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.

 

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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.

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

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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.