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.

 

 

 

Harvard

fullsizerender-6The dependable Manhattan has spawned many variations; the recipe is really simple, so it is very easy to substitute any of the ingredients to create something quite different: the Harvard is a variant where the rye or bourbon is replaced with cognac. Quite how a mix of French brandy with an Italian vermouth has come to represent on of America’s most blue-blooded, ivy-clad Universities is anyone’s guess, but my stab is a few alumni propping up a college bar one evening, deciding that they really needed a cocktail named after their alma mater*. The result is worthy, but not exactly groundshaking: cognac adds a fruitier dimension to the bourbon/rye original, which works well with the vermouth, but without the tension that the spikier spirits have. It’s a soothing drink, one to be lingered over on a cold evening, but I still prefer the original.

Method:

50ml. cognac

20ml. Carpana Antico vermouth

dashes of Angosturas bitter

Stir well over ice, then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a cherry.

* I am sure every college should have some sort of drink named after it; if my old Uni had a drink, then the UCL would most likely be a mix of tequila, whisky & Newcastle Brown Ale, garnished with a roll-up.

Income Tax

img_0790This seems very apt, given our PM, David Cameron’s  recent entanglements with questions of off-shore funds and inheritance. The drink itself is a variation on the Bronx cocktail – a solid mixture of gin, vermouth & fresh orange juice – with the addition of some dashes of Angostura bitters. How it got its name is open to question – some suggest the addition of bitters represents the attitude to taxation. My own take is that, like taxation, this mixture: gin, vermouth, some citrus & bitters is fairly universal. Either way, this is a very drinkable cocktail – it’s very refreshing, like the Ward 8 I tried last week, not heavy and the sort of cocktail you could imagine having more than one of.

Method:

40ml gin (I used solid, dependable Gordon’s)

20ml Italian vermouth (Carpano Antico)

20ml French vermouth (Lillet)

10ml fresh orange juice

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake well over plenty of ice, then strain well into a Martini glass. Twist orange zest over the surface to express the oils onto the drink and serve.

 

 

Books

20140719-113708-41828994.jpgI love books on drinks, not only because most of them are very readable, but because many are now fantastically well illustrated. Like recipe books, of which I have a fair few as well, drink books understand that the design & presentation is equal to the importance of the words, and so most now are visually impressive, cleverly laid out and beautifully printed.

My library now includes the following books, all of which I recommend. If you would like further details, click on the link text, which will take you to my Amazon associates page for each book.

American Bar, by Charles Schuman

The Savoy Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock

Bitters, by Brad Thomas Parsons

The Curious Bartender, by Tristran Stephenson

The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Whiskies, by Tristran Stephenson

Apothecary Cocktails, by Warren Bobrow

Speakeasy, by Jason Kosmas & Dushan Zaric

Shrubs, by Michael Dietsch

Experimental Cocktail Club, by Bon, Cros, de Goriainoff & Padovani

Bitterman’s Field Guide to Bitters & Amari, by Mark Bitterman

The Spirits, by Richard Godwin

The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart

The Cocktail Keys, by Rob Cassels

Cosmopolitan, by Toby Cecchini

Cocktails, by Robert Vermeire

The Malt Whisky Companion, by Michael Jackson

69 Colebrooke Row, by Tony Conigliaro

Any of these would make a fine start to a cocktail collection, but if I had to choose just one, then Schuman’s American Bar would win the spot; it is a brilliant guide to how we drink, why we drink & what we drink. It was the first book on drinks I ever owned, and I refer, and defer, to it still.

Vieux Rectangle by Arthur Combes

Vieux Rectangle, to the ECC's recipe
Vieux Rectangle, to the ECC’s recipe

Almost as much pleasure can be had reading about cocktails as drinking them. Almost, but not quite. But some books come very close, and one of my favourites is the Experimental Cocktail Club‘s eponymous guide to their philosophy of drinking culture. This book is beautiful, and even if some of the drinks use ingredients you may not care to attempt at home (bacon-infused bourbon?), the whole volume is a brilliant shop window for the way they set about crafting drinks and venues with the same care and attention throughout.

I’ll quote from the book here to introduce the drink, and I hope the authors won’t mind:

The Vieux Rectangle is barman Arthur Combe’s signature cocktail. This is his twist on the classic Vieux Carré, with a European interpretation. The result is a fairly sweet concoction on the floral and delicate side, with an anise finish.

