Drink of the Week: The Quiet Man (TCM Fest Salute #3)

This is part three of our salute to the TCM Classic Film Fest (see parts one and two here and here). This week, a quandary was solved by my realization that the annual double-act of drinking related arguable holidays, Derby Day and Cinco de Mayo, are just about upon us, though I’m afraid the Mexican-American holiday is going to get short shrift este año.

I was struggling with another drink when it occurred to me suddenly that the film I’d planned to cover the final week of my salute, John Ford’s ultimate two-fisted romantic comedy, “The Quiet Man,” was also perfect for the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. That’s because, like nearly all John Ford films, strong drink features prominently and there’s an exciting horse race scene, though it tends to overshadowed by the film’s legendary fistfight between leading man John Wayne and comic antagonist Victor McGlaglen.

Directed by America’s cinematic Shakespeare, John Ford, and written by his frequent undersung collaborator, the great Frank S. Nugent, “The Quiet Man” is a tale of a guilt-ridden Irish-American boxer (Wayne, of course) who escapes to the old sod after accidentally killing a man in the ring. He finds true love of a very feisty and sexy sort with a very feisty and sexy young clan matriarch (O’Hara, naturally). The twist is that, thanks to the selfishness of her thuggish older brother (McLaglen), he also finds that the only thing that will save his new marriage is practicing the not-at-all-so-sweet science of fisticuffs. It’s also a comedy, made back when you didn’t have to label a film a “dramedy” just because it has a few serious moments and a decent story.

Since the film is the ultimate celebration of the rather intimate connection between Ireland and the U.S., as well as between man and woman and fightin’ man and fightin’ man, a drink that unites the sweet whiskies of Ireland and the U.S.A. while packing a slow punch seems appropriate. It’s also appropriate to admit that absent or two very minor variations, it’s a total rip-off of the Derby Day classic, the Mint Julep. Still, I think it’s a maybe a nice change of pace.

The Quiet Man

1 1/2 ounces Old Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Bottled in Bond)
1 1/2 ounces Bushmills
1 teaspoon super fine sugar
5-8 fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon (or maybe 1/2?) Campari or Aperol

Start with the sugar and mint leaves and, if you’re feeling quirky, the Campari or Aperol bittersweet liqueur. Muddle the mint leaves with the lightest of touches in the bottom of a rocks glass. Next, add your twin whiskeys, many smallish ice cubes and stir enough to really get things nice and icey.

As for our toast…let’s see, we’ve got John Wayne, horse racing, Maureen O’Hara, John Ford, the Marquis of Queensbury, Frank S. Nugent…Yeah, that’s it. Frank S. Nugent. It could be the first time a screenwriter who never became a director was toasted by the public, though it sure wouldn’t be the the first time a screenwriter got toasted.

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I have to admit I don’t feel like I quite finished the job on this drink as far as the Campari or Aperol are concerned, which I added for a bittersweet edge. I was tempted to write that you could leave them out entirely, but I wasn’t too happy with that version, either. Try one, or the other, or maybe experiment with another liqueur choice of your own. I like this drink, but it’s a work in progress.

I feel a bit more satisfied with my choice of brands, which this week I’m making a part of the official recipe. Old Fitzgerald Bourbon definitely has the right Irish ring to it, and it’s also a wonderful, underrated product that you can actually afford. Moreover, the fact that it’s 100 proof ensures that a Quiet Man really will pack just a bit more punch than a standard julep.

As for Bushmills, I’m sure Jamesons or another Irish whiskey would do and I won’t even get into the silly “Bushmills is protestant whiskey” argument. In any case, “The Quiet Man” depicts an ecumenical mid-century Ireland where Roman Catholics and a tiny minority of  Church of Ireland believers get along quite famously.

Really, though, the surest way to ensure that you have a really good time with this drink is to actually enjoy it while watching the brilliant 2012 4k restoration of “The Quiet Man,” which you can do via Amazon or, right here below. I think springing for the HD version makes sense here. You’ll see.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Rye Sierra

The Great Unnamed Beer and Rye Cocktail. It’s just possible that it has escaped your attention up to this moment, but today is International Beer Day. Of course, for many people, truly every day is International Beer Day, or at least every Sunday during football season.

