Friday, October 30, 2015

The Oaxacan Dead

It is the time of year when I watch horror movies. Not just a few, either. I gorge on them like a zombie gorges on human flesh. Speaking of zombies, I never tire of a good zombie flick.

As a kid, I inflicted myself with a sick sense of existential dread watching George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead. I used to imagine what it would feel like to come home from school and find my home abandoned... Front door swinging on its hinges, the aftermath of a struggle, blood caked on the floor... And then to discover that my family had become bloodthirsty zombies. Where would I run to? Who could help me? As a child, it genuinely terrified me. So, after that, I watched every zombie movie I could get my hands on. I still do. Right now, the Walking Dead continues to fascinate (and frustrate) me. Maybe it is something about the struggle to retain some human dignity within a world increasingly driven by dumb bloodlust.

Night of the Living Dead
In homage to zombies, I am sharing a recipe for a drink called the Oaxacan Dead. From what I can tell, this cocktail was concocted right here in Boston at Deep Ellum, down in Allston. Their recipe is a bit different from the one presented here. Subtitled the "Mezcal Zombie," their version includes mezcal, rum from Jamaica and Trinidad, falernum, grenadine, grapefruit-cinnamon syrup, Herbsaint, bitters, and citrus. The ingredients, especially the falernum, place this drink firmly into the tiki category (it is, in fact, derived from Don the Beachcomber's original 1934 Zombie, and is similar to the Mai Tai). In the same family as orgeat syrup, falernum is a sugar syrup with hints of lime, ginger, vanilla, clove, allspice, and almond—Caribbean flavors that impart a fragrant, tart, sweet, and spicy element.

The Walking Dead
A brief note about falernum. I use John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum, a sugarcane-derived product of Barbados that contains a bit of alcohol and is far superior to the competition, if that competition is Fee Brothers. While it might do in a pinch, the Fee Brothers falernum syrup is full of sweeteners and artificial flavors and mercilessly free of alcohol. It is worth the effort to find John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum if you plan on making any sort of tiki drink from the era of Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic's. However, if you can't find it in the store, many folks suggest that homemade falernum is not only quite easy, but also better than anything you can buy in the store. Read more about that in Imbibe magazine.

I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
Despite its tropical origins in the Zombie, I am sharing this recipe for the Oaxacan Dead now, in the last days of a New England October, because I think it is thematically appropriate for my favorite day: Halloween. Honestly, I am unaware of how the original recipe for this drink (with rum) evolved into the one highlighted below, but I can attest that the smokey flavor of the mezcal and the tangy notes of the falernum and lime blend perfectly with the earthy apricot liqueur. It's a delightful, satisfying drink—as good on a chilly October night is it would be on a beach-balmy summer afternoon—and I encourage you to celebrate All Hallows' Eve with one.

The Oaxacan Dead
  • 1 1/2 oz mezcal (I used Vida)
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur (I used Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot)
  • 1/2 oz falernum (if you can find it, John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum)
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
  • 2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
  • Fresh mint for garnish
Shake the ingredients vigorously—look alive!—with ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with the mint (if you want—it is not critical). Bottoms up!

And, Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Whittemore Sipper

After some midlife upheaval, I now live in a strange oasis called the Whittemore Estates. This is a hidden secret of Boston, a rambling property of flagstone and apple trees, vegetable gardens and a rich abundance of flowers. There is also a quite remarkable swimming pool, certainly an anomaly in Boston, that brings to mind the south of France, or at the very least, a summer vacation spot in Maine or Cape Cod.

It is now October and the pool is forlorn and covered. We are heading toward Halloween. Days have become cooler, the nights downright chilly, and the apples are falling off the trees en masse. The air is redolent of their broken flesh, of woodfire and damp leaves. 

In homage of this magical place, I have a cocktail to share. Based loosely on a cocktail by Jay Zimmerman of Brooklyn's ba'sik, the Whittemore Sipper is, as is my wont, a twist on the Manhattan using rye whiskey, Orchard Apricot Liqueur, and Byrrh Grand Quinquina (an aperitif flavored with quinine—which comes from chinchona bark—and has flavors reminiscent of finer vermouths, but with a gentle bitterness). To this I add a combination of bitters, and a flamed orange peel. 

