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?)
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Christmas Champagne Cocktail

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(c) 2010 Sarah Mennie.  All rights reserved.  

If you’re like us here at House of Bourbon HQ, right now you’re spending Advent Sunday sat by the fire, basking in the glow of your Christmas tree, listening to some Christmas music and wrapping presents or Christmas shopping (depending on your level of organisation).

If so, you need just the right drink to celebrate having Christmas totally under control, and nothing says celebration quite like the Champagne Cocktail – especially given this festive twist.  That’s right, this is the first of our Advent Sunday drinks making use of the mince pie cognac we made earlier this week:

  1. Sploosh a dash of bitters on a sugar cube and drop into a chilled champagne flute.
  2. Add 10ml of mince pie cognac and then fill the glass with chilled champagne.

Serve and smile. What do you mean it’s just us?

Christmas in the Square

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This recipe came to me via @thecocktailgeek. His enthusiasm for it was so palpable: “the best drink I’ve had all year” that not only did it convince me (an averred mulled wine avoider) to purchase a bottle of Professor Cornelius Ampleforth’s Christmas Mulled Cup and add it to pretty much every drink I made this month, it also drove me back into the arms of a trusty old favourite – the Vieux Carré.

The recipe was also featured last week on @MasterofMalt’s excellent #masterofcocktails series, so I’m a little late to the game with this, but boy is it a good one:

  1. Combine equal parts whiskey, cognac and sweet vermouth, half a measure of Christmas Mulled Cup and a sploosh of Peychaud’s bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well for sixty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled old fashioned glass, over ice.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange peel (Christmas tincture optional).

My Favourite Cocktail: The Sazerac

This post originally appeared as part of Social and Cocktail’s ‘My Favourite Cocktail’ series.

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It may seem strange, coming from a Scotch whisky enthusiast who writes under the name of House of Bourbon, that my favourite cocktail is commonly made with rye whiskey, and before that even used grain-less cognac as a base. But we dipsologists can be a contrary bunch, and as it is best to approach tipular fixing with an open-mind, I feel no compunction in announcing that my favourite cocktail is the Sazerac.

Now the Sazerac isn’t the sort of brightly coloured drink you see fooling around with sparklers and fancy fruit embellishments. In fact, in its purest form it should be served without any garnish at all. And that is the first limb of its charm. Before serving your Sazerac straight up in an unmarked glass the bartender will pause to sell you the dummy of a twist of lemon peel. After expressing the oil he will whisk it away, with suitable distain, and allow the rich flavour of the rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and absinthe to have untrammelled control of your senses.

The second charm of the Sazerac is the ritual by which it is prepared. You cannot simply toss everything into a shaker, rattle to a count of thirty and strain. A Sazerac is built from the bottom up and then inverted into a pre-chilled, pre-rinsed glass (or in my preference, goblet).

Thirdly, the Sazerac has appeal because it is a survivor. It has faced some tough times in the 150 years or so of its life. First came the phylloxera epidemic that devastated northern Europe’s wine crops in the 1870s (so cognac became rye). Then, in 1912, came the US ban on absinthe (so absinthe became Herbsaint). Then came Prohibition (and the drink withered, or at least all the ingredients apart from the sugar cube and the lemon peel were likely made in an old bathtub). Finally, after the blessed relief of the 21st Amendment, Sazerac aficionados noticed with despair that most of the USA’s rye distilleries had not survived the great drought and so the rye became bourbon.

After a history as complicated as this, it is no small miracle that the complex Sazerac, now back to its purest 1850 recipe has survived, nay flourished, and that can be put down to the fourth inherent and most profound joy of the drink: the combination of the butch, spiced notes of rye tempered with the sweet, cinnamon of the absinthe and bitters. A bracing, complex marriage enhanced by the markedly apparent suggestion of fresh lemon, all contained in the mysteriously rich red-brown tipular.

Fix the House of Bourbon Sazerac as follows:

  1. Fill an old fashioned glass with ice and leave it to stand.
  2. In a second old fashioned glass muddle a sugar cube and five dashes of Peychaud’s bitters.
  3. Add a large measure of rye whiskey and a handful of ice cubes to the sugar and bitters solution and stir well.
  4. Discard the ice in the first glass and rinse it with a teaspoon or so of absinthe until the inside is coated.
  5. Strain the whiskey, sugar and bitters into the absinthe-rinsed glass.
  6. Garnish with the oil from a twist of lemon and discard the peel.

