Drink of the Week: The Mary Pickford

The Mary PickfordIt’s Oscar weekend and the modern day quasi-silent film, “The Artist” is looking to take many, if not most, of the little gold men. It’s therefore kind of hard think of a better selection than this delightfully subtle and sweet, if now obscure, classic named for the single most famous woman in the silent cinema. It’s true that few of Mary Pickford’s hits — the ones that haven’t been lost, anyway — are often watched today, even by many crazy cinephiles like me. Indeed, as far as I can figure out not even the wondrous and far more classic-cinema knowledgeable Self-Styled Siren, Farran Smith Nehme, nor the sharp witted and more free-roaming Marilyn Ferdinand have written much about her films.

Nevertheless, Pickford’s legacy looms large in Hollywood even nearly 120 years after birth. She was, if nothing else, one of the co-founders of United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin, director D.W. Griffith, regarded as the inventor of the movies as we know them, and her then husband, Douglas Fairbanks, the movies’ first true action superstar.

Less fortunately, Mary Pickford was also known to partake a bit too much. If you’re going to be gossiped about for your drinking, the least they can do is name a really good drink for you, and this one is really good.

A word of warning for the deeply insecure: Writer Wayne Curtis, who enjoyed today’s DOTW in the city where it remains most popular, Havana, Cuba, described it thus: “Another lost cocktail of Prohibition, which is pink and ladylike and served with a large wedge of pineapple.” Okay, so this is a rather delicate drink, and this a blog post for an online men’s magazine, but this is one beverage that proves the value of staying in touch with your feminine side. It’s extremely good.

The Mary Pickford

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 tsp grenadine
1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 piece pineapple (optional garnish)

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake like crazy and strain into a cocktail or wide-mouthed champagne glass. You can serve the pineapple on the side, or be crazy like me and drop a chunk into the actual drink. Be sure and toast America’s sweetheart when you take your first sip.

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First of all, I’d like to give props to my friends representing Denizen Rum for suggesting this drink. It’s not just because they were nice enough to send me a free bottle and plenty of recipes that I say this drink worked probably especially well for me because of the Denizen I was using. (I was all out of the other stuff.) There’s nothing wrong with Brand X, but I really do think the somewhat zippier flavor of Denizen is adding a little extra something to my Mary Pickfords. (Though, after writing that, I feel as if I should be looking into a camera and holding up the bottle as I remind you that Denizen is available online for an extremely reasonable price here.)

Some quick words about the other ingredients. Whatever you do, don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with the maraschino syrup that drowns the unnaturally red cherries we all know. It’s an entirely different animal and a lot more interesting. I was using Luxor Maraschino. I’m not sure if there any other brands widely available.

Also, if you like a redder drink that looks more like the one in the picture, there’s an alternate recipe which is a bit sweeter but also very good attributed to the New York bar, PKNY, which boosts the ingredients up slightly to 2 ounces of rum, 1 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice, and a quarter ounce each of the maraschino and grenadine. (Naturally, they make their own grenadine and use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, though I didn’t and it was still good.) If you enjoy the Mary Pickford, you might also want to take a look at El Presidente, which we covered a few weeks back.

Finally, If you’re curious to get a glimpse into what the big deal with Mary Pickford was, you can see her accepting her special Oscar in 1976. It’s worth a look and only a touch “Sunset Boulevard“-esque.

  

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Drink of the Week: El Presidente

El PresidenteThe name of today’s DOTW notwithstanding, this post is not brought to you by the ongoing Republican primary or anything else happening in the world of U.S. or Latin American politics. Instead, we all should thank the good people of Denizen Rum. As always, I appreciate the free bottle but I also appreciate the very reasonable price tag for a fifth which, depending on taxes in your area, might give you enough change from a $20.00 for a Double-Double at In ‘n Out. That’s something because this is tasty stuff, a bit more sophisticated and complex than your standard Bacardi, but in the friendliest way.

On to the cocktail, which was supposedly invented by a Yankee bartender working in Cuba. As per Wayne Curtis, back when little Fidel Castro was not even old enough for his first game of sandlot baseball, Cuba’s somewhat beleaguered President Gerardo Machado, offered one of these to our own el presidente, Republican Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal remembered that there was this thing called prohibition going on and politely declined.

Nice story, but my first attempt at the drink seemed to explain why El Presidente has become a relic stateside. I found the classical recipes to be sweet to the point of being cloying — and that’s something considering my sweet tooth.

I therefore followed the lead of booze blogger Matt Robold and halved one sweet ingredient, orange curacao, at his suggestion. I liked that version better but I decided to also halve the amount of grenadine he suggested. I found something close to perfection when made with the Denizen rum. This version works slightly less well with plain old Bacardi, but it’s still very nice.

El Presidente (impeached, but not deposed)

1.5 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce orange curacao
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you want to be traditional, stir for a very long time over crushed or cracked ice, or you can do like I do and shake it vigorously, though the drink might not look as pretty if you do. Your call.

Strain into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Fire up original mambo king Perez Prado on the music player of your choice, imagine a day when Cuban cigars are no longer contraband, and have a sip.