I have played around with this cocktail quite a bit, veering away from my first choice of Punt y Mes vermouth, which is a bit too heavily bittersweet (in my opinion) for this drink, and opting eventually for the gentler Byrrh, which has tones (such as chocolate) that complement the apricot and rye nicely. You could substitute the very fine Bonal Gentiane Qiuna, another quinine-derived aperitif (and a key ingredient in the Bonal & Rye cocktail). 

Go easy on the apricot liqueur—at least if you are using the Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot—as it can be a bit medicinal if overused. And find a rye that has punch. I have been using 100-proof Hochstadter's Vatted Straight Rye Whiskey, but the 100-proof Rittenhouse Rye works well too. I'm sure even Old Overholt would work, in a pinch, but the rye flavors—all the flavors, in fact—are more muted.

Also, I have played around with bitters, starting with Regan's Orange Bitters and moving to Dutch's Colonial Cocktail Bitters and a few others. I settled on a combination of the unshakeable Angostura Bitters and Bittermen's Xocalatl Mole Bitters, which adds suitable depth and complementary flavors to the drink. However, part of the fun is experimenting, so perhaps there are other types of bitters that would bring out different flavor profiles in this drink.

Experiments are underway employing a rinse of smoky scotch, and the verdict is out. But, again, this is why drinking is fun. Without further ado, the recipe.

The Whittemore Sipper
  • 3 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz Byrrh Grand Quinquina
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Bittermen's Xocalatl Mole Bitters
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Flamed orange peel
In a mixing glass with ice, combine all the ingredients except the flamed orange peel. Stir until very cold and strain in to a cocktail glass. Flame the peel (see how to flame a peel) over the drink and discard the peel. Drink the drink. Bottoms up.

And, please don't hesitate to provide your feedback on this recipe.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Original Martini

It is feasible that one could dedicate the rest of his or her time on this planet researching the origins of the famed Martini—"King of Cocktails." Clues to its creation abound, but so do dead ends, follies, and inconsistencies.

The recipe I am posting here is not for today's typical dry Martini—though it is dry compared to the earliest iterations of the drink, which date to the mid-1800s—since this version probably has far more vermouth in it than any self-proclaimed dry Martini aficionado would tolerate. No, rather than merely washing the ice, or swirling and discarding the vermouth, or opening the cap and allowing the fan to blow the essence across the glass, this calls for a full half ounce of a good dry vermouth. And it even has bitters in it.

I realize that some basic Martini background and lore may be necessary.

For the very basic crash course: today's classic Martini tends to be dry gin and dry vermouth, mixed in a ratio that has as many variables as there are Martini drinkers. Some prefer two or three parts gin to one part vermouth. Some prefer a dash of vermouth, with the emphasis on the gin. There are many tales of people who warn that the vermouth and the gin should never meet, instead insisting that a mere glance at the vermouth bottle is sufficient. Basically, the less vermouth, the drier the Martini. The garnishes go along accordingly, from lemon twists to green olives to the Gibson's cocktail onion. (Though some might argue with including the Gibson Cocktail on this list, to this drinker the Gibson is essentially a very dry martini, with a pickled onion instead of an olive or twist; the Gibson has its own lore, and is worthy of its own entry at some point. The main difference, aside from the onion, is that the Martini originally utilized bitters, and the Gibson never has.)

As reported in "Drink Recipes: How to Make a Dry Martini, Classic Cocktails" (Thirsty NYC):
The ratio of gin to vermouth has been steadily increasing since the cocktail was created. A ratio of 1:1 was common at the turn of the 20th century, and 3:1 or 4:1 martinis were typical during the 1930s and 1940s. During the latter part of the 20th century, 6:1, 8:1, 12:1, or even 50:1 or 100:1 Martinis became considered the norm.
The more I consider this, in fact, the more I think a dry Martini is the most uptight drink in the world: there is an over-abundance of specific rituals and requests when it comes down to making it, despite the fact that it is basically just cold gin with endless possible ratios of vermouth. It's pompous, uptight, and controlling—even if it has its pleasures, too. "Americans in hell tell each other how to make Martinis," wrote Randall Jarrell in Pictures from an Institution (1954). I encourage you to read more on this angle—and, incidentally, where the so-called 'vodka" Martini stands—in the very interesting Washington Post article "Stirrings of a Better Martini."