What stops this drink from being too sweet is the clever addition of Absinthe. The aniseed, spiky flavours cut through the sweetness to deliver a little cleansing note with great precision. Not a cocktail to be enjoyed in quantity, perhaps, buy certainly sipped & admired.

When Absinthe is used in a drink in such small quantities as here, I use an Absinthe bitters, Extrême d’Absente for the flavour.

Method:

40ml Cognac (Hine Antique here)

15ml Sweet vermouth (Carpano ‘Antica Formula’ here)

15ml Aperol

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

2 dashes Absinthe (or Absinthe bitters, see above)

Stir over ice in your mixing glass with a bar spoon. Strain into a coupe, then garnish by squeezing lemon zest over the surface to release the lemon oils, then discard.

 

Port in a Storm

img_0779
Port in Storm, made with blended whisky

A late night out meant I was in need a nightcap drink on my return home. This drink seemed to fit the bill, being just  a mix of spirits and fortified wine, a little like a whisky Manhattan. It also gave me an excuse to use some more of my Tawny Port and a new bottle of Whyte & Mackay blended scotch. This blend seems to polarise opinion on a few whisky sites; people either like it or really hate it. I find it a little sharp and one-note as a whisky, with a strong alcohol ‘burn’ on the tongue. The flavour is good, if a little weak, so it’s a decent enough blend to mix with.

The drink is simple enough: one measure of whisky, one of port and a few dashes of cognac. At first taste, the drink is a little disappointing: the spicy notes of the tawny port jar with the whisky, and the combined fruit flavours of the port and alcohol of the whisky just don’t sit well together. But after a few minutes on ice, something happens: suddenly everything comes together and the flavours really blend. Perhaps this in one of those drinks that would be good to age together for a few weeks before drinking.

Method:

25ml of whisky (White & Mackay blend here)

25ml of port (Taylor’s 10-year old tawny here)

Dashes of cognac

Dashes of bitters

Store the ingredients together over ice, then strain into an old-fashioned glass over fresh ice and garnish with a slice of orange peel.

 

 

Suburban

Suburban, made with bourbon, tawny port & dark rum
Suburban, made with bourbon, tawny port & dark rum

Wondering what to do with my opened bottle of port from Christmas, and looking for drinks to use it in, the discovery of the Suburban came as a happy surprise. It is a very, very good drink indeed & definitely worth trying.

Port may not appear too often on modern cocktail lists, but its inclusion in British mixed drinks is as old as the drink itself: punch was often made with port or another fortified wine, along with brandy, and served at Christmas. Taylors, one of the older port houses still features a recipe on their website.

The Suburban then is an unusual creature, using port but coming from an American source: the drink appears in the Waldorf-Astoria bar book, and the name comes from a horse race of the same name, the Suburban classic. This late C19th appearance puts it into the ‘classic’ category of drinks, and I would say it certainly was. The drink is a solid mix of bourbon (or rye, if you prefer), port & dark rum with plenty of bitters and he result is a cross between a Manhattan and an Old-Fashioned, but a very grown-up hybrid of the two. It’s a cocktail to be approached with care, drunk in a panelled room, lit by a roaring fire.

I am following Richard Godwin’s suggestion in his excellent drinks book, The Spirits, and using tawny port. This is lighter, more flavourful, than ruby or vintage port, and does not overpower the drink with excessive sweetness.

Proportions:

40ml of bourbon (Buffalo Trace here)

20ml of tawny port (Graham’s 10y.o. tawny here)

20ml of dark rum (Havana Club 7y.o. here)

Good dashes of Angostura bitters

Good dashes of orange bitters (Fee’s, here)

Glass: Old-Fashioned

Stir ingredients over ices, then strain into an Old-Fashioned glass with fresh ice. Garnish with large slice of orange zest.

 

The Dispensary

IMG_0887I managed to sign up recently to the beta test of the Asterley Bros. new amaro, Dispense. The brothers have used a family recipe from Sicily, coupled with a C17th English book on tonics and cure-alls, to produce a distinctly English take on a classic Italian variety of the bitter drink, made famous by the likes of Campari, Aperol & Cynar. I tried the tester bottle neat, and the brothers have really jammed in the flavours to their amaro, giving it a distinctly sweet finish (I wonder if he underlying spirit is, in a nod to our sea-faring heritage, a rum, giving that distinctive sweetness). The more I tried it, the more I wanted to try mixing it with other drinks to see how it would work in a cocktail. There is an elusive quality to the flavour which is really quite mysterious, and the warmth suggested that Dispense would mix well with a richer spirit like rye or bourbon. The Italian heritage of the amaro suggested a cocktail like a Negroni would be a good place to start, and that led me to think about the Boulevardier: a bourbon-based Negroni.

