peychaud and Angostura bitters right on top, then muddle. Add ice to the muddled mixture, pour in the rye and stir.
Dump the ice from the rocks glass and rinse it with Absinthe (pour in a little, roll it around to coat the inside of the glass, pour out what’s left). Strain the cocktail into the rinsed glass. Twist the lemon peel over the top and toss it out. Or in?
To the five boroughs
I’m a little Manhattan-obsessed. But after running across a Brooklyn Cocktail recipe in Ted Haigh’s essential book, Vintage Spirits, I thought might be time to drink my way through another borough.
If you squint, the Brooklyn sure looks like a Manhattan, but it’s a little sweeter and drier. It’s a great vintage cocktail that’s worked its way into my regular rotation.
Haigh’s recipe calls for Amer Picon, which I understand is difficult (if not impossible) to procure in the US. The fine folks at the H+F Bottle Shop suggested Amaro CioCiaro as a substitute.
Although you may not have Amaro CioCiaro or Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur on the shelf, they’re worthwhile investments. After all, there are quite a few interesting cocktails that include them as key ingredients.
2 oz. rye
3/4 oz. dry vermouth
2 tsp. amaro CioCiaro (recommendation: Amaro CioCiaro)
2 tsp. Maraschino Liqueur
1 cocktail cherry (recommendation: Luxardo)
Fill both a mixing glass and a coupe glass with ice. Pour rye, vermouth, Amaro and Maraschino liqueur into the mixing glass and stir. Dump ice from the coupe glass and drop in the cherry. Strain cocktail over the cherry. Drink and repeat as necessary.
The Honeymoon is over. Thankfully, I can have another one tonight.
First appearing in Brown Derby-era Hollywood, the Honeymoon Cocktail features one of my favorite ingredients — applejack.
Applejack has been around since colonial times. And according to Wikipedia:
In New Jersey, applejack was used as currency to pay road construction crews during the colonial period. A slang expression for the beverage was Jersey Lightning.
I’ve used the cider spirit in place of whiskey in a few cocktails, including the venerable Manhattan (call it a “Big Apple Manhattan”?).
Some prepare the Honeymoon as an “equal parts” cocktail — that is, 3/4 oz each ingredient. I prefer a little more Applejack.
2 oz. Laird’s Applejack
1/2 oz. Benedictine
1/2 oz. orange curacao (Cointreau might be better)
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1 lemon peel
Fill a coupe glass and a shaker with ice. Pour all ingredients into the shaker and, well, shake it. Dump the ice out of coupe glass and strain the mixture in. Garnish with the lemon twist and let the Honeymoon begin.
A taste of summer in the winter
Friday afternoon, Hendrick’s Gin posted a Blueberry Buck recipe. Blueberries and gin? Sounded like two great tastes that would taste great together.
After a little googling, I found a variation on Beyond the Plate I decided to try. The only problem: all ingredients were measured in tablespoons, so I had to do some math.
The recipe below converts the liquid measurements to ounces and name drops the brands of gin and ginger beer that I used.
Note: ginger beer is not ginger ale. Ginger beer is not as sweet and has a nice, spicy kick. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, try substituting ginger ale and let me know what you think.
12-15 fresh blueberries
2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 oz. ginger beer (NOT ginger ALE)
1-2 mint sprigs
Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Drop the blueberries into a mixing glass: ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk. Add the gin and lemon juice and pulverize the total crap out the mixture using a muddler or immersion blender.
Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the blueberry mixture into the ice-filled glass (bonus points: use the back of a spoon to coax every last bit of liquid from the mashed berries and through the strainer).
Top the glass with ginger beer and drop in a few (whole) blueberries. A mint sprig makes a nice garnish (alas, I didn’t have one).
Fruit garnish or fruit salad?
Those are the two Old Fashioned schools of thought.
My first Old Fashioned was of the pulverized fruit salad variety, with orange slices, cherries and sugar cubes muddled flat into the bottom of the glass. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a few of the “minimalist” variety, with just a hint of citrus and sweetness. My preference lies somewhere in between the two.
I started with Miles Macquarrie’s recipe. He’s quickly become a local legend — and for good reason (just visit the bar at Leon’s Full Service in Decatur to learn why).
But I have a thing for bourbon-soaked cherries.
Rather than muddling the fruit, I used orange and lemon peels as Miles suggests. Then I added a couple of cherries without, well, squishing them. Finally, I stirred in a couple of drops of syrup from the cherry jar.
2 1/2 oz. bourbon
2 dashes Angusturo bitters
1 dash Regan’s Orange bitters
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1 tsp simple syrup
1 orange peel
1 lemon peel
2 cherries (recommendation: Luxardo)
Fill a mixing glass and an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Add the bourbon, bitters and simple syrup to the mixing glass and stir (add a couple of drops of syrup from the cherry jar, too, if you like). Drop a couple of cherries into the Old Fashioned glass.
Strain the mixture into the Old Fashioned glass. Rub the lip of the glass with the lemon and orange peels, then squeeze them over the surface of the cocktail and drop them into the glass.
Finally, something that lives up to its name.
There are two ways to make simple syrup:
- The easy way. Dump equal parts sugar and water into a pot (recommendation: 1 cup/1 cup). Bring the ingredients to a boil, then remove from heat. Cool. Pour into a bottle, seal, and refrigerate between uses (it’ll keep for a couple of months).
- The really easy way. Pour equal parts sugar and water into a bottle or jar. Close it up and shake it like hell for two to three minutes. When the sugar’s dissolved, you’re done. Refrigerate between uses.
Making it slightly more complicated:
- If you want to extend the shelf life, add a dash of vodka.
- Some bartenders prefer “rich” simple syrup, which means a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. If you like sweeter cocktails, go for it. I’d recommend boiling over shaking, unless you really want to give your arm a workout.
You can also buy simple syrup at the store. But why would you do that?