Division Bell

A Margarita variant, the Division Bell comes from the mind of Phil Ward, one of the key bartenders credited with New York’s cocktail revival in the 90s. His much-missed venue, Mayahuel, closed there in 2017 & has since re-opened amid some controversy, but some of his most popular creations from there live on. Here is the Division Bell, that pairs the smokiness of mezcal with the citrus flavours of Aperol, which leads to its connection with the Margarita. But the smoky flavours and the richness of the Aperol make this a more intriguing proposition (though I’ve nothing against a Margarita – a properly-made one with a good tequila is a wonderful thing, indeed). I have used the most available brand of mezcal in the UK, Monte Alban, which, frankly, most mezcal aficionados think is poor stuff – but it’s what you’ll mostly find here until mezcal gets the same kind of interest levels as tequila gets now. However, the results aren’t bad at all – if Monte Alban isn’t great, then the Aperol and maraschino lifts it up. This is a really clever drink – it combines elements of a Last Word with a Margarita, and makes more of both. A perfect example of just a little tweak to a recipe can make a very different drink.

Method:

30ml mezcal

22.5ml Aperol

22.5ml fresh lime juice

15ml maraschino

Shake all of the ingredients with plenty of ice, then double strain into a chilled coupe. Difford’s guide suggests grapefruit as a garnish, but I preferred orange to match the Aperol better. No bitters required, as the Aperol provides this, but if you want a more bitter-fronted drink, a few drops of Bob’s Orange & Mandarin would work nicely

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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.

 

Voodoo

img_4016My Baron Samedi hat was in use at New Year at a masked party & although sadly we didn’t have a rum-based cocktail at the time, I thought I’d properly honour the spirit of the Baron with his favourite spirit, and mix up a voodoo-themed cocktail this weekend.

The recipe comes from Difford’s Guide. and he describes it having been invented by the sculptor and bartender, Alex Kammerling in 2002.

I like the drink – the base is a rum Manhattan variant, made fresh by the addition of fresh lime and apple juices. This turns it into a longer drink, but with plenty of alcoholic heft. The Baron would approve. My only change is to add some bitters to give it a little more zip – and with a nod to the voodoo theming, I have used Peychaud’s bitters (Peychaud was born in Haiti, before settling in New Orleans). These seem to complement the apple and lime perfectly, but ginger would probably work just as well.

Method:

2 shots dark rum (I used Havana Club 7 Años, Diffords suggest Bacardi Carta Ocho)

3/4 shot Martini Rosso

2 1/2 shots of fresh apple juice

1/2 shot of lime juice

1/4 shot sugar syrup

Option – dashes of bitters to suit

Garnish by sprinkling cinnamon through a flame onto the drink.

Shake well over ice, then strain into a Collins (Diffords method) or Old Fashioned glass (my preference), filled with ice.

Derby

Derby cocktail
Derby cocktail

Like the Suburban recipe I have posted before, here is another drink that is named after a famous horse race. However, the Derby in question is not the English version, but the Kentucky Derby, which has been run every year since 1875.

And since the race has always been so popular across the U.S. (popularly referred to as the most exciting two minutes in sport), it seems every bartender across the continent has invented a cocktail in its honour at one point or another. The IBA ‘official’ recipe includes peach bitters, gin and mint leaves, suggesting a strong relationship to a julep, but there are at least two other well-known variants. The IBA may claim the ‘official’ recipe, but I prefer the ‘sour manhattan’ version that has come from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide: bourbon, triple sec, lime juice & vermouth (making the cocktail one from the ‘modern’ camp).

If it all sounds like the marriage of a Margarita & a Manhattan, you would be right: it is refreshing, but with a good, clean alcohol kick and a rich warmth from the bourbon/vermouth combination. If you had a friend whose automatic first choice of cocktail was a Margarita, I’d hand them one of these. They will thank you for it, and you would have made one more convert from the Margarita/Martini/Cosmopolitan triangle of inertia.

I’d hazard a guess that this recipe does come at least from the Kentucky area; by May (the time of the eponymous horse race), the weather would be warm enough to need a good refresher drink, but evenings would still be cool enough to remind one of the wintery style of the Manhattan.

Proportions:

1 oz of bourbon (Knob Creek here)

3/4 oz of fresh lime juice

1/2 oz of triple sec

1/2 oz of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso here, it needn’t be too rich).

Dashes of bitters (I used the Jack Rudy aromatic cocktail bitters here)

Glass: 3oz Martini

Shake well, and strain into a Martini glass, garnish with thin lime wedge.

Embassy

IMG_0430A recent addition to my drinks collection was a bottle of 7 year old Havana Club; this is a wonderfully dark, rich rum, good for sipping as well as mixing, so I wanted to find a complex cocktail recipe that could match the level of flavour in this drink. I had tried a Palmetto recently, which has been described as a ‘rum Manhattan’, but I thought this rum deserved more. Taking a cue from the Sidecar I made a few weeks ago, I settled on the Embassy, a drink that originated in the eponymous Embassy Club in Hollywood in the 1920s. Sadly, history doesn’t record the barman who invented the drink, but the story of Eddie Brandstatter, the restaurateur who opened this, and many others, before sadly taking his own life in the 1940s is as fascinating as this drink: with three different spirits and a decent amount of lime juice, it is like a very grown up Margharita. It is a potent cocktail, and when I sipped it, I could imagine the bright young things of the twenties enjoying it in California nearly a century ago.

Approach with caution, mix with élan & drink like you are partying with Clara Bow.

Proportions:

1oz of fresh lime juice

3/4oz of Cointreau or Triple Sec (I used Gabriel Boudier Curaçao Triple Sec)

3/4oz of Brandy or Cognac (I used Chateau de Millet Bas Armagnac)

3/4oz of Rum (Havana Club, 7 year old)

Dashes of bitters (I used my own house Bt bitters)

Glass: 3oz Martini glass, chilled

Shake well in a shaker over ice, then strain into the Martini glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Variations: Diffords guide makes this drink with white rum. This would make the drink lighter, but much drier I imagine.