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If you want to go more traditional/way sweeter, the classic version offered by cocktail super-historian David Wondrich simply doubles the amount of curacao, and I think 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably the same as the “dash” of grenadine he suggests. I will say that, while I loved my version of the drink, at no point was I able to achieve the orange color the drink has in most (but not all) photos. Mine was more of a pale pinkish hue somewhat as you see above, even with just a tiny amount of very sweet, very red grenadine. It tasted amazing, so I can live with that.

One quick suggestion, if you are determined to go with the full 1/2 ounce of orange sweet stuff, you might do as some have suggested and substitute Cointreau for the curacao. It’s not bad.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Mojito

the mojito Yes, I’ve been putting it off. Forgive me, I know not why I waited. The Mojito might be the trendiest drink going right now and there are the usual cocktail abuses committed by misguided bars, but overall it’s the kind of booze trend that even a staunch cocktail classicist can support.

Like so many classic cocktails, this venerable Cuban creation is a sturdy drink — great in the hot, moistish weather we’re still kinda sorta having in Southern California — that can bear a number of variations and is actually quite easy to make. And, or so the Wikipedians tell us, it’s possibly a relatively ancient drink and was even approved of by the Cuba and daiquiri loving Ernest Hemingway. What other encouragement do you need?

The Mojito

2 ounces light rum
1/2 to 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice/wedges
1-3 teaspoons superfine sugar
2-5 sprigs of fresh mint
1-2 ounces (approx.) club soda or seltzer (sparkling water)

Combine lime juice and sugar — use more sugar to go with more lime juice or less to go with less — with mint in the bottle of an old fashioned glass or, perhaps, a smallish collins glass. Muddle enough to mix the sugar and juice and also lightly smash the mint leaves; they need not be pulverized. Add ice — very preferably crushed ice. Also add the spent lime wedges from your juicing. Stir vigorously with a swizzle stick or bar spoon — enough to melt some of the ice. Then, top off with a small amount of club soda or plain sparking water/seltzer and stir a bit more. It’s important to remember that last step. I know because I forgot a couple of times and wondered what was missing. Without just a dash of sparkle, a mojito fails to come alive.

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Though I provided a fair amount of flexibility above, there really are an enormous number of ways to skin the mojito cat and the ‘net provides no end of options. Even so, the simplest way I found was demonstrated by Rachel Maddow on a recent segment highlighted by this reasonable thought: “nuns deserve good drinks.” Her version was fairly similar to the way I make a caipirinha and involved less squeezing and measuring and definitely called for a wide-bottomed rocks glass on account of some heavy duty muddling. You basically just cut up a lime, throw in an entire tablespoon of sugar (!) and smash the heck out of it along with the mint leaves.

I found that version worked very nicely, but I was, to my own surprise, actually drawn more to the more squeezey/less smashy low lime juice and low sugar version promulgated by David Wondrich. If you keep the lime juice to 1/2 ounce, the natural sweetness of the rum and just one teaspoon of sugar is plenty to create a really full bodied refreshment. Still, the other ways are not one bit bad. There are doubtless many roads to mojito hell, most of them involving sour mix or who knows what other kinds of chemical monstrosities, but just as many paths to mojito enlightenment.

  

Drink of the Week: The Daiquiri

http://blog.bullz-eye.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/213ba60487turale-200x3001.jpgToday it’s a milestone at Drink of the Week as we’re leaving behind our old friends whiskey, gin, and vodka for that tropical favorite, rum. Nevertheless, we’re holding on to our classical cocktail standards, so you may abandon all thoughts of blenders.

This is not the ultra-sweet ice-based monstrosity of a strawberry daiquiri that you’ll find at your local Bennigan’s/El Torito/Acapulco/TGIFriday or the devastatingly alcoholic quasi-Slurpees sold by hole-in-the-wall vendors on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Nope, at the risk of sounding like a complete snob, this is the more civilized, yet refreshing — and vastly less fattening — beverage reportedly named either for a Cuban beach or an iron mine and favored by Ernest Hemingway and John F. Kennedy. The former personage is a lot more popular in post-revolutionary Cuba than the latter, but that’s another story.

Here’s the drink:

The Daiquiri

2 ounces rum
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
Lime or orange wedge (optional garnish)

Mix sugar with room temperature lime juice. Add rum and plentiful ice to your cocktail shaker. Shake very vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass. It’s not really necessary, but you can garnish it with a lime wedge, or an orange slice if you’d like an extra touch of sweetness. You can add a little more sugar if you like, but remember that rum has, for a hard liquor, a lot of built-in sweetness. It will taste even better with Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo’s Afro-Cuban classic, Manteca, playing in the background.

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I’ve tried this a few ways, but I’m happy to say this is a rather indestructible drink if you don’t mess with it too much. Most recipes call very specifically for light rum, but it was only slightly less good when I tried it with gold rum. Cocktail historian David Wondrich says you can also use the even sweeter and more complex dark rums, but cut back some on the sugar. Since I ultimately determined that his recipe was better than those I found in several other places calling for more lime juice and sugar, I imagine he’s right about that, too.

  

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