The Big Apple

Photo courtesy of mgarbowski, some rights reserved

This week’s #midweekmanhattan features applejack in place of the whiskey (yes I just bought a bottle, what of it?  It’s my blog…).  The Applejack Manhattan, also known as the Big Apple is an ever so simple Manhattan variant which pays tribute to the classic colonial homebrewed apple spirit.

The deep, rich, smoked taste of applejack doesn’t provide much distinction from a classic bourbon Manhattan, but some of the floral apple notes can be found, and provide a slightly fresher nose.  The taste is of dried fruit, apricots and brandy, which marries well with the herbal notes of the vermouth and ties in nicely with the orange bitters:

  1. Add a large measure of applejack, a measure of sweet vermouth and two dashes of orange bitters to a mixing glass of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a cherry.
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Breakfast in Manhattan

It’s been a while since I’ve had a #midweekmanhattan post, so I thought it required something a little special.  It therefore gives me great pleasure to introduce a new series for House of Bourbon: Breakfast Booze!

A natural progression from our existing tea-infused recipes, this series will branch out to explore other drinks which include traditional breakfast foodstuffs.  While we’re not necessarily endorsing the idea that every breakfast should include an dipsological experiment, there is something to be said to raising a Bloody Mary or a Breakfast Martini on special occasions.

The ideal cross-over post to launch a series of drinks featuring popular breakfast ingredients is therefore the Breakfast in Manhattan, a cross between a classic English breakfast Martini and a traditional Manhattan.  Perfect for anyone who enjoys an orangey punch to their whiskey cocktails.

To start your day with a breakfast-appropriate Manhattan:

  1. Stir a teaspoon of marmalade with a large measure of whiskey in a mixing glass until the marmalade has dissolved.
  2. Add a small measure of sweet vermouth and a sploosh of orange bitters.
  3. Add ice, stir well and double strain into a martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a twist of orange.

The Cosmopolitan

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya, some rights reserved.

The Cosmopolitan was introduced to a generation of young women as Carrie Bradshaw’s drink of choice, but before it found fame on the Upper East Side, it had its beginnings in the mid-1980s as a pretty pink (and easy-drinking) alternative to the Martini for those who wanted the glamour of drinking from a martini glass, but weren’t fans of the eponymous drink itself.  As a result, the “Cosmo” gets a lot of bad press among ‘serious’ cocktail writers who dismiss it as a cocktail for people who don’t like cocktails.

The Cosmopolitan is now usually listed as one of the ‘sours’ family of cocktails, alongside the Margarita (which replaces vodka with tequila), and the Kamikaze (which excludes the cranberry juice).  In many ways therefore, it is a useful gateway drink to a world of cocktail discovery, and it is certainly more popular in my house than a large number of ‘more serious’ drinks.

The other side to that coin is that the drink has started to become a victim of its own success.  In its celebrity champion’s own words:

Miranda: “Why did we ever stop drinking these?”

Carrie: “’Cos everyone else started.”

By the time Sex and the City had reached its peak, the Cosmopolitan was found on every basic cocktail menu around the world.  This spawned a world of below par Cosmos that suffered from the use of cheap ingredients, sour mix and an over-reliance on too much cranberry juice.

I was always taught that a Cosmopolitan should be mostly vodka, with considerably less triple sec and cranberry juice, and consequently follow a 2:1:1 ratio.  If you’re looking for something a little easier on the palate, don’t move further than a 1:1:1.5 ratio:

  1. Pour a large measure of vodka, a measure of cranberry juice and a measure of triple sec into a shaker of ice.
  2. Add the juice of half a lime and a dash or two of orange bitters.
  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.
Citrus vodka works best if you have it, and a wedge of lime perched on the edge of the glass is also acceptable in place of the twist of orange but not nearly as much fun.

If you’re looking for a more grown up version of the Cosmpolitan, you could do worse than mix yourself a Xanadu Fancy – a drink that I discovered on the menu of the much lamented Raconteur Bar in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge neighbourhood:

  1. Add a large measure of vodka, a measure of aperol, orgeat, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake hard for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.

