Christmas Corpse Reviver #1

Photo courtesy of Jason Swihart, some rights reserved.

Photo courtesy of Jason Swihart, some rights reserved.

The third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for ‘rejoice’.  I’m choosing to rejoice in a Corpse Reviver #1.

Now this is a drink that is a long way from its more popular cousin, #2:  No citrus, no absinthe and instead, what is effectively a brandy-based Mannhattan with a Calvados twist and no time for bitters.

So there’s no call for bitters, and there’s no spritz of absinthe, so this leaves us with a seriously hard-hitting drink that’s going to punch the corpse back into life.

Believed to have been invented at The Ritz, Paris in the 1920s, Harry Craddock described this one as “to be taken before 11am, or whenever steam and energy are needed”, but, trust me, it is equally good later in the day:

  1. Add 30ml mince pie Cognac, 3oml Calvados and 30ml sweet vermouth to a mixing glass with cubed ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a chilled coupe.
  3. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Mince Pie and Sidecar

The second Sunday in Advent is upon us!  Another landmark on the path of expectant waiting and preparation; and another night for a warming mince pie cognac treat.

This week I’ve gone for a festive twist on the Sidecar as the orange and lemon of the brandy-based classic seem to be a good accompaniment to the candied peel and currants of the infused cognac.

  1. Add 40ml of mince pie cognac, 20ml of triple sec and 20ml of fresh lemon juice to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe.
  3. Garnish with a reindeer napkin, Santa peg and a fox (what else?)

Repeal Day: The Scofflaw

Photo courtesy of ReeseCLloyd (Flickr), some rights reserved

Today is the eightieth anniversary of a magical day that many Americans thought would never come. The anniversary of the passing of the Twenty-first Amendment to the American Constitution. And what did the Twenty-first Amendment to the American constitution achieve? The revocation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the American Constitution. And what was the Eighteenth Amendment to the American Constitution? The worst amendment of all:

“the prohibition of the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.”

The Prohibition era was a contentious period in American history. Although driven by an almost untouchable combination of patriotism, medical evidence, religious fervour and social hysteria, American’s experiment with prohibition was, by 1925 widely perceived to have failed. The temperance movement had hoped for a reduction or elimination of a range of social problems – drunkenness, crime, mental illness and poverty, but instead:

“Five years of Prohibition [have] had, at least, this one benign effect: they have completely disposed of all the favorite arguments of the Prohibitionists. None of the great boons and usufructs that were to follow the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment has come to pass. There is not less drunkenness in the Republic, but more. There is not less crime, but more. There is not less insanity, but more. The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.” – HL Mencken

Ultimately the failure of Prohibition was due to the determination of the populace to continue to produce and drink alcohol. In particular, bootlegging and organised crime flourished and the underground drinking dens, the speakeasies, the blind pigs and the blind tigers rose to a level of popularity that would not be matched for another seventy-five years. Ultimately, irony of irony, many of those who supported the repeal movement began to argue that prohibition had exacerbated the problems it had set out to eradicate – largely due to the popularity and allure of speakeasy culture.

The repeal movement had permeated the American consciousness to such an extent that in 1932 Franklin D Roosevelt ran for election on a promise that he would repeal the federal Prohibition law, and in March 1933 he proved true to his word.  Finally, thanks to the Cullen-Harrison Act, Americans were free to purchase wine and weak beer (no Budweiser jokes here, please) after a thirteen year wait.  What a summer it must have been.  By 5 December 1933 the Amendment had been fully ratified and the federal laws enforcing Prohibition were repealed.

Between 1920 and 1933, however, Prohibition had had a noticeable effect on the drinkers of Europe.  Faced with the Prohibition of their profession back home, many American bartenders fled to London and Paris and set up local bars offering American cocktails to the bemused Europeans.  Of these, the most famous examples include Harry’s Bar, Paris and The American Bar at The Savoy.  In keeping with the name that had been coined (in 1924) to refer to those who continued to drink illegally in America, the new ex-pats were also called scofflaws.