Anyway, now that I have likely offended the "serious" Martini drinkers among you (forgive me), let's talk Martinis a bit. Then I'll give you the recipe I am so thrilled about.

Where does the Martini come from? Who can lay claim to making the first one? In The Craft of the Cocktail, preeminent mixologist and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail Dale DeGroff offers some clues:
The British claim the Martini was named after a late-nineteenth-century firearm of the same name, famous for its kick. The Martini & Rossi Vermouth company take credit for its name, since vermouth is the defining ingredient in the Martini, and they did market a bottled dry Martini around the world in the 1890s. Martini di Arma di Taggia, the principal bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City at the turn of the century, is also given credit for the Martini. Mr. Di Taggia played an important role in the evolution of the drink when he married dry gin with dry vermouth (and orange bitters) for the first time, but there's more to the story. There was a cocktail in the 1850s called the Fancy Gin Cocktail that paired Old Tom Gin and orange curaçao. At the time the Fancy Gin became popular, Martini & Rossi Vermouth was not readily available in this country, the Martini and Henry rifle was still on the drawing board, and Martini di Arma di Taggia was just a small boy.
Cocktailian Gary "Gaz" Regan writes in The Joy of Mixology, "My research points toward the drink being a direct descendant of the Manhattan. Recipes for the Martini started to appear in the cocktail books in the late 1800s, and many of them were very similar, and sometimes identical, to recipes for the Martinez, a cocktail that appeared in print in the 1880s and was often described as 'a Manhattan, substituting gin for the whiskey.' Thus, theoretically at least, the Martinez was a variation on the Manhattan, and the Martini is, for all intents and purposes, a Martinez."

Got it?

Perhaps David Wondrich puts it best in his book Imbibe!: "In the absence of certainty, bullshit blooms." Wondrich uses a series of historic pros and cons to present an investigation of the Martini's origins. If you want the details, you should buy or borrow the book, as they are too extensive to include here. However, in short, Wondrich posits four possibilities:
  1. The cocktail was created by famed bartender Jerry Thomas, who was working in San Francisco at the time (1860s) and who ostensibly created the drink for a traveler bound for the East Bay town Martinez (verdict: "extremely unlikely").
  2. Martinez, Calif., bartender Julio Richelieu invented the drink in the 1870s "as change for a gold nugget a miner gave him," and the elixir became popular when Richelieu relocated his business to San Francisco's Market Street (verdict: "unlikely, and will remain so until [the town of] Martinez documents its claim"). 
  3. The Martini was born in New York's Manhattan Club, invented by a New York judge named Randolph B. Martine in the mid-1880s (verdict: "possible, but not proven"). 
  4. The Martini was created at New York's Turf Club—and there is a documented "Turf Club Cocktail" made of gin and vermouth published in 1884, the same year the first Martinez reference appears—but it seems to be illusory as the Turf Club Cocktail was also reportedly another name for a mix of whiskey, vermouth, and bitters (otherwise known as a Manhattan). 
"In a muddle like this, anything is possible," Wondrich concludes. Are we clear on this now?

For the record, I'm not a routine Martini drinker—I do enjoy Martinis, and I tend to like them fairly dry, but I am not particularly persnickety about the gin used (I like a variety of brands) or the dry vermouth. I certainly do not spend time specifying in detail how little vermouth to mix with the gin. More accurately, though, I order Martinis dry in order to minimize the chance of a poorly made drink. After all, how can you bungle chilled gin with a splash of dry vermouth? When in doubt about an establishment's ability to make a Manhattan (whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters), I order a Martini.