Earl Grey Old Fashioned

Portrait of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Today is Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey’s birthday, or at least it would have been had he not died in 1845.  Earl Grey was British Prime Minister from 1830 to 1834, and is credited with the creation of the tea that still bears his name.  While many stories circulate, it appears that Earl Grey was gifted some black tea flavoured with bergamot, and it made such an impression upon him that he called upon his local grocer, Jacksons of Picadilly, to reproduce the striking citrus flavour.  Sometime thereafter, due to its popularity, Twinings approached the Grey family and received their consent to market the tea more widely, and a classic infusion was born.

Following on from last week’s experiments in tea-infused vermouth then, this recipe is for an Earl Grey Old Fashioned, a perfect toast for the man himself, as the orange and cherry flavours of the classic old fashioned are beautifully offset by the hint of bergamot orange provided by the tea.  Proceed as follows:

  1. Infuse one teaspoon of loose leaf Earl Grey tea per 50ml of whiskey.  Leave for thirty minutes and then strain.
  2. Muddle one sugar cube, three splooshes of orange bitters, and some water in a rocks glass.
  3. Add a handful of ice and a large measure of Earl Grey-infused whiskey.
  4. Stir gently and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

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.

The Gentleman’s Agreement

Photo courtesy of Kerjsi, some rights reserved.

Stretching the boundaries of what can and cannot be considered a true Manhattan variant – in my mind anything that features whiskey and (sweet) vermouth – this week’s #midweekmanhattan is the Gentleman’s Agreement.

A sweet and overtly orange concoction, the Gentleman’s Agreement is an agreeable sort,  originally created (and named) for Jack Daniel’s ‘superpremium’ Gentleman Jack brand, but equally good with other manufacturers’ offerings:

  1. Add a measure of bourbon, a 1/2 measure of triple sec, a 1/4 measure of sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters (orange if you have it) to a mixing glass 3/4 full of ice.
  2. Stir well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of orange peel.

The Martini

Where to begin with this the most personal, complex and contentious combination of two simple ingredients?

Well, the Martini is a straightforward mixture of gin and vermouth created in the nineteenth century, either as a variation of the Martinez (gin, vermouth, curacao and orange bitters), or the child of an Italian vermouth distillery or the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York (for an investigation, read Adam Elmegirab, here)

Whatever your preference, one thing remains the same; the glass, a classic martini glass of course, should be chilled to ice cold before you begin. After that, the world is your olive.

The original Martini recipe (as far as I can tell) called for an equal mix of dry gin and dry vermouth, stirred gently and served with a single olive. Over time, the ratio of gin to vermouth has crept upwards, and passed two to three parts gin to one part vermouth in the 1940s (a Martini), five parts gin to one of vermouth in the 1960s (a Dry Martini) and up to eight parts gin to one part vermouth soon after that (an Extra Dry Martini).

The basic rule of thumb is that the greater the proportion of gin to vermouth, the “drier” the Martini – an old story claims that the driest Martini is made by pouring a large measure of gin and allowing “a sunbeam to pass through a sealed bottle of vermouth” and into the glass.

If I’m pouring myself a straight-forward Martini I will, by default, opt for a three:one ratio but it really is all down to personal preference:

  1. Chill your glass until it is frosty.
  2. Fill a mixing glass with ice.
  3. Add the gin, then the dry vermouth and stir gentlyfor sixty seconds.
  4. Strain into the frosty martini glass and garnish with an olive or three (on a pick) or a twist of lemon peel if you prefer.

If you prefer a more complex drink add a sploosh of bitters (the more exotic the better), sweet vermouth, or an Islay whisky.

A Dirty Martini involves the soothing addition of a dash of olive brine, and a Gibson is a Dry Martini with a single pickled onion (a favourite of Roger Sterling).

The Vesper

Much Martini lore has evolved from James Bond’s supposed love of the drink. In Casino Royale, Bond even goes as far as to invent his own variation – The Vesper, named after the delectable Vesper Lynd.  The drink was actually created for Ian Fleming by his bar-tending friend Ivar Bryce. In the book, it is introduced thus:

Bond looked carefully at the barman. ‘A Dry Martini’ he said. ‘One in a deep champagne goblet…Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel…’ –Casino Royale, Ian Fleming.

Purists claim that a Martini should always be stirred as shaking will ‘bruise the gin’ – perhaps Bond was confident in the resolve of his gin, but his Martinis, ordered throughout the books, sometimes vodka, sometimes gin, were always shaken, not stirred.