Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pegu Club Cocktail, 2 p.m. Easter Sunday

Pegu Club Cocktail
This morning I warned my wife that we would be trying a Pegu Club Cocktail in the afternoon, followed by a Leatherneck Cocktail in the evening. The first would be to celebrate the first real day of spring... I mean the first day without rain or rawness, the first day of spring in Boston to reach the 70s in temperature. The second would be our inaugural attempt at the concoction of whiskey, lime, and blue curacao that is called the "Leatherneck," and which is the most unreal blue color. But more on that drink here.

So, this morning we arose early and opened all the windows in our flat, before heading out for a walk in Arnold Arboretum, where the spring blossoms were exploding in clouds of white and pink, and the air was redolent with that hint of citrus and perfume that those first blooms possess... A scent one can only fall short of explaining, for how can words, in their relative permanence, capture the weightlessness of that exotic fragrance? It was warm outside, for the first time of the year, and residents of the neighborhood were out en masse, as were the more adventurous tourists.

We walked for a few hours through the Arboretum and absorbed the warm, pine- and blossom-scented air. I took in some sun, trying vainly to restore the fading color earned during a recent vacation in Hawaii (more on that later, when relating the magic of a true Mai Tai). And then we returned home, and I made my second-ever Pegu Club Cocktail.

The Pegu Club of Rangoon was located in the far reaches of Burma (Myanmar today) during the era of British colonialism. I am not sure if it still exists. Sequestered in their sweltering outpost, the British colonists took refuge in their club, and enjoyed their gins and tonic or "Pink Gins" (gin and Angostura bitters). Luckily for them, the Pegu Club devised the cocktail which ended up taking its name.

It is refreshing and lovely to look at, with the herbal nature of gin, the tart note of citrus, and the sweet hint of orange. The beauty of the Pegu Club is that you can change the nuance of the flavor with variations in the amount of bitters you use. I haven't really broken from the recipe (which is taken from Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology), but I have adjusted the use of bitters, and in doing so, have had a few distinctly unique experiences with the Pegu Club.

I used Rogue Spirit's Spruce Gin (from Oregon), but it is probably made more frequently with Bombay or Tanqueray (or any of the London dry gins); you could try it with Hendrick's, or your favorite dry gin, for various nuances. Perhaps somebody has tried it with genever or other styled gins. It would be an interesting experiment.

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz gin
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz Cointreau
2 generous dashes of Angostura bitters
2 modest dashes of Regan's orange bitters*

Shake it hard with ice. Strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Gaze at the beautiful color. Clink glasses. Savor the flavor. I don't use a garnish but you could use a lime wheel or lime peel. "They" say grapefruit peel might be nice with this too. I'd say it is fine without any of those.

Bottoms up...

*Ah, the bitters. This is the element of any cocktail which truly makes all the difference. How many dashes? Which brand? I enjoy using Regan's orange bitters in this, two small dashes. It is a more bitter orange flavor than Fee Brothers orange bitters, in my humble opinion. I'd like to try it with Angostura orange bitters too. By the way, the Angostura bitters in this drink provide it's marvelous hue. A sunset color, sort of. Vary your Angostura and see what happens. I use two generous dashes in my version. 

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