Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Hamlet Cocktails

Allow me to subject you to a bit of revisionism.  When I first stumbled on the preliminary "Hamlet's Cocktail" (equal parts aquavit, Cherry Heering, and Cynar, stirred well) it seemed that I'd found a classic yet apparently original combination.  As often happens, I took to tinkering, and found that the savory herb-cherry-bitters profile could be adapted into a number of cocktails.  Here are four renditions, one for each season, together demonstrating how a cocktail can be riffed on to produce seasonal specialties.

The King's Ghost (spring version)
Hamlet's meeting of his father's ghost is the opening scene of the play, so it seemed only appropriate to include the ectoplasm-colored absinthe in this one.

1 1/4 oz aquavit (North Shore is my preference here; use the clear Aalborg if you must)
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
1/2 oz Luxardo
1 oz Cocchi Americano
1 dash orange bitters

Rinse a small bar glass with absinthe and toss out the remainder; set this in the chiller to "season" as with the classic Sazerac.  Stir the above over ice and strain into the seasoned glass, then fill up with fresh ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Flowers From Ophelia (summer version)
I just really like this name.  Ophelia's a bit crazy and this one is too, though it makes a fine summer tonic.

1 1/4 oz aquavit (Aalborg is actually perfect here)
1/4 oz kirschwasser
1/2 oz Luxardo
1/2 oz orange curacao
1/2 oz Aperol (could use Campari in a pinch)

Pour the above over large ice cubes in a large Collins glass and fill up with soda water.  Garnish with a couple of orange half-wheels inserted into the drink, plus an edible flower on top if you're feeling pretentious.

That Sleep of Death (fall version)
Somewhat morbidly titled, but hey, Hamlet is a tragedy.  This is closest to the original in construction, with minor modifications.

1 1/2 oz aquavit (North Shore, please; your best substitute is Linie for this one)
1 1/4 oz Cherry Heering
3/4 oz Cynar

Stir the above well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a flamed orange coin.

Alas, Poor Yorick (winter version)
A few of these would be enough to kill just about any clown (look it up, kids).

2 oz aquavit (Linie is most appropriate here)
1 1/2 oz Cherry Heering
10 dashes Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas' Own Decanter Bitters
1 dash orange curacao (optional, honestly)

Stir gently (you don't want this one too cold) and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; garnish with a brandied cherry (carved into the shape of a skull if you can manage it) and a bit of fresh-grated nutmeg.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hamlet's Cocktail (Alas, Poor Yorick)

Another unusual drink, this one somewhat simpler in construction.

1 1/2 oz aquavit (I like North Shore's very interesting, domestically made rendition)
1 1/2 oz Cherry Heering (really the only cherry liqueur that works for this, unless you make your own at home)
3/4 oz Cynar (bizarre, artichoke-y goodness)

Shake lightly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange wheel, brandied cherry, or old skull.  Gaze deeply and solemnly into the glass before knocking back.

It took a couple days for this one to percolate, but now the name seems perfectly obvious.  Both aquavit and Heering are traditionally Danish and fit for a prince (Heering was an official purveyor to the Royal Danish Court).  The entire thing is rather dark, somewhat bitter, lightly shaken, and highly profound--there's a lot of flavor to digest here.

I'm rather proud to call this one original, if a bit weird.  When I shared this recipe with one of my bartending mentors and friends, his immediate reaction was "Wow, that might be a bit too strange for me."  Take that as you will.  I'm not saying it's for everybody, I'm just saying it merits a try if you happen to have these ingredients on hand.

The Gang's All Here

I just really like the name of this one.  The mix of different ingredients is rather unusual, but somehow manages to balance the qualities of each base against each other.  Like the Widow's Kiss, it's a drink that doesn't really look like it should work but somehow does.

3/4 oz London Dry gin
3/4 oz applejack (I like Laird's 100-proof Apple Brandy)
3/4 oz cognac (regular old brandy won't cut it here)
1 oz yellow Chartreuse (though I love it, the green stuff is too concentrated to work here)
1 dash simple syrup
4 dashes orange bitters

Stir and strain into a coupe or cocktail glass; garnish with an orange or lemon wheel and sip carefully.

Look, it's not a drink for everyone.  Not at all.  It's very much a drink for people like myself, who like weird stuff like the Widow's Kiss.  But I think it deserves a try.

The Blinding Sour

Clearing out the backlog a bit...

Here's a simple, highly effective use of a somewhat tricky ingredient - moonshine, white whiskey, call it what you will.  I picked some up on a whim and had a troubled time finding uses for it, but I like the funk this adds to an otherwise straightforward, relatively basic sour.

2 oz white whiskey
1 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo per usual)
1 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake well and strain over fresh rocks in a double old-fashioned glass.  Add a brandied cherry and a half lemon wheel if you're like that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Pink Panther

I always loved the old Pink Panther cartoons.  Somehow this drink's color and insinuating, troublemaking punch reminded me of the namesake.

(per 2 drinks)
4 oz genever (grey-bottle Bols)
1 oz maraschino liqueur (Luxardo, obviously)
1 1/2 oz blackberry syrup (homemade)
Juice of 1 lemon
White of 1 egg

Shake all of the above vigorously over large cold ice cubes, strain into chilled fizz glasses and top up with 2-3 oz of soda water each.  Garnish with a lemon twist, if you like.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Back in the day, the "cobbler" was hot stuff.  Or cold, refreshing stuff best enjoyed on a summer day.  Right about the time of the French Revolution, among other things, a little thing called "ice" was coming into fashion in the United States.  Along with the now well-known Mint Julep, this recipe (named after the little "cobbles" of ice it's built upon) helped make frozen water a ubiquitous part of the bar.  I think it goes without saying that the mixological arts aren't be the same without ice.  Let's have a little tribute, eh?

