Drink of the Week: The Emerald

The EmeraldSay what you will about me, I am a man of peace. That is why I come to you, this St. Patrick’s Day eve, with a small suggestion. If you should, for some reason, find yourself at an actual Irish bar or pub tomorrow night, please resist the urge to order two drinks, which I will now name.

Now, I actually very much like the beverage we in the States and in England call the Black and Tan, which combines Guinness stout with Bass or another pale ale. It’s sort of the cappuccino of beer. However, as Ben and Jerry found out a a few years back, the name is pretty much the equivalent of naming a Jewish deli sandwich a Marauding Cossack. You see, just as the Cossacks weren’t known for their kindness to Russian Jews, the English Black and Tan militia men were not known for their gentleness to Irish folks during the nation’s war of independence from the British, circa 1920-22. As for the drink known as an Irish Car Bomb, let’s just leave that one alone.

Instead, may we suggest this really very nice little beverage named for the Emerald Isle. Yes, knowledgeable readers will notice a more than slight similarity with a far better known classic cocktail, but that will only make it easier to order if your barman is not familiar — and he likely won’t be.

The Emerald

2 ounces Irish whiskey
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1-3 dashes orange bitters
1 maraschino cherry (very optional garnish)

Combine whiskey, vermouth, and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Shake or stir, as is your preference, into a chilled martini/cocktail glass. Toast, preferably while listening to the Pogues, the Chieftains, the Dubliners, or Van Morrison.

***

Now, yes, this is pretty obviously a slight variation on a Manhattan, but the Irish whiskey makes for a drink that goes down as easy as watching John Ford’s “The Quiet Man” on a Sunday afternoon and ordering this non-offensive drink will avoid any situations out of “The Wind that Shakes the Barley.”

As I alluded to above, it’s also a pretty obscure drink. Indeed, every recipe I could find online seems to come pretty directly from, Esquire‘s David Wondrich who, I promise, won’t be mentioned next week for a change. It’s worth noting, however, that he points out the use of orange bitters is also potentially controversial, if you know a little Irish history. I do think, however, your bartender will charitably assume you mean orange fruit and not Orangemen when you request a Manhattan made with Irish whiskey and Regan‘s Orange Bitters.

And now, some music to drink the Emerald by.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Bronx

the BronxThe Wikipedia article says that the Bronx — the old school cocktail, not the NYC borough — remains popular in some regions. Well, that region must not be California or anywhere else I’ve visited much, because about the only place I’ve seen or heard anything about it until recently was as a recipe offered on one of my cocktail shakers. Come to think of it, though, I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in the Bronx. I imagine it might be popular there.

In fact, the Bronx was actually one of the first non-martini cocktails I ever made for myself. Don’t ask me why I’ve waited this long to get to it, though I’d be lying if I said it was my favorite. It’s quite tasty and refreshing but it hasn’t blown me away with its flavor like the Mary Pickford did a couple of weeks ago, so I guess it’s not a big mystery why it kept slipping my mind. Still, if you like gin, vermouth, and orange juice, you can’t really go wrong with this hard to ruin aperatif.

The Bronx

2 ounces gin
1 ounce orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed, of course)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. By now, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find that you’ll be straining this into our old friend, the well-chilled martini glass. You may salute the geographical Bronx before sipping, but an actual Bronx cheer is not recommended.

***
There are a pretty endless number of variations on this one this, mainly in the amount of OJ and vermouth used. David Wondrich goes so far as to reduce the vermouths to half a teaspoon each, which results in a somewhat punchier, orangier beverage. That recipe on my shaker reduces the gin down to 1 ounce, the sweet vermouth to 1/4 of an ounce, the dry vermouth to an 1/8 of an ounce — don’t ask me how you measure an amount that small, I doubled everything on this recipe whenever I’ve actually made it — and reduces the proportion of orange juice down to 1/4 of an ounce.

