Palmetto

IMG_6161 2The Manhattan formula, so simple but so adaptable, gives rise to endless variation. Some of these are deliberate attempt to rearrange the basic mixture; others seem to have arisen from the simple fact that a combination of a spirit, vermouth & bitters is a mighty fine one and a solid foundation for a very good drink.

One of these variations is the Palmetto, recorded in the Savoy Cocktail book. This puts the drink in the period between the publication of the book and the repeal of Prohibition, making it one of the cocktail ‘classics’. Harry Craddock’s recipe combines rum, vermouth and bitters & is faithfully recreated in Robert Simonson’s excellent book, 3 Ingredient Cocktails; I used his recipe here. One of the key things to note is that bitters here are very important – both rum and the Italian vermouth are quite sweet, so the citrus kick of the bitters is necessary to tie them together, but add too much & they will overpower the drink.

I’m not enamoured with this drink; the equal mix of vermouth and rum just doesn’t seem to work together for me, even with a good shake of bitters; somehow it’s just all too sweet. But it is a complex drink and worth trying, even just once.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz good, aged rum

1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth

Dashes of orange bitters

Method:

Stir over ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish really seems to be optional for this drink, but a good slice of orange zest wouldn’t go amiss; if you use a cocktail cherry, you would be adding to the sweetness even further.

Vecchio Stile

IMG_6562After the Manhattan (see dozens of posts, passim), my very next favourite drink is the Old Fashioned: this classic mix of whiskey, bitters & sugar is so simple, yet can having a seeming infinite variety through the choice of the whiskey and bitters: use a rye, and the cocktail becomes drier and spicier, use a bourbon, and it becomes sweeter and softer.

This time, I added a small quantity of my favourite amaro, Montenegro, to balance the sweetness of a bourbon-based whiskey a little further than the bitters alone; even just a quarter of an ounce of this amaro adds another edge to the drink. It’s quite a different take on an Old Fashioned, so absolutely deserves to have its own name; it becomes the Vecchio Stile.

The bitters are very important: here I have used Dr Elmegirab’s Orinoco bitters. Their solid bitter hit & spice base are pretty much a perfect foil for the Montenegro.

Method:

2 ozs of bourbon (Bulleit is highly recommended)

1/4 oz Amaro Montenegro

1/2 tsp sugar

Dashes of Orinoco bitters

Muddle the sugar and bitters together, with a dash of water, in an old-fashioned glass. Add a large ice block to the glass and let chill a while.

Stir the Montenegro and bourbon together over ice, then strain into the chilled glass, with a last stir to combine the alcohols, bitters & sugar. Garnish with orange peel.

 

 

 

Belmont

IMG_2692The Belmont is a truly odd little recipe – three ingredients: gin, grenadine & cream. I can’t think of many recipes that combine gin and cream, but the Belmont just goes straight for it, via the grenadine. The result, as described by my friend & fellow cocktail explorer, Craig Riley, is a ‘grown-up Baileys’. He’s right – the gin and cream should clash horribly, but the grenadine just seems to act like a silky buffer between the two, making them harmonious rather than jarring, and letting the drink become a smooth mouthful. The secret is a good grenadine – I used the Jack Rudy small-batch syrup, which has a good balance of sweet and sharp, along with a deep ruby colour. This gives the resulting drink has an attractive pale pink colour as well, another unusual trait. Not a cocktail you would want many of, but as something, smooth, refreshing & very unusual, worth a glass at least.

Method

2 measures gin

1 measure grenadine

1 tsp. cream

Shake everything with plenty of ice, then strain into a cold coupe.

No garnish or bitters for this one, so it breaks a lot of the cocktail rules. But then it uses cream, so it’s already way off track, anyway.

Japanese cocktail

IMG_5628This simple mixture of cognac, almonds and lime sounded like an interesting recipe from Harry MacElhone, but it involved making the orgeat syrup first, as my attempts to find a ready-made product suggested they were all a bit disappointing. That may seem like overkill, but I at least have an ingredient now to use in various Tiki-style recipes, as the recipe produces around 250ml of the sweet, almond-flavoured syrup which will last a month or so in the refrigerator.

The story goes that MacElhone invented this drink in honour of a Japanese delegation visiting Paris in the 1920s while he was running his eponymous bar there. The ingredients themselves don’t suggest Japan to me, as my visits to the country have not indicated that there is overwhelming demand for almond or lime flavours; the cognac might have been a nod to the French location of the drink’s birthplace.