The ironic thing is that beer, which was once just about the least respected of alcoholic brews in the United States, has achieved more of its props with the rise of craft beer, microbrews and what not. These days, many people who wouldn’t know the first thing about a genuine Old Fashioned or Sazerac and who might freak out if confronted with the ultra-bitter/ultra-sweet flavor of Campari, included in this week’s DOTW, have no problem with the more familiar but no less bitter flavors of some dark beers.

Be calm, however. There’s no need for conflict as I’m happy to say that beer and cocktails are proving to be two great things that, if handled properly, can go great together. Today’s beverage is a delightfully refreshing case in point.

Though it came to me without a name, like the good native son of the West that I am, I have christened today’s beverage the Rye Sierra, after its two main ingredients. It comes courtesy of a mysterious benefactor connected to the makers of the very excellent Templeton Rye Whiskey. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale gets a plug, too — even if I had to spring for my own bottle.

My first attempt at this drink was a true delight, but you’ve got to be certain you don’t fall from a great height with this one. Just make sure you bring plenty of ice and don’t overuse the swizzle stick.

The Rye Sierra

1 ounce Templeton Rye Whiskey
4 ounces Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the rye, lemon juice, and Campari in a double rocks glass (i.e., like a regular Old Fashioned tumbler, but about twice as big). Stir, and add plenty of ice. Top off with four ounces of the very lovely Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — resist any urges to stir it again at this point. Just let the brew site on top of the summit where it belongs. Salute the mountain range of your choice.

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If ever there was a drink perfect for a hot day where you’re allowed to eat nothing but popcorn, salted nuts, and wasabi peas, this might well be it. Still, I must reiterate that you are to use plenty of ice and zero stirring is allowed after you have added the beer. Much in the way an Irish Coffee must only be enjoyed through its cap of heavy cream, the rye, Campari, and lemony goodness must only be enjoyed through the ale.

Finally, I realize that a lot of you out there don’t have any double rocks glasses. I actually ran out and bought a couple myself for $3.99 each. That’s because I’m a professional. You amateurs out there can simply cut the proportions in half and drink this out of a regular rocks glass, even if you’re buzz will take twice as long that way.

Also, you have my permission to try this with other brands of rye. I did — and I bet it would have worked great too if I didn’t find out too late someone in my house had Bogarted most of the ice.

  

Drink of the Week: The Old Pal

the Old Pal.Can a drink be like an old friend? Should a drink be like an old friend? It’s way too late as I’m writing this to even begin answering those questions, but I can tell you I much prefer the older version of this prohibition era cocktail to more recent iterations.

I actually first found this one in my copy of 1930′s The Savoy Cocktail Book but it appears to date back several years prior. However, later versions that are supposed to be adjusted to modern day tastes failed to impress my personal tastebuds as much as this very simple and basic drink, a rather close relative of the Negroni and the Boulevardier. Still, like an old pal, the appeal of this drink is rather simple and easy to understand – with my favorite brand of wonderfully value priced Canadian whiskey and dry vermouth lightening up my favorite controversial cocktail ingredient, oh-so-bitter, oh-so-sweet Campari.

The Old Pal

1 ounce Canadian Club Whisky
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake vigorously – I lean slightly toward stirring on this one, for some reason – and strain into our very old pal, the chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add your lemon twist and toast, I imagine, an old pal.

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If you don’t like Campari, it’s likely that the Old Pal will be no friend of yours. While the bourbon and sweet vermouth in the Boulevardier puts up a decent fight against the Campari, Canadian Club whisky — which is very specifically called for in the original recipe — and dry Martini & Rossi or Noilly Pratt is simply no match for its undeniable  flavors. Even adding a solid, high proof rye whiskey like Bulleit, and increasing its proportion, didn’t change the Old Pal nearly as much as you might think. When I tried the more recent variation, which calls for 1 ½ ounces of rye to ¾ of an ounce of Campari and vermouth, it was still very much a Campari-forward drink, only less bright, less crisp.

I should have known, you simply can’t change your Old Pal. Not that you should ever want to.

