Drink of the Week: The Gloom Lifter

The Gloom Lifter.David A. Embury opened his epochal “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” with these words: “Anyone can make good cocktails.” It’s clear that you don’t need to be a genius to do it, and I have often proven that point through some very non-genius behavior. Most recently, I seem to be unable to read a calendar, because I’ve been congratulating myself that today’s dandy Irish whiskey-based recipe would be just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It was only when it was much too late that I realized this week’s DOTW post would be appearing on March 18th.

Anyhow, today’s drink does indeed come to us directly from Mr. Embury’s 1948 classic. It’s basically just a very simple take on a Whiskey Sour using Irish whiskey. Still, these very specific proportions seem to suit perhaps the most weirdly underused of all the most popular base spirits.

Indeed, I really don’t see any reason at all why Irish whiskey isn’t used more often. At least to my palette, its always agreeable taste profile is a hair less mellow than Canadian whiskey but definitely gentler and far more easily mixable than Scotch. It definitely works in my personal prescription for any lingering post-St. Paddy’s depression.

The Gloom Lifter

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1/2 ounce egg white (1 ounce of packaged egg white)

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. First, shake the ingredients to properly emulsify the egg white, being careful to keep a good seal while you do so; the albumin in egg white can make for a potentially messy chemical reaction on the so-called dry shake. Next, add ice and shake vigorously. Embury tells us that 15 seconds is about the right amount of time for most drinks. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how perfect this drink might be on March 17, 2017… which will fall on a Friday, so I’ll presumably be right on time for a change with a holiday-appropriate beverage.

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Drink of the Week: The Applejack Rabbit

The Applejack Rabbit.So, if you’ve been wondering when I’d finally get around to finding a source for cocktails other than Harry Craddock’s 1930 “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” this is your week, more or less.

Like Craddock’s book, “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury is one of the ur-texts of today’s cocktailian scene. Still, it is a different animal than Craddock’s tome because it’s much more than a recipe book.  Embury, you see, was not a bartender at all and, apart from this book, was not really a professional author either; he made his living as a tax lawyer. His book is essentially a lengthy and extremely opinionated exploration of the best ways to prepare and consume mixed beverages from the point of view of an enthusiastic bar patron and home booze hobbyist. Before the appearance of such latter day booze historian/philosophers as David Wondrich and Ted Haigh, there was pretty much this one single book, and — at least to my very limited knowledge — not much else if you really wanted a thoughtful look at what makes a good drink a good drink.

First published in 1948 and last updated in 1956, a lot of Embury’s book is obviously dated and/or downright inaccurate. Embury finds most tequila to be an abomination, while having some surprisingly kind words for Southern Comfort. He was absolutely certain that alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver were unrelated illnesses. He also has a reputation for suggesting drinks that can be almost ascetic in their boozy severity.

For all that, the guy clearly knew his mixology, and this week’s drink is proof. It is actually the right amount of sweet, sour and boozy. As a non-bartender myself who is roughly the same age today as Embury was in ’48, respect must be paid, and one way to do it is with this concoction, a tasty delight that people of all cocktail denominations can love.

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Drink of the Week: Cocktail No. 366

Cocktail No. 36.No, I can’t tell you anything about Cocktail No. 365 or, for that matter, Cocktail No. 367. I do know that the people behind the marketing of Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila have been pushing this enigmatically named concoction as a modern day update of last week’s beverage, Harry Craddock’s Leap Year Cocktail. While both cocktails do indeed have both bitter and sweet flavors, the Hornitos people have come up with something that is far more boldly bitter in a way that’s also kind of sweetly refreshing, and which features one of my very favorite ingredients, good ol’ Campari. That’s one way to get my attention. In any event, I’d say this drink is probably closer to a Boulevardier than the Leap Year, but that’s hardly a bad thing.

Cocktail No. 366

1 1/2 ounces Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila
1 ounce Campari
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 ounces soda water
1 dash orange bitters
1 orange peel (garnish)

Gather ye your liquid ingredients in a mixing glass or, if you’re a piker who doesn’t own one like me, you can use a cocktail shaker, though you won’t be doing any shaking on account of the soda water. Instead, stir the concoction vigorously and, depending on your mood, you can either strain the mixture over fresh ice into a Tom Collins glass or pour it out carefully, ice and all. Add the orange peel garnish, and toast the world that teaches us to take the bitter with the sweet and to actually enjoy it.

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Drink of the Week: The Leap Year Cocktail

The Leap Year Cocktail.As I’ve been busily harvesting Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book” for cocktails, I’ve managed to ignore a number of holidays and special events, including Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl and, I suppose now, my personal Super Bowl, Oscar night. However, all of those occur every year.

