The 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.
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.
The Ward 8 belongs to a fairly small set of cocktail recipes, apparently inspired by political events. The story with this one is that it commemorates the winning of a seat in the Massachusetts legislature by one Martin Lomasney – with the eighth electoral ward being the one to return him the winning margin – at the end of the C19th.
I imagine the election was held in warmer months, as the drink is essentially a sophisticated whiskey sour, made with rye and a mixture of orange and lemon juices, so it’s a cool & refreshing drink, with a gentle alcohol burn from the rye. A small amount of grenadine lends an attractive colour, and acts as the sweetening agent. It’s a little too sour unless you have very sweet orange juice, but I wouldn’t be inclined to add too much grenadine to compensate; it’s slightly too cloying a sweetness & the whole drink could end up tasting like orange boiled sweets without care.
40ml rye whiskey
20ml lemon juice
20ml orange juice
Shake well over plenty of ice & double strain (for the orange & lemon pulp) into a martini glass. Garnish with a single maraschino cherry.
More news recently of sad losses to our cultural life in the UK. A few weeks ago, Dick Bradsell passed away. He was a cocktail superstar in this country, the man who among many other drink-related innovations, created the espresso martini for a model who wanted a drink ‘to pick her up, then f*ck her up’ whilst tending bar at the Soho Brasserie. Dick obliged with the perfect mash-up of alcohol and caffeine that delivered on her request. And for anyone who visited any of his bars – like the now sadly defunct Detroit in Seven Dials – his cocktail DNA ran deep in every drink served. As with the death of Sasha Petraske last year, our drinking world is a poorer place without him.
The other departed hero of mine is the designer, Sir Ken Adam, who created some of the most remarkable sets for films in a long and very enviable career – particularly his long-running collaboration with the producers of the James Bond films – for whom he designed memorable lairs for super-villains, like the volcano base in You Only Live Twice.
I thought it was appropriate to raise a glass to both men – a cocktail seems a suitable salute to Bradsell, and I am sure that Sir Ken, who spent his time working on films that features one of our best-known cocktail drinkers, wouldn’t object to being acknowledged by a well-filled martini glass. The most suitable drink I found is the well-named Obituary, whose recipe I located in Richard Godwin’s excellent book, The Spirits. This is a properly ‘wet’ martini, where the vermouth plays an equal role to the gin, but what really perks this up is the lurking presence of peppery, aniseedy absinthe. It’s clear, clean drink, livened up by the single cherry. I don’t know the providence of the drink, or how it got its name, but the martini seems a suitable toast to two significant men. Salut!
Rinse a martini glass with a few drops of absinthe, or as I did here, absinthe bitters, and leave to cool in a freezer while you prepare the rest of the drink.
35ml of gin (Hendricks here)
35ml of French vermouth (in a nod to James Bond’s Vesper, I used Kina Lillet)
Stir the alcohols in a mixing glass, filled with ice. A few drops of orange bitters can be used at this point to tie the two together.
Strain the cooled mixture into the chilled glass, still wet with absinthe. Twist some lemon zest over the surface to mist the drink with lemon, then discard. Garnish with a single cherry. Drink while saluting absent friends.