The Dispensary
The Dispensary

So, my new drink (which as been given the name,the Dispensary) is mixed as follows:

1 oz. of bourbon (Buffalo Trace here)

1 oz. of Aperol

1 oz. of Asterley Brothers Dispense

Stir leisurely over ice, and add a good dash of Orinoco bitters. Serve in a chilled Martini glass with a good-sized piece of orange zest and toast the success of a new English drink producer.

Old-fashioned: Diplomatico Reserva

Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum
Old Fashioned, made with Diplomatico rum & Velvet Falernum

We had dinner last night in the Rum & Crab Shack in St Ives, a great restaurant located right on the harbour, which has a range of caribbean & creole cooking, including dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo & po’ boys (which covers the ‘crab’ side of the name). The other half of their menu (the ‘rum’ part) is a 35-strong range of the sugar cane distillation, organised by style, strength, flavour & so on. You could spend a happy evening just sampling their neat spirits, but I opted for their recommended after-dinner cocktail, the Old-fashioned.

I am very fond of this cocktail, because of its simplicity & elegance, and it was great to try a version that not only was based on rum, but also included an ingredient that I had read about, but never actually tried: Velvet Falernum. This is a Barbadian liqueuer, made by John D. Taylor, with rum infused by various herbs & spices – a little like the home-made rum concoctions you are served on beach bars in the Bahamas, each one a secret recipe of the barman, and all guaranteed to cure anything from impotence to hair loss. This spiced rum was then mixed with a very old rum from the Diplomatico range, their Reserva Exclusiva. I had just bought a bottle of this to sip by itself, and so the chance to try it in a cocktail seemed too good an opportunity to pass by.

The resulting drink, served in a cool old-fashioned tumbler with a very large cube of ice, was initially way too sweet for my taste, but after some stirring to dilute the drink with a little water from the ice revealed a much more attractive drink, though if I made it home, I think I would add barely any sugar. The drink had an almost smoky flavour, with heavy notes of vanilla, toffee & treacle, all cut through by the refreshing citrus kick from the lime & orange zests. It was a very good drink to round off a spicy creole meal.

Proportions (I am guessing here from the drink’s impression on me; the menu only gave the ingredients):

2 ozs of dark rum (Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva)

1 oz of Velvet Falernum

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Lime wedge

Sugar cube

Glass: Small tumbler or old-fashioned glass.

Shake bitters onto a sugar cube and lime rind & muddle in the glass until the sugar is crushed. Add a few drops of water if liked to dissolve the sugar. Add single large ice cube, then pour rum & Velvet Falernum over the ice, and stir. Garnish with a large slice of orange zest.

Boulevardier

The Boulevardier
The Boulevardier

The Boulevardier is a very close relative to the classic Negroni, which I mixed recently. Here, the gin of the Negroni is replaced with whiskey, giving the drink a spicy note. This is a classic recipe (found first in McElhone’s 1927 book, Barflies & Cocktails) that has suddenly found fame again recently as part of the revival of older, neglected cocktail recipes; I think part of that success is that it is such a close relation to the Negroni that people have tried that drink are likely to try this one. And possibly more importantly, it is made from only three ingredients, likely found in most cocktail cabinets, making it easy to try. As the Manhattan & the Negroni, don’t be fooled by the lack of clever ingredients or unusual spirits: the Boulevardier works because it is an absolutely perfect blend of flavours. Somehow this mix of flavours is definitely more French than Italian. I cannot say for certain why, but the Boulevardier name seems totally appropriate; I can imagine a French homme du Monde enjoying one of these at his local Bar Tabac on the way home to his apartment in Paris, whereas a Negroni seems perfect for the Italian uomo di Mondo.

As with my usual tastes, I don’t believe a cocktail is complete without a few dashes of bitters, so I added some here. The original recipes don’t call for any, nor do they seem to specify any garnish, but some orange zest seems appropriate. Again, these choices are mine, yours may vary.

Proportions:

1 1/4oz. of Aperol

1 1/4oz. of whiskey (I used Buffalo Trace)

1 1/4oz. of sweet vermouth (I used Carpana Antico)

Dashes of bitters (I used Adam Elemegirab’s Orinoco bitters)

Glass: Large Champagne glass

Stir the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass.

Serve in coupe, garnished with some orange zest