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.

Ward 8

img_2020The 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.

Method

40ml rye whiskey

20ml lemon juice

20ml orange juice

1/2tsp grenadine

Shake well over plenty of ice & double strain (for the orange & lemon pulp) into a martini glass. Garnish with a single maraschino cherry.

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.

 

Brooklyn: Sweet Vermouth

The Brooklyn: Rye & Maraschino
The Brooklyn: Rye & Maraschino

Tonight, a variation to a favourite recipe: the Brooklyn is based on the traditional Manhattan sweet, but instead of the bitters, a few dashes of maraschino are added to give a more fruity flavour. The combination makes the drink sweeter and somehow less intense, but it is distinctive enough to warrant a whole new name, I think. I have found descriptions of the recipe which include Galliano, but I cannot imagine how that would turn out.

This recipe is one of the ‘Five Boroughs collection’, cocktail recipes that represent distinct areas of New York: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & the Staten Island Ferry.

My version comes from Schumann’s American Bar, simply one of the best cocktail books published. The recipe  calls for neither bitters, nor a garnish (two things I look for in a true cocktail), but adding a slice of orange hardly seems like a major crime. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether the cocktail should be mixed with sweet vermouth or a dry aperitif (see the notes about Amer Picon, below); I am using a sweet vermouth here – we can try the dry version another time.

Proportions – Schumann’s recipe (using a fluid ounce measure):

1 oz of Rye Whiskey – Knob Creek Rye here

3/4 oz of sweet vermouth – Martini Rosso here

Dashes of Maraschino –  Briottet‘s version, marasquin here

Glass: 3oz Martini glass

Method: Put all ingredients into a shaker with ice & stir until well chilled. Strain into Martini glass & garnish with a slice of orange peel (or a cocktail cherry, if preferred. I think the citrus hit of the orange is preferred however).

History notes: The cocktail seems to originate at the turn of the C20th, in a book called Jack’s Manual (J.A. Grohusko, 1908). Back then, the recipe called for a rare aperitif called Amer Picon, which seems unavailable to drinkers in N America, though still available to us in Europe – Gerry’s stocks it, naturally.

Sazerac

Sazerac cocktail
Sazerac cocktail

One of the oldest cocktail recipes, the Sazerac is very simple: rye, sugar, Absinthe & Peychaud’s bitters. The bitters are very important here: it has to be Peychaud’s, otherwise you are not making a Sazerac. The correct recipe uses a large slice of lemon peel. Tonight, I am out of lemons, so have substituted a slice of orange peel; I quite like this, and find the flavours more mellow, and very similar to an Old-Fashioned. The lemon gives the drink more zip, but this evening I prefer it this way.

Proportions (using a jigger/pony measure):

1 jigger of rye (Canadian Club in this version)

1 small sugar cube or a pony of simple syrup

3 drops of Extreme d’Absente Absinthe bitters or a small quantity of Absinthe

4 drops of Peychaud’s bitters

Glass: Old Fashioned glass

Chill the glass. Muddle the sugar cube with the Extreme d’Absente bitters (if you are using regular Absinthe, then rinse the chilled glass with a few drops of the Absinthe and drain) in your mixing glass.  Stir the whiskey together with the Peychaud’s bitters and ice into the sugar mix and strain into the chilled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a large slice of lemon peel (or orange, depending on the state of your fruit bowl).

Historical note: Louisiana’s Legislature adopted the Sazerac as New Orlean’s official cocktail on 23rd June 2008.

Update: I forgot to credit the redoubtable legendary barman, Brian Silva, for making the first Sazerac I tasted when he ran the cocktail bar at Rules Restaurant. He noticed I had been drinking a Manhattan previously, and suggested I might like to try the Sazerac as an alternative. He mixed it the ‘correct’ way – chilling the glass with ice, then rinsing it with a quantity of Absinthe, before building the rest of the drink. The results were sublime.

Manhattan: Rye

Simple 3oz Manhattan
Simple 3oz Manhattan

Purists will disagree, but I like my Manhattans perfect – not made to an exact recipe, or served without flaws, but made with a mix of sweet and dry vermouth. The dry vermouth – in this case, Noilly Prat – seems to complement the spicy hit of rye whiskey (Canadian Club), and the small amount of sweet vermouth (Martini Rosso) adds the roundness the cocktail is known for.  A few drops of Abbott’s bitters to add a pleasant spicy, vanilla-ish dimension, and that’s it. Just perfect, in every way. I add one maraschino cocktail cherry, and one that’s had some bitters added to the syrup in the jar to darken it a little more. Another option is a slice of orange peel, but the cherries seemed nicely retro this time.

Proportions (using a jigger/pony measure):

1 jigger of whiskey

1 pony of dry & sweet vermouth

4 drops bitters.

Glass: Small, or 3oz, Martini glass.

Shake until ice cold & strain into the glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Historical footnote: The Manhattan is named after the club where the drink was first mixed in 1874. The Manhattan Club’s bartender was asked to create a drink for a party. The party, in honour of a politician named Samuel Tilden, was hosted Jennie Jerome – who went on to become Lady Randolph Churchill, and mother of Winston Churchill.

Bottles

Spirits are the basics of any cocktail bar, and the question is how many do you need? The answer depends on one’s tastes, and the drinks needed to be made.

A quick inventory of my cupboard shows the following stock:

Vodka
Finlandia
Smirnoff, Blue label
Gin
Gordon’s dry
Bombay Sapphire, 90 proof
Bourbon
Bulleit, 90 proof
Vermouth
Noilly Prat
Kina Lillet
Martini Rosso
Cachaça
Sagatiba
Velho Barreira
Pitù
White Rum
Rebellion
Dark rum
Lamb’s
Whisky
The Glenrothes, select reserve
Tullibardine, 10 year old
Balvenie Double Wood, 12 year old
Tallisker, 10 year old
Rye
Canadian Club, 6 year old                                                                                     Tequila                                                                                                                                           El Jimador

Plus various liqueurs (Kahlua, Triple Sec, Cointreau) and various others (home made lemon and cranberry vodkas, spiced rum and so on).