So when I stumbled upon the "Original Martini" being offered at Workshop Kitchen + Bar in Palm Springs, California, I was intrigued by its ingredients of Plymouth Dry Gin, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Angostura Orange Bitters, and lemon oils. First, in the dry heat of the California desert, it sounded refreshing. Second, it presented itself as a true cocktail with bitters—something that seems to have been factored out of today's typical dry Martinis. I tend to appreciate the depth created by judicious application of vermouth and bitters, so I ordered it, and it was a revelation for me. Suddenly, I enjoyed a dry Martini in a true and honest way. So much so that I wanted to figure out the ratios of the ingredients so I could make it for myself.

The ingredients, here, are rather important—though, assuredly, you can probably approximate the taste with other brands. You can use other dry gins, or other French vermouths such as Noilly-Prat, but I advise staying with the Angostura Orange Bitters, as they are virtually clear and will no discolor the cocktail, allowing it to retain its pleasing crystal clarity."We don't know who poured the very first true Dry Martini—that is, Plymouth or London dry gin mixed with French vermouth and no syrup," writes Wondrich in his preamble to the recipe for the Dry Martini Cocktail in Imbibe! "Mixed like this, with half gin and half vermouth and a dash of orange bitters, the Martini is an entirely different drink from the one we know and, as many still believe, a superior one. For those who have learned the Dry Martini as a fiery chalice of unmixed tanglefoot, it will come as a revelation."

Knickerbocker Hotel, c. 1909
On their menu, Workshop Kitchen + Bar aligns their recipe for the "Original Martini" to that of "head bartender at the Knickerbocker Hotel in NYC, Martini di Arma di Taggia’s original recipe from 1911." According the The Nibble, some folks assert that di Taggia made his Martini for "America’s first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company. True or not, it seems to be the first time the Martini made its way to Wall Street, and then Madison Avenue, where the 'three Martini lunch' was a standard among executives for decades. By the way, Rockefeller’s Martini was made with London Dry Gin, dry vermouth, bitters, lemon peel and one olive."

So there we are, come full circle, and none the wiser for it. Without further delay, I provide my version of the recipe for one of the better Martinis I have had the pleasure of tasting.

The Original Martini

  • 3 oz Plymouth dry gin
  • 1/2 oz Dolin dry vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
  • Oils from a few swaths of lemon peel
  • Castelvetrano olive
Take a swath of lemon peel and gently spritz the citrus oil into a mixing glass. Discard the peel. Add the bitters, the gin, and the vermouth, and stir with ice until very cold (fifty brisk stirs). Strain the clear, cold concoction into the glass. Take another swath of lemon peel and spritz the oils across the surface of the drink (again discard the peel). Garnish with an olive (or a Tomolive), and enjoy while the drink is cold.

By the way, the reason one stirs a Martini is to help the clear liquors retain their brilliant clarity, whereas shaking it with ice creates a murky effervescence that is not quite as pleasing to the eye. Plus, as Gary Regan says, "the sight of a bartender lovingly stirring this drink for at least twenty to thirty seconds is something people enjoy." 

Bottoms up!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Wise Manhattan Cocktail

While this compendium of cocktails is not intended to be a forum for home-invented drinks, there are a few exceptions: the Night Tripper, the Bucking Bronco, the Shangri-La, the Dirty Cur, the Elmwood Sour, and the Whittemore Sipper.

To that short list of bespoke drinks I add one more: The Wise Manhattan. This is a good one, I promise -- if you can find the proper ingredients (which I urge you to do). 

First, lay your hands on some Riga Black Balsam bitters. It comes in a fetching ceramic bottle and has an alcohol content of 45%. To date, I have not really found a good use for these bitters, acquired under duress at one eccentrically curated liquor store. Here is how they are described by the company JSC Latvijas balzamson on their website:
Riga Black Balsam opens a whole world of sensations with its 24 ingredients. Subtle hints of linden blossom, birch bud, valerian root, raspberry, bilberry, and ginger as well as touches of nutmeg and black peppercorn tease the palate and come alive in the glass. 
Now -- with this cocktail -- the fate of my lone bottle of Riga Black Balsam bitters is sealed.