So as a result, we Brits have plenty to thank these Americans for – and can look back wryly on the clearly wrong-headed idea of banning alcohol in the first place.  For them, today seems a fitting day to raise a toast to these pioneers, and what better drink to choose than the Scofflaw – a drink created by a scofflaw at Harry’s Bar, Paris, to celebrate his escape from the parched lands of America:

  1. Combine one and a half measures of rye whiskey, half a measure of dry vermouth, a measure of lemon juice and half a measure of grenadine to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and double strain into a chilled coupe glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Jack Rose

Photo courtesy of Michael Dietsch, some rights reserved

The Jack Rose manages to neatly combine two things that have been on my mind for some time.  The sourcing of a bottle of Laird’s Applejack, and my study of ‘Fiesta’ (The Sun Also Rises) by Ernest Hemingway.

Applejack is a Calvados-style apple brandy, which has claims to being the oldest American spirit due to its roots in the colonial period.  It is made by ‘jacking’ (freeze distilling) cider, and may have been discovered by North American apple farmers who found that by periodically removing the ice that formed on their cider, they could create a ‘jacked up’ drink as a result of the concentration of the remaining unfrozen alcohol.

Because ‘jacking’ could be done without any complicated distilling equipment, a rough version of applejack (and by rough we mean head-splitting) could be formed by anyone with a surplus of apples in a cold climate.  Given its rough heritage, it is perhaps not surprising that applejack has been supplanted in popularity by the more cultured Calvados and traditional apple brandies.  Although applejack is no longer made by leaving cider out to freeze, it does only consist of 35% apple brandy to 65% neutral grain spirit (effectively vodka), so it is easy to get snobby about its composition when compared to even its sibling Straight Apple Brandy which is 100 percent proof and 100% apple-based.  Perhaps as a result, applejack is rarely found on the shelves of even the most comprehensive booze vendors in the UK, and tracking it down became somewhat of a quest.  Once found, however, I found it intriguing for its history, its promise and its fruit and butterscotch/caramel notes.

As for Hemingway, well, ever since the Death in the Afternoon, I have been itching to read some more of his work, and recently picked up a copy of The Sun Also Rises on recommendation from a friend.  One thing that struck me about the opening 90 pages or so (aside from the compelling imagery of Paris in the Roaring Twenties and the unadulterated coquettish nature of Brett) is the sheer volume of alcohol that is consumed.  From the Fines à l’eau (cognac and water), to the whiskey (with or without soda), via the Pernod and the wine, Jake Barnes and his band of lost souls drink their way through all that mid-1920s Paris had to offer.

Of these various libations, one drink stood out as somewhat of an unknown quantity.  The Jack Rose has many plausible origins, with the Jack either referring to the base ingredient, the Jacqueminot rose, Jack Laird, wrestling bartender Frank J May, Bald Jack Rose a 19th century New York gangster, or a 20th century brand of small cigars.  Of these, the gangster story is most widely-renowned, and I recommend you have a good read of the story of old Jack Rose and the Becker-Rosenthal trial as you sip the protaganist’s favourite tipple:

  1. Add a large measure of applejack, a measure of lemon juice, a 1/4 measure of grenadine and two dashes of bitters to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

A wedge?!  Well, it is an oldie…

Calvados or another apple brandy can be used in place of applejack which can be a little hard to find in the UK.  Sources also differ as to whether lemon or lime juice should be used, so feel free to experiment with that too.  If you find the lemon wedge gets in the way when drinking, a slice of apple or a cherry is also an acceptable garnish.

Sidecar

Photo courtesy of Finger Food, some rights reserved.

The Sidecar is often considered to be the perfect beginner’s drink, so I am somewhat ashamed to make it the thirty-third entry at House of Bourbon.  In my defence, I am not much of a cognac consumer (outside of a Vieux Carré or Sazerac of course), so I have taken my time to get to this World War I classic.

The drink is attributed to either the Ritz Hotel, or Harry’s Bar, in Paris, where it is said a wartime captain was often deposited at the bar fresh from the sidecar of a motorcycle.  He ordered the drink that would come to be known as the sidecar as a pre-dinner revitaliser, and from that day on, the Sidecar has been a staple of many menus.