  

Drink of the Week: The Aperol Americano

The Aperol Americano What kind of drink do you want on Labor Day? Something so strong it’ll make you lose all ambition and forget you even have a job? Maybe you’d be better off with something so delicious and sweet it’ll make you glad you have some hard-earned sheckels and can actually afford some decent booze, but not so heavy duty with alcohol it’ll dehydrate you in the late summer heat or blitz you out to the point that you’re going to have to call in sick on Tuesday morning.

So, we turn to a variation on a genuine cocktail great, the Americano. This version substitutes Campari with Aperol, another liqueur from the same Italian manufacturer which only recently has become widely available on our shores but which I understand has been delighting Europeans en masse since some time not long after Benito Mussolini was given his eternal walking papers.

Aperol is something like a kinder and gentler lower alcohol variation on the super-sweet and super-bitter one-two punch of Campari. While I love it’s more potent cousin, Aperol is, on its own, a drink with just enough bitterness to underline its delightful sweetness.  Using it in an Americano turns into a super refreshing beverage that’s as user-friendly as anything, but just complex enough, I think, to placate a not-too hardbitten cocktail snob. It’s worth a little labor, but making this drink is about as easy as drinking it.

The Aperol Americano

1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Club soda or seltzer water
Orange slice (highly desirable garnish)

Add the Aperol and vermouth to an old fashioned glass with plenty of ice in it and maybe an orange slice or chunk. Top off with soda. Now here’s the difficult part — stir. You might consider toasting the hard working members of organized labor who helped you get that weekend you’re currently enjoying so much.

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When I wrote about the Americano just slightly under a year ago, I described it as “a perfect drink for lightweights” despite the fact that I also noted it’s the first drink ordered by none other than James Bond in none other than the first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale.” Considering that lower alcohol content of Aperol vis-à-vis Campari, I guess this would be an even more perfect beverage for lightweights.

If that’s a little too perfect for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to do what I did and increase the Aperol and vermouth to 1 1/2 ounces each and make the drink in a somewhat larger Tom Collins/highball glass. It’s way good and it still won’t remove you from the workforce.

  

Drink of the Week: The Lucien Gaudin

The Lucien Gaudin Last week, I decided it was time to finish off my Campari bottle in preparation for my upcoming move. I have now completed what I started — not the move, but the Campari bottle — with a really tasty classic cocktail featuring three other somewhat more common cocktail ingredients. Made correctly, this simple yet exacting cocktail named for a once world-famous fencer can parry the tastiest thrusts of all but the sharpest competitors.

The Lucien Gaudin

1 once gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Lemon twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, preferably crushed or cracked, and stir — stir, I tell you — vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add lemon twist. En garde!

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According to some older hands at the cocktail blogging game, not to mention Encyclopedia Brittanica, the late Mr. Gaudin apparently suffered from a much too sensitive ego. The story goes that the 1928 Olympic French gold medalist committed suicide in 1934 after receiving a presumably not so grievous thumb wound from a non-fencer in the course of a duel.

How much more would the champion’s ego have been hurt to find that the relatively obscure drink named after him seems to be the subject of vastly more Internet posts that his actual life or accomplishments? To be fair, it is also rumored that Gaudin, who was a banker by trade, suffered some financial reversals during those middle years of the worldwide great depression. Even so, it’s a shame he couldn’t have pulled it all back together somehow, if only for the cocktail’s sake.

Well, at least the Lucien Gaudin is a dandy drink. Just be sure to be as accurate with your measurements as a duelist needs to be with his thrusts. When I strayed even slightly and by accident from the proportions listed above, the cocktail was nowhere near as refreshing.

Oddly, I also found that, while the common reasoning given for stirring rather than shaking the drink is strictly aesthetic, it also seemed to taste a lot better without the “clouding” that so bothers boozy aesthetes. I’ve no idea why that would be, though I suppose the emphasis on presentation in cocktails has some solid psychological underpinnings. I did find, however, that while Cointreau yielded the more interesting flavor,  a version made with far cheaper Bols Triple Sec was also extremely nice. So, there’s that much leeway, at least.

In any event, even if the late Mr. Gaudin has gotten the short of the stick both from himself and from sporting history, we at least remember him here.

  

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