I am not quite sure what to make of the finished drink: the combination of cognac and almond syrup is silky enough, but the lime juice is slightly too strong to my taste. Thinking on other lime-based drinks (such as the Margarita), I cannot see why it should jar here, but it does – perhaps its is the cognac-and-lime mix that seems a little harsh. Either way, the drink was not as smooth as I was expecting, and despite the sweetness of the orgeat syrup, the lime has a really attack on the back of the throat. The next time I make one of these, I plan to use a properly Japanese substitute : yuzu juice. This has the required citrus tones, but slightly less attack. I think this will balance the drink better.

Ingredients:

2 ozs cognac

1/2 oz orgeat syrup

1/2 oz lime juice

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake the ingredients well with plenty of ice (probably a good time to practice your Japanese shaking technique), then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime zest.

 

Corpse Reviver #1 (Curious Bartender mix)

img_4162Every barman has a corpse reviver recipe: the drink they slide across the bar to the jaded customer without a word, just the unspoken understanding of what the client needs right now, right then. The recipes date back to the mid-C19th, served to young bucks who had over-indulged the night before, and now revived (if you will) for a modern generation of hungover clients.

The #2 mix is allegedly more popular these days, but this #1 mix relies of a swift punch to the kidneys with darker alcohols: brandy (or cognac) and calvados, that wonderful French apple brandy. I have mixed together the standard alcohol kick with Tristran Stephenson’s #1.1 beta recipe, found in his excellent Curious Bartender book, that uses an English apple brandy.

The drink is one you should drink swiftly. ‘While it is still smiling at you’, as they say.

Method:

30ml brandy or cognac

30ml calvados (I used Somerset apple brandy here)

30ml Italian vermouth (I used Vermut)

Stir well over ice, then strain into a cold coupe. No garnish is required – you don’t want to delay serving this drink to a customer in distress.

And in a slight, but I think important variant, I dropped a few spots of clove bitters (my recipe) into the centre of the drink. They settle to the bottom, adding a sudden & unexpected dimension as you drain the glass, and one that certainly opens the eyes. Stephenson says ‘add them if you want to break the rules’. I do & so I did.

 

 

Ampersand (dry)

img_4098Another recipe that can be made with Old Tom or dry gin – again, I am using a lighter London style in Hendricks. The mystery of this drink is why the ‘and’ in the title; the answer is in the ingredients: gin *and* brandy *and* vermouth. This sounds like a drink invented by someone ho couldn’t quite work out what to drink, so just kept adding ingredients.

But in reality it is pretty well-balanced. The gin and brandy work well together; I can’t imagine a bourbon equivalent marrying so well, it really has to be brandy. Richard Godwin describes it as having a ‘Fred Astaire sort of sweep’. I can see what he means – it seems to waltz around the tongue, rather than march over your mouth. I slipped away from the recipe by using a lime twist, rather than lemon. Why? Because I wanted to see if it worked, and the subtle citrus note seemed to be more elegant, even if the colour didn’t really work. It’s your glass: you choose.

Method:

25ml gin

25ml brandy

25ml Italian vermouth

10ml orange liqueur (I used Cointreau, Grand Marnier is more traditional)

Dash of Orange bitters.

 

Stir well over ice & strain into cold glass. Garnish with a zest twist (see above).

 

Tuxedo (dry)

img_4073Like whisky, sherry is an underused cocktail ingredient. But like its Scottish counterpart, it has to be used with a certain care – its dry, subtle flavours can add a mysterious quality, but the dryness can add a mouth-puckering quality if overused.

The Tuxedo is an old recipe indeed, dating back to the end of the C19th, and with sherry as an ingredient, is most likely from an English bartender (although some stories claim it for the Tuxedo Club, which didn’t come into existence until four or five years after this drink was first seen in print).

The recipe really calls for a very traditional version of gin, Old Tom, which is richer and sweeter than London dry styles. But this recipe seems to make no distinction, so I made it with a lighter London style, Hendricks. The maraschino adds a very subtle, almost ineffable, sweetness & lifts the drink completely – it would be very different without it, even though the quantity is tiny (half a teaspoon or so). Likewise with the absinthe – miss it out, and you miss a large range of the flavour, and the aniseed notes really pair well with the sherry.

This is a lovely, gentle drink, like a richer Martini with many more layers of flavour. Probably not one you want to drink more than one of, but as an aperitif, it’s hard to beat. I took this recipe from Richard Godwin’s book, The Spirits. As he says, ‘where are you going with this?’ The answer is in the drink.

Method:

25ml dry gin (Hendricks here

25ml Fino sherry

25ml French vermouth (Noilly Prat is highly suitable)

2.5ml maraschino

Dashes of absinthe

Dashes of orange bitters

 

Stir slowly over the largest ice cubes you have (the drink needs to be properly cold, but not diluted) & strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon zest