Drink of the Week: The Country Gentleman

The Country Gentleman.Although today’s drink comes to us from David Embury’s 1940s cocktail classic, “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” it doesn’t really have any particular story to go with its classy provenance or courtly name. Embury just presents it as one of a series of drinks “based on an Applejack Sour.” It’s potentially a very sweet drink, at least on paper, since it includes both simple syrup (or sugar) and a very sweet orange liqueur. Still, the notoriously booze-severe Emory cautiously approves.

“With a base liquor as pungent as applejack,” Embury notes, “and with a liqueur as sharp as curacao… such addition may be possible within certain limits without rendering the cocktail too sickish sweet. With a bland liquor, such as gin or white label rum, and with a heavy fruit liqueur such as peach or apricot, this would be wholly impossible.”

On the whole, I don’t disagree. It’s a reasonably well balanced drink. Still, especially as I tend to be a bit of a baby about very tart flavors, I had a hard time finding a mix that was entirely satisfactory to me personally. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind strong citrus notes playing alongside the still under-utilized family of apple brandy boozes, this one might well be for you.

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Drink of the Week: The LeMANade

The LeMANade.As I’ve mentioned here about 20,000 times, my approach to Drink of the Week is that these are reasonably quick and easy to make cocktails for the home, not major DIY projects. While I love the companies that send me free drinks and (for the most part) really good cocktails, if a recipe calls for, say, a ginger-asparagus-truffle reduction syrup, I’ll skip it. If it demands that I use freshly ground nutmeg, I’ll very likely just stick with the store-bought pre-ground stuff, thank you very much. In other words, I’m kind of lazy and I think you might be, too!

So, when I saw that today’s recipe called for “fresh lemonade,” my heart sank. The Hornitos Tequila people have been very generous to me, both in terms of freebies and in sending me good-to-superb recipes to share with all of you, and I trust them. Also, I am a big believer in the cocktailian ethos that demands fresh juices as much as possible. (Yes, sour mix is a crime against both God and man. You can quote me on that.) I really wanted to do this recipe right, but I just didn’t feel like making my own lemonade.

I decided to get tough with myself. After all, lemonade is just lemon juice, sugar and water. How hard could it be to simply make a mini-lemonade and add it to the drink? Well, it really wasn’t difficult at all, but all I know is that when I substituted the 1 1/2 ounces of fresh lemonade in today’s recipe with 1/2 ounce of lemon juice, a tablespoon of sugar and an ounce of additional water, the mixed drink that resulted was kind of disappointing. A bit too sweet, perhaps. Way too sweet? Maybe. I’ve never made lemonade before and my poor math skills were not helping in terms of trying to make a very small amount of the stuff based on the many recipes I found online.

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Drink of the Week: Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (TCM Fest Salute #4)

Buono Sera, Mrs. Campbell.A truly smart and well-written sex comedy is a thing of beauty and not an everyday occurrence — rare in the past and rarer still in the present. Indeed, my film-besotted compatriots and I had relatively modest hopes for Melvin Frank’s 1968 near-farce, “Buono Sera, Mrs Campbell,” at this year’s TCM Fest. For the most part, we were expecting an entertaining but possibly rather routine 1960s romp and were there largely to check out its legendary star. That would be Italian bombshell-turned photographer and sculptor Gina Lollobrigida, a rather amazing woman on numerous counts who, at 88, still has a few thoughts on her mind and an innately humorous sensibility. The movie, much to our delight, turned out to be nearly as extraordinary as its star.

It’s the story of an Italian single mother who finds herself suddenly in the embarrassing position of reuniting with three men from her war-torn past, any one of whom has pretty much an equal shot of being the father of her now grown-up daughter in those days well before the arrival of easy DNA testing. If the setup sounds familiar, it’s because the plot was appropriated — without credit, so far as I can tell — for the jukebox musical and film, “Mamma Mia.” The difference is that this version is funny, enjoyable and occasionally quite witty and heartfelt.

For my liquid tribute, I thought something with a certain diversity of ingredients that might have been consumed in both Italy and the U.S. was apt. Also, since the cast mixed actors known more for conventional light comedy and drama with burlesque-trained comic Phil Silvers and true thespian wildcards like Shelly Winters and Telly Savalas, a hodgepodge of ingredients seemed appropriate.

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Drink of the Week: The Band Wagon (TCM Fest Salute #3)

The Bandwagon.For fans of classic era film musicals, 1953’s “The Bandwagon” usually ranks somewhere just below “Singin’ in the Rain” in terms of sheer greatness. Devotees of director Vincente Minelli might even argue it’s somewhat better. At the same time, like it’s competition, the final film I saw at this year’s TCM Fest is not a movie that takes itself seriously. Indeed, the whole point of the film is that even just a little too much gravitas can have some pretty disastrous show business outcomes. It’s also a given by the conclusion that, when something isn’t working, it’s best to throw out your original idea and start something new.

Not unlike the behind-the-scenes story of an initially troubled Broadway musical, my road to creating a decent drink was beset by troubles. To start with, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to skip a few days drinking, leaving me only a couple of nights to work on this week’s drink.

My problem, once I finally got started, was that I was somewhat overly besotted with one of the lesser known numbers from the film, the adorably mock-Teutonic “I Love Luisa” and its intoxicating refrain, “More beer!” Indeed, I had so much luck with some previous drinks topped off with beer that I was sure my conception was sound. It wasn’t.

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Drink of the Week: Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back (TCM Fest 2016 Salute #2)

Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back.When superstar film distributor Michael Schlesinger introduced 1934’s “Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back” at TCM Fest 2016 as the greatest movie we in the audience had never seen, I was inclined to be skeptical. After all, as a lifelong film geek, I’ve heard that one a lot. I was there because I’d long been curious about Drummond, an early pulpy prototype for James Bond created by one H. C. McNeile, aka “Sapper.” I was expecting a historically interesting movie but not one that was likely to become a huge personal favorite.

Imagine my surprise when the movie turned out to be about as good as Mr. Schlesinger had suggested. Indeed, while I remember a theatrical spoof I saw as a young teen, “Bullshot Crummond,” being very funny, it’s hard to imagine it being half as amusing as the film, directed by the highly prolific Roy del Ruth, and co-written by the almost as prolific and incredibly witty and versatile Nunnally Johnson (who also co-wrote last week’s beverage-inspiring “The Keys of the Kingdom“and was a close personal friend of my childhood hero, Groucho Marx).

“Bullshot Drummond Strikes Back” is filled with enough self-referential comedy and wit to play beautifully in the post-“Austin Powers” era, and it’s blessed with top-drawer pacing and a borderline superhuman lead performance by the always super-suave Ronald Colman. In this film, Colman seems to exist in a sort of alternate universe of perfect confidence in the face of numerous socially awkward misadventures as he continuously stumbles over dead bodies, while constantly interrupting the sleep of an increasingly apoplectic Scotland Yard colonel (C. Aubrey Smith) and the wedding night of his hilariously stolid sidekick (Charles Butterworth).

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