Sunday, October 2, 2011

Catching up

Hah - see!  Any of my writings beginning with a manifesto almost immediately fails to meet its stated goal.  No matter, let's just make up for some lost time.

I spent a significant chunk of this weekend behind a bar, and as usual when we're overstaffed, we had some time for experimentation.  We set a goal of utilizing scotch, which we don't sell much of.  What little we do sell is primarily single malt, and served neat, so the poor sad bottle of Johnny Walker Black sits lonely among its fellows on the shelf.  Why not let him have a little fun?

Blended scotch was all the rage about a hundred years ago, and grew to popularity out of marketing genius, capitalizing on the American invasion of a uniquely Scottish phenomenon: golf.  It's a key component in a very classic Manhattan variation, the Rob Roy, which is a damned good drink if made properly.  Dave Wondrich (via Imbibe!) gives a recipe from 1902 made with equal parts scotch and red vermouth, plus a few dashes of orange bitters and lemon peel.  Another favorite of mine is the Marie Taylor, a drink rescued from oblivion by Dr. Cocktail himself (I got the recipe from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, but the linked recipe is almost identical).  Why the Mamie Taylor ever went out of fashion is beyond me, as it's basically a richer, more interesting Moscow Mule that appeals even to non-scotch-drinkers.

Anyway, scotch doesn't appear in a great number of cocktails, mostly because it's notoriously hard to mix with, but it can be quite effective if well-used.  My first attempt was a rather simple Rob Roy variation made with Johnny Walker Black, Cynar, and Licor 43: easy, tasty, but nothing too far off the beaten path.  Coworker David immediately surprised me by grabbing a handful of fresh strawberries and muddling them with the Johnny Walker and a bit of Grand Marnier to tie things together.  A dash of orange juice completed his attempt, but the result fell flat until I grabbed some Fee's Aztec Chocolate Bitters in a fit of inspiration.  The result had a surprising balance between scotch-chocolate richness and strawberry-orange tartness, although I would love to swap the Marnier for a liqueur with some vanilla character like Tuaca, plus maybe an egg for texture...

Having passed these two around to the staff, we started deviating from our original mission.  David took aim at the row of amaros that have been steadily accumulating on the back shelf of the bar, while I reached for a recent addition: St. George absinthe.  I was slightly nervous about tequila as a base, but a resposado (in this case, Aguavales Gold, which is very good for the price) worked wonderfully when paired again with Licor 43.  The herbs and spices in all three teamed up wonderfully, although I would have loved to try an añejo if we carried one.

We'll squeeze recipes out of these yet; for now, they're still just ideas.  I hope you don't mind the banter.  I'll make up the missing recipes with some oldies from my tasting notebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment