Drink of the Week: The Honolulu

the Honolulu

Last month, I was faced with the challenge of coming up with a cocktail to justify those free bottles of Booker’s and Baker’s bourbon that the Jim Beam Small Batch folks so kindly sent my way. This week, I have another — and I think even better — cocktail usage for these justifiably widely praised high-proof and moderately pricey bourbons.

The Beam folks might insist that the best way to enjoy these bourbons is with just a splash of water or an ice cube, but I think they really work well in this week’s drink. It’s a bitters-free variation on the Manhattan (originally featured on BE here) that really comes into its own with a bourbon packed with flavor, and alcohol, than on an ordinary 80-90 proofer. It’s also about as simple as a cocktail gets.

The Honolulu

1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Lemon twist (garnish)

Combine in the bourbon and vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Depending on your preference, stir or shake (I shake) vigorously. Strain into a highly chilled cocktail glass, add the lemon twist, and drink. You may also ponder what the connection could possibly between this drink and the famed Hawaiian metropolis. I haven’t a clue.

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At least using Booker’s or Baker’s, this is a very refined drink for people who enjoy a lot of intriguing flavors dancing across the tongue. While using the very high-proof Booker’s resulted in a gentle-yet-tongue tickling beverage with a subtly spicy flavor, I actually leaned towards the version I made with Baker’s. At 107 proof, Baker’s is practically children’s fare compared to the massive 128.5 power of Booker’s, but at least using the Martini vermouths I had on hand, the result was actually more complex and intriguing.

I did try to experiment with this drink by substituting Punt e Mes for the sweet vermouth and adding a Badabing cherry. You know how they say that most experiments fail? Stick with the traditional Honolulu. This is a cocktail that’s interesting enough to entertain the brain while powerful enough to (oh so pleasantly) dull it. No reason to mess with something this good.

Say goodnight, Gracie and Eleanor.

[Writer's note: I'd like to dedicate this post to my mother, Charlotte Bows Westal, who went on to the great Coconut Grove in the sky at age 84, shortly after this post was put together earlier this week. Mom was never a really a writer, a big drinker, or a connoisseur, but she knew the value of good grammar and a well-stocked bar -- even if she wasn't above pouring the cheap stuff into bottles of the good stuff or reading questionable bestsellers. She would have liked today's clip, too, I think. Maybe she even saw it on the big screen back in '39.]

  

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Drink of the Week: The Billionaire

The Billionaire So, you see, the Jim Beam people have been celebrating the fact that September is National Bourbon Heritage Month (declared by an act of congress!) by sending out free high-end booze to people like me. Which is all well and good — very good, in fact, as far as I’m concerned.

There is a small catch, however.

You see, the company line is that the two slow batch bourbons in questions, Booker’s and Baker’s, are not really intended for cocktails. Sure, at 107 proof for Baker’s and a gobsmacking 128.5 proof on my particular bottle of Booker’s, not a lot of people are going to drink this stuff completely straight, but for most serious bourbon drinkers a bit of water or maybe a single large ice cube will do just fine and be dandy and very nice.

Still, this is a cocktail blog and cocktails are what I like. Also, rules are apparently made to be broken and mixologists have, in fact, been using Baker’s, at least, in cocktails. I found this very nice little recipe, credited to Manhattan bartender Dushan Zaric, that was set up for Baker’s but actually works even better for this boozer with the harder edged Baker’s. Also, given recent political events, I kind of enjoy the name. This one’s for you, Mitt.

The Billionaire

2 ounces very high proof bourbon
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine (ideally a brand that has some actual pomegranate juice in it)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce of absinthe or, if you’ve got it, absinthe bitters (I don’t!)
1 thin-sliced lemon wheel (garnish)

Combine bourbon, lemon juice, grenadine, absinthe, and simple syrup (you can probably substitute a tablespoon of superfine sugar) in a cocktail shaker. Add tons of ice. Shake vigorously and pour into a chilled cocktail glass or rocks glass. (I used the latter.) Sip, and try not to spill any on your ascot.

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Though this drink teeters on the edge of my personal sensitivity towards excess tartness, all that grenadine and simple syrup, plus the natural sweetness of bourbon, turn out to be more than sufficient for counteracting the lemon juice in a productive matter. I should add that most (but not all) recipes call strictly for absinthe bitters, not just absinthe and some seem to imply you should use some kind of super-fancy grenadine.

Well, all I can say is that my drink tasted fine using the cheap-ass absinthe and the more-authentic-than-usual grenadine I happened to have on hand. I might actually be a member of the income-tax paying 53% percent, but I sure as hell ain’t no billionaire.

  

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