Drink of the Week: The Pink Lady

The Pink Lady should be no secret.So, if you’re English you automatically have today off because it’s Boxing Day, a post-Christmas holiday in its own right. No such luck here in the States, but it’s also just a matter of days before what has to be the U.S.A.’s biggest drinking day of the year. Hard core partiers call it “amateur night,” the rest of us call it New Year’s Eve. And what have I got for you? A drink that was once something of a punchline, though few had tasted it. Now, it’s one for the cultists, but I think that cult should be larger.

The Pink Lady might perhaps be known as the drink that dare not speak its name. In fact, cocktail revivalist Ted Haigh doesn’t want to put mainly drinking men off, so he calls it “The Secret Cocktail.”

Since we’re posting at the blog of an online men’s magazine, you might think I’d be tempted to keep on calling it that. Still, this isn’t a meeting of Spanky, Alfafa, and the He-Man-Woman-Haters Club and I’m here to tell you that the Pink Lady might have a feminine name, it might be frothy and refreshing, but it’s a strong and fairly tart drink that’s definitely not for sissies. It’s also got just a touch of America’s oldest booze, applejack, putting up a strong fight against a larger amount of English gin not to mention fresh lemon juice, a tiny bit of grenadine and our old friend, the egg white. Why not down a couple of these this New Year’s Eve? You just might be man enough.

The Pink Lady

1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce applejack
1/2-3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine all the ingredients except the cherry in cocktail shaker. Then, it’s time for the so-called dry shake, in which you vigorously agitate the mixture without ice to properly emulsify the egg. I might add it’s possible that you can skip the dry shake if  — like I often do these days — you’re using a pre-packaged, pasteurized egg white product. It’s a bit more liquified and less viscous than egg white straight out of the shell. (3 tablespoons is usually the equivalent of a large egg white, in case you were wondering.)

Next, include lots of ice and shake again, very vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add the cherry. Of course, if you’re drinking this next Wednesday night you can toast the New Year. Or, you can use the Pink Lady’s badly maligned name to toast the many strong women of all shades who make the world go ’round.

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Since I mentioned Ted Haigh, cognoscenti won’t be surprised that this recipe is adapted from his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which seems to have become the basis for most Pink Lady recipes these days in any case. My tweaks were basically in terms of clarifying the measurements. (He calls for two dashes of grenadine and the juice of half a lemon. I like to be a little more specific.)

I made this drink using using the remains of my bottle of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy (aka 100 proof applejack) and a few different gins. Tanqueray produced a fierce lady, intimidating at first but increasingly gracious on repeated encounters. Super high-end Nolet’s Gin — which I naturally didn’t pay for and which is making a cameo here in preparation for a leading role in a later post — produced a fruitier, spicier Pink Lady.

However, the prize went to the now humble, once regal, Gordon’s Gin. This underrated product was the good stuff in your grandaddy’s childhood and it’s still pretty great in the right context, and the Pink Lady is definitely that. The lower proof (80 compared to Tanqueray’s 94.6) and the lower key juniper/herbal flavor of Gordon’s makes for a smoother, sweeter drink that’s still nobody’s push-over. If you’re looking for some liquid company this year, you could do a lot worse.

Other versions of the Pink Lady you’ll find online are more like the Clover Club minus the lemon or lime juice. I’ve tried that, and let’s just say it makes the mocking treatment of this drink back in the day a bit more understandable. It’s not even a respectable “girl drink.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  

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Drink of the Week: Jack Maple Egg Nog

Jack Maple Egg Nog. Christmas is nearly upon us and today we have a tasty yet fairly traditional spin on the ultimate yuletide cocktail. Better yet, unlike most members of the egg nog/egg flip family, the Jack Maple Egg Nog is a true cocktail in the classic sense in that it includes bitters.

It’s a good thing because there is almost too much sweetness to be had in a recipe I purloined directly from the Laird’s Applejack web site. Don’t scoff. One thing I’ve learned from being corrupted by numerous free bottles is that the mixologists who make up the recipes offered up by booze manufacturers tend to know their stuff, which makes sense because the whole idea is get you drink the product. The only sad part is that I still had to pay for my bottle of 100 proof Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy.

Not that I minded. 100 proof applejack definitely ranks with the great American boozes and this nog variation is a pretty wonderful way to use the U.S.A.’s oldest base spirit.

Jack Maple Egg Nog

2 ounces applejack
2 ounces heavy cream or half-and-half, or some combination thereof
3/4 ounce maple syrup
1 whole large egg
1 dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
Ground nutmeg (crucial garnish)

If you’re familiar with the “dry shake” technique of working with eggs in drinks, this may sound old hat, but for the benefit of newbies, here we go.

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously, long enough to emulsify the whole egg and blend it with the dairy. Add ice, shake even more vigorously for as long as you can manage. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or something similar — the original recipe calls for a mug. Sprinkle with a small amount of ground nutmeg…not too much. Toast the spirit of fun and friendship of the holidays, also that diet you’ll be starting and the gym you’ll be joining first thing on December 26, or maybe January 5.