You'll also need to get hold of some walnut liqueur (noix in France, nocino in Italy, nüsse or nüssenschnaps in Austria and Germany). It is made from steeping unripe, green walnuts in a spirit. It is black, sticky, and bitter. The only brand I have used is Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur, made by Austria's Distillerie Purkhart and described as "unique for its use of alpine botanicals and renowned for its balance and exceptionally smooth finish." While I am not generally the most outspoken fan of walnuts, I admit that this liqueur is quite tasty, and works well with bourbon.

The other necessary ingredient is sherry. Not a dry sherry (though I believe there are angles to be explored there) but Pedro Ximénez, or "PX," which is a rather sweet dessert wine. It has a compelling scent of raisins (or prunes) and molasses, and functions much as a sweet vermouth might in a regular Manhattan, providing the spicy whiskey with an underlying bed of candied dry fruit, burnt sugar, and mocha notes -- complementing the walnut liqueur quite favorably, and benefitting from the balancing herbal notes of the Riga Black Balsam bitters. I found a small bottle of 2013 Pedro Ximénez made by Alvear, about $25, without too much searching. It is beguiling on its own, but its flavors really add layers of nuance to this Manhattan-like cocktail.

Together, these three unusual ingredients -- sweet and bitter -- work marvelously with bourbon, creating a cocktail with a sultry depth. The drink evokes the tobacco and leather of a comfy old manor library with oriental rugs and crystal decanters. Or maybe that is just my fancy. I found burnt sugar, dried fruit (raisins and prunes), spices, and a subtle yet clear and pleasant walnut aftertaste. The sweet is balanced by the walnut and bitters, all of which enhance the bourbon (I used Johnny Drum, 101 proof and deliciously spicy). But in my limited connoisseurship, let it suffice to say it is satisfying, deep, and tasty.

So, why the "Wise" Manhattan?

It is thought that the walnut traces back to Persia. According to the site USA Walnuts, "Walnuts are one of the world’s oldest foods and have been cultivated for at least 2,000 years. These nutritious nuts have been linked to love and fertility throughout history and their reputation as an aphrodisiac dates back to ancient Greece and Rome." Sexy! There are a lot of fascinating details about walnuts and what they symbolize on the USA Walnuts site. You can also find some background on the symbolism of the walnut tree here.

1939, © Fritz Kahn
Quoted from USA Walnuts:
Walnuts were considered beneficial for any disease affecting the head since early on because a whole walnut and the walnut meat within the shell both resemble a wrinkled human brain. According to the Doctrine of Signatures, a 14th century medical theory that theorized that a plant’s shape suggested its curative properties, eating walnuts was believed to stimulate the intellect. Walnut husks were used in folk medicine for the scalp, and walnut shells were recommended for skull ailments. In floriography, the language of flowers, walnuts represent the intellect.
Moreover: "We discovered that students who consumed walnuts experienced improvement in critical thinking, specifically inferential reasoning," says Peter Pribis, Andrews University associate professor of nutrition and wellness, who led a study on the "Effects of Walnut Consumption on Cognitive Performance in Young Adults," published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

So, in other words, walnuts might make you wiser. This is nuts, you must think. Well, let's get to the recipe.

The Wise Manhattan

  • 3 oz bourbon
  • 1/2 oz Pedro Ximénez
  • 1/4 oz Nux Alpina Walnut Liqueur (or other walnut liqueur)
  • 1/2 barspoon Riga Black Balsam bitters (or to taste)
    (substitute Angostura if necessary, or Black Mission Fig bitters by Brooklyn Hemispherical)

Stir with ice in a mixing glass until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry. Though they are expensive, I recommend using the Luxardo Maraschino cherries in syrup.

Now, raise the glass to your nose and take a deep whiff. Savor the aroma. Clink your glass, and bottoms up!

