Drink of the Week: The Russian

the Russian.You know the White Russian and you probably know the Black Russian, which subtracts the diary product but leaves the Kahlua and vodka. Still, I bet the Russian, full stop, is unknown to you, as it was to me until just a few days ago.

I found this drink while pouring over my increasingly well-worn copy of Harry Craddock’s 1930 “The Savoy Cocktail Book” seeking something simple. I’m a bit overwhelmed at the day job right now — no, I don’t make my living doing this — and I really didn’t have the energy to even so much as squeeze a lemon or a lime. And so I stumbled over this little known relic of the days when vodka was a rather exotic ingredient unfamiliar to most Americans who mainly knew whiskey, gin, and probably the once ubiquitous applejack…if they ever dared to enter a speakeasy, that is.

I have no idea if the Russian — actually called “The Russian Cocktail” by Craddock, who called about 90% of his drinks the “the _____ Cocktail” — was an invention of prohibition-era booze marketers trying to popularize vodka in Western Europe and the soon-to-be post-18th Amendment U.S. (See the Moscow Mule, which came a bit later). I do know, however,  that mixing vodka with a chocolate liqueur and the right kind of gin makes for a drink that’s definitely sweet, but with just enough bite to be interesting. It’s also about as easy to make as a cocktail gets.

The Russian

3/4 ounce vodka
3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce cream de cacao

Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake very vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass chilled within an inch of its life. Toast, Dostoevsky, who gave the world “The Brothers Karamazov,” “Crime and Punishment, and “The Idiot” and this perhaps tangentially related joke.

“Did you know the Russians are coming out with a new car. It’s called the Dostoyevsky?”

“Really.”

“Yeah, it’s available in a two-door and Fyodor.”

***

To be honest, this drink is about as Russian as that joke. The name notwithstanding, it’s neither the vodka or the gin that dominates this drink, it’s the creme de cacao. If you don’t love chocolate, you won’t love the Russian. That’s not to say the hard liquors don’t play crucial supporting roles.

This drink definitely works far better with a gin and a vodka able to stand up to a chocolate onslaught. My first time out, I used Sky Vodka, the last remnants of my No. 3 London Dry Gin, a flavorful and stout product, and Gionelli white creme de cacao. It was pretty darn delightful. Much less so, however, when I ran out to the local grocery story and decided to pick up a $20.00 double-sized bottle of Gordon’s Gin, which can often work delightfully in mixed drinks, including martinis. This time, however, it just didn’t have the gumption we needed. I was tempted to blame my more photogenic choice of DeKuyper’s brown creme de cacao for my insipid Russian but, on reflection, I decided the two chocolate liqueurs I used were about on par.

I next tried it with the Plymouth Gin that made the Olivette sing last week. Very good. Then, I tried it with 100 proof Smirnoff. Sweet, but strong like a Trotsky icepick.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Perfect Gentlemen

The Perfect Gentlemen.Yes, Drink of the Week is back this week, but work on the new location at Drink of the Week Plaza continues and I’m really not even remotely settled in yet. Odds are, it’ll be a few weeks before I get back on a more regular, weekly boozing schedule. Even so, I was tempted away by one of my boozy benefactors to come back with a special Valentine’s Day edition of DOTW and a really delicious recipe they gave me absolutely for free. It’s a doozy.

This week’s selection is as sweet and delicious as love itself and, if you drink enough of it, is guaranteed to enlarge your heart…with cholesterol. Very honestly, however, it’s tasty enough that you may might not mind. No joke, the anonymous mixologist who developed this for the Laphroaig Scotch Whiskey people knew what the hell he or she was doing.

The Perfect Gentlemen

1 1⁄2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
3⁄4 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 1⁄2 ounces heavy cream
2-3 dashes orange bitters
Chocolate shavings (highly desirable garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake with all the vigor of a new romance, and strain into a cocktail glass. (The Laphroaig people think it should be stemless.) Top with some chocolate shavings. Toast whoever you’re looking at…and mean it, even if you’re looking in the mirror.

****

Like our last great drink,  this week’s selection is a warm and loving finger directly in the eye of the idea that there are no great Scotch based cocktails. What’s really interesting about the Perfect Gentlemen is that it really does seem to be best with this very particular brand, which I’ll admit to having quite a crush on. Yes, it’s true  I got my bottle of Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky for free but the distinctively ultra-smokey flavor, with a hint of sweetness and a bit of vegetables too, has really grown on me. I might even purchase a bottle some day with my own money!

In the Perfect Gentlemen, the evocative smoke of the single malt Scotch cuts through the sweet creaminess of the crème de cacao chocolate liqueur and the heavy cream in just the right way. I tried the drink with a very decent inexpensive blended Scotch and found the results to be, relatively speaking, dullsville. I’m totally sold on the Laphroaig for the Perfect Gentlemen and would suggest you try it that way, if at all possible.

I also strongly suggest you don’t skip the chocolate shavings. This is Valentine’s Day after all, and chocolate really does seem to be related to love in some unusual way.  Cheapskates will be happy to know that you don’t necessary have to use a fancy or expensive brand. My shavings were produced by taking a dull knife to a Hershey Bar.

I do have to admit, however, that my second Perfect Gentleman was, while still delicious, ever so slightly less rapturous than my first. My measurements may have been slightly off that time because my usual measuring jigger is still packed away somewhere. Or, maybe, it’s just that there’s no topping that first blush of true romance. Happy Valentine’s Day, anyway.

  

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