****

I stuck with my bottle of 100 proof Laird’s Straight for this drink, but I’m pretty sure Laird’s blended, but stil very tasty, 80 proof Applejack migh even be a bit of an improvement in some respects. Yes, the 100 proof is the superior beverage in terms of rich apple flavor. However, there may be a little bit more burn than some folks like with their egg nog, so a gentler spirit might be your preference. I  recommend, however, that you stick with Fee Brothers Aromatic bitters as opposed to the more standard Angostura. The former has more of a festive, ginger-spicy edge.

And then there’s the matter of butterfat and your choice of dairy products. To be specific, most half-and-half is about 12 percent fat, compared to roughly 38% percent fat in whipping cream.  We’re talking the difference between about 75 calories in two ounces of liquid if you use half-and-half to over 200 if you go with the heavy cream…and that’s in addition to the egg, the maple syrup, and oh yeah, the booze! Still, in exchange for all those calories, you get a deliciously creamy buffer between you and the alcohol.

The friend who helped me sample a few versions of this drink thinks that, in this case, more is more and you should stick with two ounces of heavy cream. I think my favorite version of the Jack Maple involved one ounce of cream and one once of half and half. It was a bit lighter and more refreshing than the ultra-fat version, while still being heavy enough to do the job. Still, I tried to see if I could reduce the enormous amount of butterfat in a proper nog. At one point, I experimented with just using 2% percent milk. We won’t talk about that.

  

Drink of the Week: The Marconi Wireless

the Marconi Wireless.I’m fond of quoting Arthur C. Clarke’s famous truism that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Well, despite a pretty good K-12 and college education courtesy of the great state of California, I’ll never quite understand in any visceral way how sound and images can be transmitted literally through the air. Yes, even old-fashioned low-tech radio seems like magic to me.

Indeed, wireless radio transmission must have seemed quite a magical miracle in the early 20th century and certainly worthy of its own cocktail. You can nevertheless argue that inventor Guglielmo Marconi was shortchanged in the mixed drink department because his liquid memorial is actually, like last week’s Añejo Manhattan, a pretty direct lift of one of boozedom’s most basic cocktails, albeit with just a couple of very simple alterations.

It’s the difference in base spirits that drew my attention in this case. The Marconi Wireless replaces Manhattanite whiskey with applejack, the apple brandy that appears to be America’s first truly indigenous spirit. Having just bought myself perhaps the most authentic of the very few remaining applejack products on the market, I was definitely raring to give this one a try. It might not be as masterful a cocktail as the Jack Rose, but it’s super easy to make and will tantalize the tired tastebuds of even fairly jaded cocktail snobs.

The Marconi Wireless

2 ounces applejack
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Shake or stir vigorously as you prefer, and strain into a cocktail shaker. I guess you have no choice but to toast Signor Marconi who, after all, made mass entertainment as we know more or less still know it possible.

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I usually like to try at least two different brands of my base spirit but sadly there’s basically one brand of American apple brandy on the market, and it’s Laird’s. I used their 80 proof blended applejack on the Jack Rose and was quite delighted with the results. However, I’ve been meaning to try out their 100 proof unblended Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy and it’s definitely even better, especially if you don’t mind a little alcoholic burn. (Apart from a regional brand, also manufactured by Laird’s, called Captain Applejack which may or may not be identical to Laird’s, the only real competition to applejack is France’s apple brandy, Calvados.)

On the other hand, I was able to mess around a bit with my vermouths. As you might expect, the solid and popularly priced Noilly Pratt produced a simple yet sophisticated result while the more expensive and voguish Carpano Antica added a more complex, bitter bass note to this fine Manhattan transfer.

  

Drink of the Week: The Añejo Manhattan

The Añejo Manhattan.I love tequila probably more than gin and and almost as much as whiskey and rum. Indeed, the first cocktail I ever had that made me realize there was a real art to this sort of thing was a fabled prickly pear margarita I enjoyed some time some time around Y2K at the long gone Las Vegas branch of the fabled Santa Fe, New Mexico restaurant, Anasazi. The only reason I don’t feature the fabled Mexican derivative of the blue agave plant as often as other base spirits is that it’s a pretty late arrival to the U.S.’s long cocktail party. There simply aren’t as many interesting recipes for it as for standard Yanqui boozes.

Still, as high quality tequila has grown ever more accessible, there’s absolutely no reason we can’t move beyond the Margarita which, let there be no mistake, is as great as any classic cocktail when made in the proper way.  (Shaken, not blended!)

As by far the best known high end tequila, it makes sense that today’s cocktail comes to us courtesy of Patrón. Here’s where I have to mention that I was gifted by the tequila titans not only with their very tasty, very smooth and extremely mellow añejo, but with a holiday gift box that also offers artisanal aromatic bitters from Dashfire and some very nice coupe glasses you might see pictured here from time to time. Even so, I don’t think I was overly swayed when I say that, if you use the right vermouth and the right amount of bitters, this is one heck of a variation on a cocktail super classic.