"I don't categorically hate nuts. I just don't like them in my mouth."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

And to All a Good Night

I managed one post last year and I will manage one again, this year. You can all blame the mighty Manhattan for my absence, for I have been sunk in its ever-evolving charms and comforting elegance throughout the past year. 

Now, however, that is beside the point. I am in the throes of addiction to a new magic.

It is December 21, 2014. The Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year. And this year, it will be the longest night in "the history of earth" (according to science -- or not). So, on the cusp of the longest night in 4.5 billion years, I am here to tell you about a spicy little number called, fittingly, And to All a Good Night. 

Forget that Christmas poem. At least, you will once a few of these have lubricated your puzzler. Attributed to Tim Stookey of the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, this cocktail with the unwieldy name has won my heart over the past few weeks. And, it is a truly unusual tipple in that it brazenly mixes bourbon (or rye) with tequila. And then throws in a bit of Cherry Heering. On paper this sounds truly unpleasant, but not so much that I wasn't intrigued. So I got to work.

Some recommendations for liquor: First of all, while this was originally billed with bourbon, I can tell you that, so far, this has worked best for me with a nice, strong, spicy rye. I used Bulleit and it definitely added some nuances that were lost to Old Overholt. I would opt for a similar route with bourbon--go for something with a little oomph in the spice department. As for the tequila, I used a Espolón reposado, which worked nicely. I haven't experimented too much with different reposados, but it would be worth the effort I think. Then you have your Cherry Heering (no substitutes) and your bitters. I tried this with Angostura Orange bitters, and it fell short. You really will benefit from the Regan's orange bitters. They demonstrate more peel bitterness, and have quite a bite. Then a dash of Angostura bitters for that distinctive depth. Obviously, tastes differ -- which is why it is fun to play around with these cocktail recipes.

So what would such a mix of ingredients taste like? I was surprised. First of all, the orange oils from the garnish give this a sumptuous, magical bouquet. And each sip revealed (to these taste buds, at least) the richness of chocolate; a deep, dark hint of cherry fruit; and a lot of spiciness--using Bulleit rye I found a range of sparkling, palate-rousing mint, cinnamon, cocoa, pepper, vanilla. The tequila will add its own complimentary notes, which in retrospect is not so surprising, considering it too is aged in wood and carries a spicy whomp. 

The marvel, with this drink, is how all the flavors blend together into a most harmonious whole. Exactly as it should be with a superlative cocktail. So, my lovelies, get to work.

And to All a Good Night
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon or rye 
  • 3/4 oz reposado tequila 
  • 3/4 oz Cherry Heering
  • 2 dashes Regan's orange bitters 
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • Orange twist 
Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until cold. Strain into a glass, take a swath of orange peel and gently spritz the oil across the surface (you can even try flaming it), deposit the peel in the glass, lift it to your lips, tilt the glass gently to no more than a 45 degree angle (toward your mouth, of course), and savor.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!" And, I say, bottoms up.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Corpse Reviver #3

Last night, ridiculously monikered blizzard "Nemo" blustered through Boston and left a good couple of feet of snow behind. This morning, I found myself hoisting a shovel for a couple of hours, trying to make a dent in the drifts that had cozied up to the side or our house, obliterated our walkways, and buried our stairs. It is certainly an impressive sight, the snow. However, I fully oppose it.

My aching body - in an outcry against such heavy labor - opposes it. My mind, which looks grimly ahead to the inevitable quagmire of slush, opposes it. And my nature, inclined to drier and warmer climes, most certainly opposes it.

Therefore, I decided I needed reviving. And for that, I turned to a recipe I learned about at Boston's Eastern Standard. The Corpse Reviver #3 appears on their dessert menu, and when I happen to dine there, it is what I choose for dessert. It is a descendent of the Corpse Reviver and the Corpse Reviver #2, two "hair of the dog" drinks that are intended to counter the effects of a hangover. Coming, perhaps, from the ancient method of preventing rabies from a dog bite by putting some hair of the dog in the wound, the idea is that a touch of drink the morning after a drunken night will counter the hangover enough to get you through (and, presumably, started again).

