Tuxedo (dry)

img_4073Like whisky, sherry is an underused cocktail ingredient. But like its Scottish counterpart, it has to be used with a certain care – its dry, subtle flavours can add a mysterious quality, but the dryness can add a mouth-puckering quality if overused.

The Tuxedo is an old recipe indeed, dating back to the end of the C19th, and with sherry as an ingredient, is most likely from an English bartender (although some stories claim it for the Tuxedo Club, which didn’t come into existence until four or five years after this drink was first seen in print).

The recipe really calls for a very traditional version of gin, Old Tom, which is richer and sweeter than London dry styles. But this recipe seems to make no distinction, so I made it with a lighter London style, Hendricks. The maraschino adds a very subtle, almost ineffable, sweetness & lifts the drink completely – it would be very different without it, even though the quantity is tiny (half a teaspoon or so). Likewise with the absinthe – miss it out, and you miss a large range of the flavour, and the aniseed notes really pair well with the sherry.

This is a lovely, gentle drink, like a richer Martini with many more layers of flavour. Probably not one you want to drink more than one of, but as an aperitif, it’s hard to beat. I took this recipe from Richard Godwin’s book, The Spirits. As he says, ‘where are you going with this?’ The answer is in the drink.

Method:

25ml dry gin (Hendricks here

25ml Fino sherry

25ml French vermouth (Noilly Prat is highly suitable)

2.5ml maraschino

Dashes of absinthe

Dashes of orange bitters

 

Stir slowly over the largest ice cubes you have (the drink needs to be properly cold, but not diluted) & strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon zest

 

 

 

 

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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.

75 – Harry McElhone style

img_1990So, here’s an oddity. Traditionally, the French 75 is a champagne cocktail, made with some simple syrup, gin & champagne, most likely invented by Harry McElhone at his American Bar in Paris in the 1920s. It’s a good drink in itself and very popular.

But today, Mixellany tweeted a recipe culled from the pages of Harry’s own book, the ABC of Mixing Cocktails, for his original ’75 cocktail’, and bizarrely enough, there’s no sign of champagne in this recipe at all. Instead, we have an entirely calvados and gin-based drink, enlivened with a dash of absinthe and some grenadine syrup. But even then, Harry describes the name as being taken from a light field gun, used by the French army in the First World War, traditionally the inspiration for this drink.

The champagne-based recipe then turns up in the Savoy cocktail book, published around five years later. So which one is the correct 75? The answer is probably both, a little like the Derby cocktail I have described in the past; the cocktail was named after a popular horse race, and many bartenders have developed their own drink inspired by the race. The champagne and calvados variants probably developed separately, but at around the same time. The mystery is how the champagne version got attributed to McElhone, when his own book describes the other. Either way, this is a good drink – calvados is an unusual ingredient, being richer and fruitier than cognac or armagnac; the presence of the absinthe adds an unusual aniseed note, and the grenadine gives it a sweetness and elegant pink colour. The flavour is something I’d describe as ‘old-fashioned’, having a combination of fruit and spice, but it’s an intriguing drink overall.

Method:

2/3rds calvados (I used a Somerset cider brandy)

1/3rd gin (I used Hendricks here, as it’s lighter, more cucumber notes suited the flavours more)

dashes of absinthe (I used absinthe bitters)

1tsp grenadine

Shake well over ice, then strain into a chilled martini glass. McElhone makes no mention of garnish or bitters, and with the combination of ingredients given, neither are needed.

Obituary

img_1916
Obituary, from Richard Godwin’s The Spirits

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!

Method:

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.

 

 

Barbados Heritage by Quinary

Barbados Heritage,  by Quinary
Barbados Heritage, by Quinary

I flew back from Hong Kong last night, and was able to take advantage of the Virgin Clubhouse before the flight. Their bar was showcasing a number of cocktails specially mixed for them by the innovative Hong Kong cocktail bar, Quinary, and their Barbados Heritage sounded like one I should try. So I did. Although a little sweet for my taste, the flavours in this drink are fantastic – rich, smooth & spicy, with a definite afterbite from the absinthe & the chocolate bitters, which give it a rounded and slightly aniseedy lingering flavour. I am a very happy rum drinker, and think this cocktail really does show off the strengths of a decent, aged rum really well. I am back out to Hong Kong on April, so plan to make a visit to Quinary one evening – if this drink is typical of their style of cocktail making, I’d like to try more from their menu.

I’d like to mention the Clubhouse barman at this point: Patrick was a star, not only making a great drink, but taking the time to come out & to find out what we thought about the Quinary recipes they were trying. He was a true enthusiast & as perfect an exemplar of a barman you can imagine.

Method:

The Clubhouse menu does not give proportions, so I am estimating here:

1 measure Mount Gay XO rum

1/2 measure Cointreau

1/2 measure Drambuie

Dashes of Pernod absinthe

Dashes of chocolate bitters

Stir over ice, then strain into a chilled glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick & orange zest.

 

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.

 

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.