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.

Vieux Carré

Photo courtesy of directorebeccer, some rights reserved.

The Vieux Carré, literally “old square”, is named after the French district of New Orleans where it was invented, by barman Walter Bergeron, in 1938.  Bergeron was working at the Hotel Monteleone, a spectacular Beaux-Arts style hotel, now famous for its rotating Carousel Bar.  Although the Vieux Carré pre-dates the revolving bar, something about its name or story always puts me in mind of the fun fair.

A close cousin of both the Sazerac and the Manhattan, the Vieux Carré is naturally one of my favourites and one of the few times you will see me reaching for a bottle of brandy.  The cocktail uses Benedictine as a sweet base, then combines rye whiskey and cognac, and can be served with an absinthe rinse to create a Louisiane.

To make your Vieux Carré:

  1. Take an old fashioned glass and add half a teaspoon of Benedictine, a dash of Peychaud’s, Angostura and any other bitters that takes your fancy.
  2. Add equal parts rye, cognac and sweet vermouth.
  3. Add ice and stir.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Variations include the use of dry vermouth instead of sweet, the aforementioned absinthe rinse, and alterations to the balance of rye, cognac and vermouth.

Return of the Mad Men

Photo created at http://www.MadMenYourself.com, all rights reserved.

A post tonight to celebrate the upcoming return of Mad Men to our TV screens after a break of over a year.  This American drama, set in a New York advertising agency in the 1960s has been credited with sparking a sixties revival in fashion, and as part of that, in drinking fashion.  As a result, here is a quick rundown of some of the characters’ favourite drinks, as told to your host, on his internship at Sterling Cooper (pictured above handing Mr Draper his morning paper and Old Fashioned).

Vodka Gimlet

The Gimlet is attributed to the Royal Navy who added gin to their scurvy-avoidance rations of gin to help it go down.  The vodka alternative became more popular in the 1960s, and Betty Draper is partial to the occasional Vodka Gimlet whilst conducting extra-marital affairs.

  1. Add a large measure of vodka and the juice of one lime to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a wedge of lime.

Tom Collins

The Collins family were raised in New York in the 1870s.  Tom always drank his with gin, while John preferred bourbon, and cousin Juan preferred tequila.  These may not be a favourite of Sally Draper (we hope) but she’s been mixing them for her parents and their friends from a young age.

  1. Add a large measure of gin, the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of simple syrup to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a highball.
  3. Top up with soda water, add ice and garnish with a wedge of lemon, orange and cherry.

Stinger

A classic drink of the fifties where Cary Grant and Jayne Mansfield shared them onscreen in Kiss Them For Me, the Stinger is also one of Peggy Olsen’s choices when out on the town.

  1. Add a measure of brandy and a measure of crème de menthe to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake and strain into a brandy glass.

Old Fashioned

This favourite of Don Draper and yours truly has been covered elsewhere, but let’s just say that like your author, Don Draper can mix these like a pro – and Conrad Hilton can attest to that.

  1. Muddle a sugar cube, two dashes of bitters and a sploosh of water in a rocks glass.
  2. Add ice and a large measure of whiskey. Stir and serve.

Bloody Mary

A breakfast-time classic, and a staple of the Sterling Cooper meeting room.  The Bloody Mary was developed as a hangover cure in 1920s’ Paris.  Use pepper vodka for even more of a kick.

  1. Shake a large measure of vodka, a (slightly) larger measure of tomato juice, the juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of horseradish, a sploosh of Worcestershire sauce and a sploosh of Tabasco with ice.
  2. Strain into a highball.
  3. Garnish with pepper, a wedge of lime and a stalk of celery.

Brandy Alexander

Another favourite of Peggy Olsen this milkshake-like drink was originally made with gin (an Alexander), which sounds truly horrific.  Try it with brandy instead and it becomes more like a dessert.

  1. Shake a measure of brandy, a measure of crème de cacao and measure of single cream with ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with ground nutmeg.

Gibson Martini

Roger Sterling, a self-confessed fan of only clear drinks, will opt for a Gibson, when a straight Martini just won’t cut it.  Just be careful you don’t have too many with your oyster lunch.

  1. Stir a large measure of gin with a measure of dry vermouth and ice.
  2. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with three or four cocktail onions.