According to Ebenezer Cobham Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898):
"In Scotland it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.'"
Corpse Revivers #1 and #2 appeared in Harry Craddock's 1930 Savoy Cocktail Handbook. The first is made of cognac, sweet vermouth, and apple brandy. Seems startlingly potent, perhaps, as a cure for crapulousness. The second iteration is made of gin, Lillet, lemon juice, and triple sec - with just a dash of absinthe. This seems to be the more popular version of the drink, and I can understand why it might be less offensive as the first line of attack against the hangover.

Corpse Reviver #3, however, is as appropriate as an aperitif or a nightcap as it might be as a cure the morning after. Its ingredients are brandy, white crème de menthe, and Fernet Branca - which was invented as a stomach medicine. It is bitter, aromatic, and herbal, and bitters are well known to settle the griping belly. The spirit is, incidentally, quite popular in Argentina. It was drunk instead of British whiskey during the Falklands war. Sometimes it is mixed with Coca Cola. Most palates will recoil at first, considering the intensity of its flavor. However, one grows accustomed to its pleasures as one might those of Campari.

Crème de menthe is also known to settle the stomach, and it is commonly found in the Stinger cocktail, which is an after-dinner drink made of crème de menthe and brandy.

With the sweetness of the brandy and crème de menthe, the Fernet is tempered adequately, resulting in a balanced, flavorful grown-up beverage of considerable depth. I have enjoyed them the morning after, and the night before, with no complaints.

On a side note, trying to find brandy the night of a blizzard was not easy, and I found myself shut out of many liquor stores that closed early. I finally stumbled into the one liquor store I routinely avoid, due to its exorbitant prices and its lousy selection. It is closest to my house, ironically, and least useful to me. This time, however, as I pointed to the one bottle of brandy I could see - Paul Masson, regrettably - and asked its price, fully expecting it to be $30, the proprietor suggested I would be better off with Greek brandy, Metaxa (at a reasonable $19). So I took him at his word, and it works fine in this mix. It is a bit sweeter, to these tastebuds, than French or Spanish brandies, but with the Fernet, it works.

The body of the Corpse Reviver #3 is heavy, succulent, and luxurious. Note that I tempered the ratios slightly to reduce the prevalence of the crème de menthe, since the Fernet supplies its own dose of mint as well.

Let's do this:

The Corpse Reviver #3
  • 1 oz brandy or cognac
  • 1 oz white crème de menthe
  • 1 oz Fernet Branca
  • 1 dash of Bitterman's Xocolatl Mole Bitters
Put all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Strain into a coupe and enjoy - and let it bring you back to life. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day? Try the Commander in Chief.

I'll keep this simple. I went out and voted today. I hope you did, too. Now, I have to wait on the edge of my seat to see if the country gets turned back 12 years, or if it decides it is better to keep advancing. It's a white-knuckle moment, but I will have help dealing with it courtesy of mixologist Michael Lay at Restaurant 1833 in Monterey, California, and his Commander in Chief cocktail.

It is a well-balanced mix of rye (calls for Bulleit, but I used Rittenhouse), Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, Cherry Heering, and Campari, with some Fee Brothers Orange Bitters and, according to the Restaurant 1833 site, a Laphroaig rinse as well. I did not have Laphroig, which is a smoky Islay malt, so I tried it with a scotch I had on hand--Glenkinchie 12 year old Edinburgh malt--less smokey, so perhaps not as assertive as might be required in this rich cocktail. If you have Laphroig, try it out. Leave a comment about your experience. Decide what is right for you. Then, cast your ballot.

By the way, this is quite a delicious drink, with a lot of depth and nice orange notes. You have to be sure and flame that peel!

In the shaker tonight:

Commander in Chief
  • 2 oz rye
  • 1/2 oz Carpano Antica 
  • 1/2 oz Campari 
  • 1/2 oz Cherry Heering
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Orange Bitters 
  • Flamed orange peel
Measure and pour all the ingredients together in a glass and stir gently. Strain into a coupe rinsed with Laphroig scotch, and flame the orange peel across the drink.

And then bottoms up! Hail to the Chief.