Remember the Maine

img_3660I was looking for a drink suitable for our 5th of November celebrations (for non-UK readers, this is the day we remember how an attempt to destroy Parliament by a huge gunpowder bomb, assembled by Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators, was foiled at the last moment. Naturally, we remember this by detonating equally huge quantities of gunpowder-filled fireworks in our gardens up and down the country), but drew a blank when it came to gunpowder, firework, or even Guy-themed drinks.

What I did find was a drink that according to Richard Godwin’s book,  The Spirits, was drunk in Havana by Charles H. Baker to the sounds of gunfire during the 1933 revolution. If this drink was once enjoyed to the sound of explosions, then it is perfect for our 5th November.

The drink itself is a Manhattan variation, with two extras – a small quantity of cherry brandy & some dashes of absinthe. The result is a spicy version of the standard cocktail, but I cannot admit to loving the combination of aniseed (from the absinthe) and cherry overly much. I prefer to use absinthe bitters for this flavour element – after all, we only need a few drops. I’ll classify this drink as a Modern, since the 1933 date places it after Prohibition.

Method.

50ml. rye (or bourbon)

20ml. sweet vermouth

5ml. cherry brandy

dashes of absinthe or absinthe bitters

Stir over plenty of ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

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Blood & Sand

img_1951A visit to the lovely 69 Colebrooke Row recently meant that I came home with a copy of Tony Conigliaro’s book of the same name (which is odd, as officially, the bar itself has no name, only an address). The photography in the book is gorgeous, featuring not only the drinks that have made the bar’s name (see above), but some of the staff and clientele. If reading it doesn’t make you want to visit, nothing will.

One of the drinks features is the Blood & Sand, a drink which follows in the (fairly) long line of whisky-based cocktails invented for show premieres (see the Rob Roy, earlier). In this case, the drink was invented for the premiere of Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 bullfighting story, Blood & Sand. The colour palette of the ingredients suggest why they might have been chosen, but the barman had clearly thought the mixture through, & although none of them are Spanish to suit the film’s setting, the drink is a refreshing mixture of tart and sweet. I’d heard of variations using grapefruit juice to point up the tartness, so I switched the plain orange juice in my version to blood orange, which seems very apt for the recipe.

This is a very drinkable cocktail, and one that would be good to give to someone who has previously said they don’t like whisky; it might just convert them.

Method:

40ml of whisky (I used a blend, so the flavour was mild)

20ml of blood orange juice

20ml of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso here)

20ml of cherry brandy

Shake well over ice, then strain into a chilled coupette. Note, the 69 Colebrooke Row recipe eschews bitters or any garnish. I have followed suit here, thinking the presence of orange zest might be a little too powerful here.