Really, you can play with the Bronx all day and all night, it doesn’t seem to change much. This is one drink where you can get a little crazy and no one will get hurt.

  

Drink of the Week: The Tequila Sunrise

It's another Tequila SunriseMade in the usual way, on the rocks in a Tom Collins glass, the Tequila Sunrise is bit like the very well known Eagles song. A quintessential expression of 1970s culture, a bit over sweet and self-indulgent, but it goes down easily enough.

Still, as revealed to me by cocktail guru David Wondrich, there is a way to make this drink that makes it a thing of beauty and as pure and sweet as anything by East L.A.’s favorite sons, Los Lobos. It’s even better with an interesting tequila, but more about that in a bit.

Below is my simplified and, if I must say so myself, absolutely marvelous version of Wondrich’s take on this latter day cocktail classic.

The Tequila Sunrise

1 1/2 ounces white tequila
3 ounces orange juice (very preferably fresh squeezed)
1 teaspoon grenadine

Combine tequila and OJ in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Add 1 teaspoon grenadine directly to glass. Let it sink to the bottom of the drink. If you’ve squeezed the OJ yourself from really good oranges, prepare for some ambrosial goodness in a pretty glass.

***
This week’s DOTW is very much brought to us by a brand new upstart variation on Mexico’s national liquor. If you remember your high school Spanish, you’ll know that’s calling Peligroso “the dangerous tequila” is as redundant, bilingually speaking, as talking about the La Brea Tar Pits. (I’m fond of noting that since “La Brea” means “the tar,” “The La Brea Tar Pits” translates as “The The Tar Tar Pits.”)

Even so, I really do quite like the free booze I received from the new chicos on the tequila block. With only two percent more alcohol than standard tequilas, this dangerous tequila isn’t really all that terribly peligroso at 84 proof in a world of 90+ proof gins and 100 proofs bourbons and vodkas. Nevertheless, the extra bit of alcohol does make for a livelier flavor that definitely compliments this version of a tequila sunrise, cutting through the sweetness of the orange juice and grenadine. In my tequila sunrises, it was definitely more than a cut above the cheaper, well known brand X agave spirit I also made it with.

That being said, even more than upgrading the tequila, the biggest favor you can do for this drink is to squeeze the oranges yourself. Even though I now own a hand juicer, I have to admit that it’s fairly labor intensive. This was especially true the first time I made this as I was actually making two drinks and juice oranges are currently out of season. Fortunately, the current crop of navel oranges available down here in Southern California are delightfully sweet and juicy enough for our purposes — though this drink will be easier to make when the Valencias return.

I also tried my version of a Tequila Sunrise with some store bought “not from concentrate” juice. Unlike Wondrich, I found it produced a very respectable result, though admittedly a few steps down from the stuff I squeezed my own self.

For me, the more garden variety on-the-rocks highball glass version of the drink is a let down even with fresh squeezed juice. However, if you insist on making it that way, use the same proportions as listed above. Just be sure to stir your orange juice and tequila together before adding the grenadine to create your sunrise effect.

And now I leave you with my kind of musical accompaniment to a Tequila Sunrise.

  

Drink of the Week: Tom Johnstone

Tom Johnstone For whatever reason, today’s DOTW is not known as “the Tom Johnstone” but is simply “Tom Johnstone.” I could wonder why, but that’s like asking why Chrissie Hynde’s band is “Pretenders” and not “the Pretenders.”

David Wondrich theorizes that the drink is named for a man “who used to write shows for the Marx Brothers.” Since I’m a pretty big Marxian myself and had never heard of Johnstone, I was forced to do a little research and found that, like certain members of the legendary comedy team, Johnstone — apparently a fairly successful songwriter, cartoonist, and adman — was himself somewhat overshadowed by a better known older brother, Will B. Johnstone.┬áIf this drink really is his creation, at least Tom Johnstone gets the distinction of having created a somewhat rarish thing: a hard to foul-up Scotch-based cocktail which allows bartenders a few options, depending on taste and what they’ve got on hand.