A slightly sour drink that has in times gone by been enhanced (desecrated?) by the addition of a sugared rim, the Sidecar is complex enough to be interesting, but simple enough to be easily mastered.  You proceed as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of brandy, a measure of triple sec and a measure of lemon juice to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and double strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Affinity

This week’s #midweekmanhattan recipe takes two slight twists from the classic Manhattan recipe, and mixes the concept of a Rob Roy and a Perfect Manhattan to create the Affinity.

The Affinity came to prominence in the 1920s (was that the golden age of cocktails, or what?), but can trace its roots right back to a first mention in the Washington Post for 29 October 1907:

“There’s another new cocktail on Broadway. They call it the Affinity. After drinking one, surviving experimenters declare, the horizon takes on a roseate hue, the second brings Wall street to the front and center proffering to you a quantity of glistening lamb shearings; when you’ve put away the third the green grass grows up all around birds sing in the fig trees and your affinity appears. The new ambrosia contain these ingredients: One medium teaspoonful of powdered sugar, one dash of orange bitters, one jigger of Scotch whisky and a half jigger of Italian vermouth. These are shaken in cracked ice, cocktail fashion, until thoroughly blended and cooled, then strained and quickly served.”

The classic recipe I know differs slightly, doing away with the sugar (*gasp*), and balancing out the ingredients so that we are left with:

  1. Add one measure of Scotch whisky, one measure of dry vermouth, one measure of sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass.

The more modern recipe includes a twist of lemon peel (which may or may not be added as a garnish).  The result is a slightly drier, softer Manhattan with hints of honey and vanilla (although these will obviously depend on the Scotch you use).

The Affinity has also been in the news recently as a front-runner of a new trend for barrel-aged and/or bottle-aged cocktails.  This trend has been espoused by hot-ticket London bar Purl, Artesian at the Langham and one of my favourite Edinburgh bars, Bramble.

The folks at Bramble Bar have been working with the clever gents at Glemorangie to come up with a 100ml serving of this old timer, dished up in a bottle inspired by the ole’ snake oil sellers of the American midwest.  The theory is that bottle-ageing allows for greater oxidation of the combinations found in the cocktail, and produces a similar effect to the ageing of wine – producing a world of new subtleties that a bar-mixed and immediately-served drink can only aspire to.

The Bramble approach has also seen the Affinity spend some time in either American oak barrels, which imbue the maturing drink with spiced vanilla notes, or French oak barrels for a harsher less sweet finish.  Of course distillers have long known that the choice of barrel can have a significant effect on the end product, and it seems fitting that the Glenmorangie in Bramble’s aged Affinity dips in and out of both bottle and barrel before finding its way into a glass.

I haven’t made it to Bramble to experience this new sensation as yet, but have already ‘laid down’ my own to-be-aged drinks, and will report back in due course.

Aviation

Photo courtesy of ReeseCLloyd, some rights reserved

My post on The Bitter Truth’s fantastic Cocktail Bitters Traveller’s Set has already referred to the golden age of travel.  This drink is another that brings to mind images of the glory days of Pan Am and luxury air travel.

The Aviation was an ideal at-seat serve as you drift along at hundreds of miles an hour above the clouds with not a care in the world – a million miles away from the modern pile ’em high approach to air travel.  The origins of the Aviation are unknown, but it was first published in Hugo Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks, a 1916 guide to the drinks served in New York’s Hotel Wallick.

The Aviation is effectively a tune up of the Gin Sour (gin, lemon juice, sugar) with a sweetening hit of maraschino.  The traditional recipe went as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin, the juice of half a lemon, a barspoon of maraschino and a barspoon of crème de violette to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry (or twist of lemon peel).

This recipe creates a delightfully sour drink with a hint of blue sky courtesy of the crème de violette.  However, my homebar is, as yet, lacking a bottle (it’s on the list) so I prefer the modern version which excludes the hard to find violet-brandy liqueur.