For the ice in question, I saved a fountain cup full of cheap machine ice from Jimmy John's.  This would normally be worthless for mixing, but it makes a perfect cobbler.  At home, you could just take some regular tray stuff, wrap it in a towel, and give it a couple good whacks with a rolling pin.

This is less a recipe than a method.  Take a glass (somewhere in the 7-10oz range) and pack it full of your crushed ice.  Add a fortified wine of your choice to fill (sherry, port, madiera, and marsala all work), 3-5 half-wheels of orange, and a dash of syrup (simple or flavored).  Pour this rapidly back and forth using a mixing tin a few times, add a few berries if you like, and sip through a straw (or not if none is available).

My suggested combinations: port wine and blackberry syrup; marsala and date syrup; sherry and ginger syrup. Yum.  Care for a little more punch?  You can spike your cobbler with a quick shot of a choice spirit.  Good old brandy would work well for just about any cobbler recipe.

Enjoy, and have a fine weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Plaza Vieja

This name may seem like nonsense if you don't speak Spanish, but it's essentially a trilingual pun by a guy who speaks only English.  I realize that statement needs additional explanation.

So: the Vieux Carré.  This is one of my favorite "forgotten cocktails" - a subtle, incisive Manhattan variation.  Take one ounce each of rye whiskey, cognac, and red vermouth; add a double dash each of Benedictine, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud's bitters; shake the whole thing and strain into a cocktail glass with a lemon twist.  Good stuff.

Here is a riff, swapping out the cognac for añejo tequila.  Renaming to match, I translated from the drink's namesake (the old name for the French Quarter in New Orleans) to a reasonably equivalent term in Spanish.  I'm not saying it's a perfect translation, but it's a cool name!

1 oz rye whiskey (I really like Bulleit)
1 oz añejo tequila
1 oz blanc or bianco vermouth
2 dashes Bénédictine (~1/2 tsp)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange peel and enjoy.

The result of this experimentation is more herbal than the original, and somewhat lighter in body; a very satisfying drink when the weather is warmer than normal.  Minnesota, man - go figure.

Rather Nuts

Here's a drink that didn't seem like it should work, but very much did.

1 1/2 oz genever (I use the "grey-bottle Bols")
1/2 oz blanc or bianco vermouth
1/2 oz marsala wine (or medium-dry sherry/madiera)
Dash of simple syrup (to taste; adjust per your wine of choice)
3 dashes Fee's Black Walnut Bitters

Stir well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass; add a couple hazelnuts, an orange peel, or both if you'd like.

The closest comparison I can make for this is a good Martinez, with a little nutty, Manhattan-ish quality from the genever (assuming you use an oude style).  The Black Walnut Bitters is a little tough to find, but brings a very round, spicy, bitter-nutty flavor to the mix.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Burgundy Sour

I love it when a cocktail idea turns out so much better than I had anticipated.

1 1/2 oz Rogue Pink Spruce Gin*
1/2 oz ruby port (I use Graham's "Six Grapes", which is wonderfully lush)
1/2 oz blackberry syrup (or grenadine, so long as it's homemade)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake and strain into a small cocktail glass; garnish with a lemon twist if you like.

This is basically a gin variation on the New York Sour, with a bold flavor and full texture.  The name was natural given its color and richness.

*I hate to be a dick and insist upon a bizarre, small-batch, impossible-to-find brand, but there you have it.  Trust me, the botanicals in this one are just perfect for the recipe.  It's a very odd gin, one worth tracking down if just to try something completely different.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Oveja Negra Fizz

Here's a drink that was even more essential the morning after New Year's.  The name comes from Spanish for "black sheep", and from a bar in Costa Rica that was also a welcome respite in my time of need.

2 oz rye whiskey (I like Bulleit)
3/4 oz blackberry syrup (homemade per the standard process)
1 medium egg (use the smallest you can find)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Shake very well, strain into a chilled fizz glass, and top up with 2-3 oz of soda water to taste.  Garnish with a lemon twist if you like, or drink straight away if you need.

Yes, this drink makes use of a whole chicken berry - if you're squeamish, use pasteurized eggs.  If all you can find are large or extra-large eggs (as might be the case with pasteurized) then make 2 drinks per whole egg.

That Old Voodoo Magic

Here's a drink that had to happen after yet another Service Industry New Year.  The name comes from its similarity in mixing to the Corpse Reviver #2, perhaps one of my favorite "forgotten cocktails".

1 oz aged rhum agricole (I used Depaz)
1 oz orange curacao (I used Torres because it's what I had, but GrandmaMarie Brizard, or any other brandy-based orange liqueur would do)
1 oz Dubonnet
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3-4 drops absinthe (seriously, drops)

Shake and strain into a cocktail glass (or coupe).  Garnish with a lime wheel and smile.

This is an incisive, herbal, round and honeyed punch of a drink, and I am damned proud of it.  Especially the name; I love a name that you just have to explain.  I might try a variation with aged tequila in place of rhum and Cocchi Americano in place of Dubonnet.

Happy 2012.  Welcome to the end of the world!