The Añejo Manhattan

2 ounces añejo tequila (presumably Patrón)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-2 dashes aromatic bitters (Dashfire Brandy Old Fashioned Bitters, if you’ve got it)
orange peel or cocktail cherry (highly desirable garnishes)

Yes, this is pretty much a Manhattan with the aged tequila subbing for whiskey. So, make this pretty much as you would a regular Manhattan. Combine all of the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake, depending on your personal preference. Patrón says you should shake it gently if you’re going that route, which worked fine for me.

Strain into a well-chilled cocktail glass. Add your orange peel or cocktail cherry, sip, and salute the great nation of Mexico. Like los Estados Unidos, it’s a country with many problems but also one of the world’s most fascinating culturas.

****

I initially tried this drink pretty much as per Patrón, using Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth and the Dashfire bitters, which are sweeter and smokier than your basic Angostura type, with the distinct presence of cloves. It a very nice change of pace from the usual Manhattan. Still, when I tried it again using the more expensive, more bitter and more complex Carpano Antica, which has become the go-to sweet vermouth for many a cocktail snob, I suddenly remembered why that was the case. The slightly bitter, chocolatey bottom took that iteration of the drink into the stratosphere.

After that, however, I had a hard time recapturing the magic of that second attempt. Later on, I actually found myself enjoying this drink more with Noilly Pratt and, despite my picture, I think the addition of cocktail cherry suits the flavor more than an orange peel but then, like everything else, I’m likely to change my mind on that point, too.

 

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Ramos Gin Fizz

the Ramos Gin Fizz.It’s the day after Thanksgiving and, if you seriously overdid it in the alcohol department while getting into a drunken political argument with your uncle Dave, you should probably lay off the booze completely today. Have a nice glass of orange juice maybe. Even so, for many a boozer, the solution to too much booze is just a little more booze, delivered with a thoughtfully prepared cushion of sugar and fat.

I admit it, the sugar, egg white, and milk fat in the drink originally referred to as the New Orleans Gin Fizz tends to soften the drink’s alcoholic blow much in the manner of that slimmer, more vitamin-rich hang-over classic, the Bloody Mary. Still, you don’t have to be a degenerate drinker to enjoy this labor intensive, slightly tart refresher, the best known member of the large category of drinks knowns as fizzes, and yet another American classic associated with the wondrous city of New Orleans.

The Ramos Gin Fizz

2 ounces gin
1 large egg white
1-3 ounces seltzer water (for the fizz!)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar (will taste slightly sweeter)
2-3 drops orange flower water (definitely optional, I say)

Combine all of the ingredients, except the carbonated water, in a sturdy cocktail shaker. Follow our usual egg white procedure and dry shake for about 10-20 second. Be careful because that egg white wants to make the top of your shaker pop off sometimes.

Next, following our usual procedure, add lots of ice and shake again. Usually a vigorous 10-20 seconds or so would be sufficient here, but in a nod to tradition — which we’ll be discussing below — try to go as long as you can before your arms feel like they’re about to fall off and your hands freeze. I managed about 45 seconds on my own and pretty much doubled that with the help of a friend.

Strain into a Tom Collins style glass or something similar, and add the all-important seltzer water to give your fizz it’s fizz. Toast the long tradition of strong-armed bartenders.

***
Okay, now everyone will tell you that you actually need to shake the Ramos Gin Fizz with ice, no dry shaking allowed, for a minimum of one minute, and preferably two, three, or 12 minutes. For that last number, you’d apparently be following the instructions of Mr. Henry Ramos himself, who famously employed a relay of 12 bartenders to prepare just one famous fizz.

I smell more than a bit of hype here. Regular readers know I’m no stranger to using egg white in cocktails. My recipe is largely adapted and adjusted a bit from a few I found online, including from purist David Wondrich and a more modern Epicurious. I, however, see no reason for self-torture to make the Ramos Fizz. Shaking for two minutes might not sound like a lot but, once you try doing it yourself, you’ll realize it’s not hard to reach your limit. “Why kill yourself?” I ask

Speaking of killing yourself, Mr. Wondrich insists you have to use heavy cream for this and derides the substitution of mere half-and-half. Having tried it both ways, I have to say that I actually prefer it with the somewhat less suicidally fattening/artery clogging half-and-half. The heavy cream, for me, is, well, a bit heavy.

On the other hand, I prepared the straight-up Wondrich take with a friend, who loved it just the way it was. I have to admit that the Ramos Fizz is slightly tart for my personal taste, but that’s the way to drink it. “King Cocktail” Dale DeGroff’s version actually calls for a LOT of simple syrup — an entire shot’s worth at 1 1/2 ounces  — while using regular homogenized milk. That didn’t solve the tartness problem for me, while also feeling thin.

In any case, I found that pretty much every version I made of this drink was satisfying, refreshing, and surprisingly non-buzz inducing — we can thank all those extra fat and sugar calories for that, I suppose.

I tried a Ramos Fizz with both Tanqueray and Gordon’s gin, without it making it much of a difference. I also forgot to include the orange flower water a couple of times and noticed almost no difference, which worries me. One time, I forgot the include the gin. That made a difference. The scary part was, it was less tart and I liked it!

  

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