Leap Year is obviously a different story. It would have been an act of sheer idiocy to have ignored Craddock’s Leap Year Cocktail, and the embarrassing truth is that’s very nearly what happened. I’m glad to say, I re-stumbled over the drink in the nick of time, and it’s as good a way as any to wrap up this series of Craddockian posts.

In any case, as we are told, the Leap Year Cocktail was invented by Mr. Craddock for celebrations held at London’s Savoy Hotel on February 29th, 1928. Craddock claims a large number of marriage proposals were associated with the drink. That might be impressive until you remember, as numerous other cocktail bloggers have already pointed out, that 2/29 was traditionally the only day when it was once considered appropriate for a woman to propose a marriage to a man, rather than vice versa.

Of course, we’re sorta kinda almost beyond a lot of those outdated gender roles, and women are now free to risk the humiliation of a rejected proposal. So, I suppose, Leap Year in the here and now doesn’t mean much more than getting an additional day to get our taxes ready. As for the recipe Craddock debuted 88 years ago this Monday, it’s definitely not bad, but I’m not going to get married to it.

The Leap Year Cocktail

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 dash (or more) fresh lemon juice
1 lemon peel (garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add your lemon peel garnish. Craddock wrote that you should “squeeze your lemon peel on top,” but I’m not sure what that means. You can do the traditional lemon twist thing instead, if you like.

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I tried this drink with a number of gins and a few different sweet vermouths. There’s only one type of Grand Marnier, though. If I had more time, I might have tried this with another orange liqueur like triple sec and/or Cointreau.

Such gins as Bombay Dry, Plymouth and Gilbey’s all worked fine; the result was pretty consistently floral and bittersweet, a decent combination that, even so, failed to knock my socks off. I noticed a marked improvement when I switched up my vermouth from Martini and Dolin’s and went with wonderfully bittersweet Carpano Antica, which blended more harmoniously with the bittersweet flavors in the Grand Marnier. I’m not sure if that version of the Leap Year Cocktail was worth a marriage proposal, but it certainly wasn’t a bad proposition.

  

Drink of the Week: The Improved Poppy Cocktail

The Improved Poppy Cocktail.Today’s drink is very possibly the most obscure cocktail yet that we’ve explored from Harry Craddock’s post-prohibition classic, “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” and I sense that most of the people who care about such matters would say it’s obscure for a reason. In fact, they would probably agree that the Poppy Cocktail, which contains no poppy or poultry products, is nevertheless pure poppycock.

Here’s the thing: cocktalians may occasionally be alcoholics, but they are rarely chocoholics. I, however, love chocolate. In fact, I’m having some right now. So, when I stumbled over a chocolate flavored drink that, lacking any heavy cream or non-liqueur sweetener, was actually also not horrifically fattening, I was not easily dissuaded.

Nevertheless, I had to reluctantly agree that, as written, the original recipe — two parts gin, one part creme de cacao — was simply bleh, lacking any backbone. Still, perseverance payed off and I figured out a way to make it pretty darn good with just a dash of the right product. I’m sure many of you might have already guessed where I’m taking this, but let’s get started anyway.

The Improved Poppy Cocktail

2 ounces gin
1 ounce creme de cacao (brown or white)
1 or probably 2 dashes chocolate bitters

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Say a silent prayer of thanks to the Aztecs for using cacao to make, what else, an alcoholic beverage!

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So, yes, we can’t really blame Harry Craddock for not thinking of using chocolate bitters in his Poppy Cocktail as they were likely not widely available or perhaps were not even really an idea back in 1930. Nevertheless, they are absolutely what’s needed to save the Poppy Cocktail from entering the scrap bin of cocktail history. For one thing, they actually turn this drink into a proper cocktail in the strictest sense because it now contains bitters. Vastly more importantly, they give it the balance it requires to be a decent drink for grown-ups.

I often compare bitters to the bass in an audio sound mix. A few year back, I found myself growing vaguely disenchanted with my Yamaha home theater system until I realized I was forgetting to turn on the subwoofer. The sound was tinny and lacking depth without it, but with it, my music and movies sounded just about right. The same is true of a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned and, very definitely, a Poppy Cocktail, when it comes to adding bitters.

My bitters, by the way, were Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate, but I did experiment with plain old Angostura. The cola-esque flavor of the default non-chocolate based bitters didn’t quite hit the bulls-eye, but it was way better than using no bitters at all. I wonder why Harry Craddock didn’t think of that.

As for the base spirit, the Improved Poppy Cocktail worked well with Gilbey’s and Bombay Dry Gin, though I’d give a slight edge to the slightly less dry Plymouth Gin. More important was my choice of a creme de cacao which, like creme de menthe, is pretty much just flavoring and alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with my white Gionello’s, but my dark Hiram Walker Creme de Cacao doesn’t only look more chocolatey, it’s tastes that way too. Not surprisingly, it further improved the Poppy Cocktail.

 

  

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