Tom Johnstone

1 1/2 ounces Scotch
1/2 ounce fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

This one’s easy. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake or, if you must, stir with cracked or crushed ice, and strain into a martini glass.

****
I think what I like most about the Tom Johnstone is that nothing seems to ruin it. My recipe offers substantially more freedom than the canonical Wondrich take. That’s because I found myself liking other versions I found online a bit more, though none of them are even remotely bad.

For starters, even though I often OD on tartness from lemon juice, here I actually prefer it to lime. Also, unlike some other drinks I’ve worked with, this one also works almost equally well with no-name triple sec as it does with Cointreau, the more tart top of the line orange liqueur. I also used some very good Scotch and some pretty cheap Scotch. Both worked dandy.

Tom Johnstone, be you the little known co-writer of “I’ll Say She Is” or some completely unknown bartender, hanger-on, wastrel, or dipsomaniac, I salute you for a very nice mixed beverage. And now, Chico Marx, he who is forever unfairly overshadowed by Groucho and Harpo but not Zeppo, performs a medley that includes the very bouncy “Moonlight Cocktail” starting at 1:50.

  

Drink of the Week: The Brain-Duster

The Brain-DusterSometimes you just go with a drink to match your mood, and Brain-Dusted is about how I feel this week as my man-flu of last week slowly drifts away. It’s also a great way for me to get rid of the cheap brand of absinthe I picked up a while back, only to find I preferred using Herbsaint in my sazeracs after all.

Aside from the recipe posted by cocktail historian Dave Wondrich, some versions uses pastis or Pernod, which like absinthe are very heavy on the licorice-tasting herb, anise, but which I don’t have in my already well stocked liquor cabinet. One iteration actually increased the proportion of absinthe. If you’ve ever tried it, you know that a little goes a long way, even if you want your brain thoroughly dusted. Another recipe I found a mention of added simple syrup, and I just don’t think adding any additional sugar was needed given the high proportion of sweet vermouth and the relatively sweet and mellow nature of my cheap absinthe. (The brand I used is merely 92 proof; most absinthes are well over 110 and some go as high as 140.)

I stuck with something fairly close to the Wondrich take. Even so, my version of the drink is a bit different than Wondrich’s, but I’ll discuss that after the recipe.

The Brain-Duster

1 ounce whiskey (Canadian or rye, very preferably 100 proof)
1 ounce absinthe
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash aromatic bitters
1 maraschino cherry (optional garnish)

Combine ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker. (If you use a plastic shaker, it’ll take a million washings to get rid of anise/licorice smell of the absinthe.) If you use cracked or crushed ice, stir for a good long time. If you use regular ice, shake for a good long time. Strain into a martini glass with a maraschino cherry for a bit of extra sweetness.

If you really want to get into the brain-dusted vein, you might consider accompanying your beverage with some Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Now that’s brain-dusted.

****

Mr. Wondrich suggested a 100 proof rye and the Rittenhouse Rye I had on hand should have fitted the bill perfectly. It was nice but still overpowered by the anise flavor of absinthe. (I’m not a big licorice lover, so take that into account.)

The next night, however, I tried with my new friend and a close relative of a heavy duty rye, 100 proof Canadian Club (last discussed here), I was suddenly quite found of the Brain-Duster. I also tried it with regular Canadian Club, and it wasn’t half bad, but 80 proof whiskey and 92 proof absinthe doesn’t quite make for the kind of brain-dusting I needed this week. On the other hand, I tried substituting Bushmills to make this a Hearn, as per Wondrich, which didn’t work for me at all. Maybe with a stronger absinthe…

Oh, and since that 100 proof Canadian Club is very likely not available at your local liquor purveyor, here’s one place that claims to have it online for a very reasonable price. Drink up.

  

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