Drink of the Week: The Toronto Cocktail

The Toronto Cocktail.Last week’s drink might have been a bit uncertain when it came to its geographical underpinnings, but this week’s is pretty clear that it’s an homage to Canada’s most populous city, a place I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting. The Toronto Star traces its origins to a 1922 cocktail book written by a London-based bartender who claimed the drink was a favorite of Torontonians but noted that the province of Ontario had its own version of prohibition between 1916 and 1927. Moreover, there’s no other known connection between the drink and the particular city it’s named for. That being said, it’s a truly worthwhile classic cocktail that can stand proudly beside any other city-named drink you can think of.

In any case, this version of the Toronto Cocktail comes, once again, from David Embury’s 1948 “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” Depending on how you look at it, it’s a variation of an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. Since I prefer to make this one on the rocks, I’d say it’s more the latter than the former. Try it for yourself.

The Toronto Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Canadian or rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Fernet Branca
1/4 ounce simple syrup or, if you don’t have that, 1 teaspoon of superfine sugar
1 dash Angostura/aromatic bitters
1 orange twist (high desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: Barbary Coast or Bishop

Barbary Coast or Biship.If my first selection of 2017 sounds to you like it should have a question mark after it’s name, you’re not far off. This drink is another selection from David Embury’s cocktail masterwork, “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” and the sometimes cranky ur-cocktailian apparently wasn’t sure of the correct name, as he simply called it “Barbary Coast or Bishop.” Indeed, in a footnote he refers to a much better known and sweeter concoction called “The Barbary Coast,” a relative of last week’s Brandy Alexander. There is also a drink out there called “The Bishop,” though I think this drink name refers to the Southern California high desert town, and the other one refers to a cleric.

Still, this indecisively named drink isn’t bad at all. It’s a very moderately sweet blend of classic cocktail ingredients that comes together reasonably well. Not what I’d personally call a home run, but it’s worth a try if you dig the ingredients. Let’s get started.

Barbary Coast or Bishop

2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
1 dash Yellow Chartreuse
1 orange twist (desirable garnish)

Combine the various liquids in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the orange twist and ponder whether you’d rather spend time in the notorious Wild West-era San Francisco red light district and gambling center, or the sleepy, modern day desert town of Bishop

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Drink of the Week: Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander.The biggest drinking holiday of the year is tomorrow night, and I’m thinking it might be time for something really special, or at least something especially fun to cap off a long day of drinking, eating, and socializing. We’re basically talking about a pleasantly uplifting dessert in a glass that makes for a very nice egg nog alternative.

Brandy Alexander is a simple enough drink that is typically regarded as a true cocktail classic and a more cocktailian-friendly version of your Chocolate Martinis and such. It’s true that acerbic postwar cocktail scribe David A. Embury dissed it to some extent in “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” noting that it was the opposite of the appetite-encouraging, pre-dinner drinks he preferred. At the same time, even he agreed it made a grand dessert drink, even if believed those to be of a lower order.

On the other hand, this is not a drink to show off your favorite brand of super-high end Cognac or Armagnac; it appears it was developed during prohibition to hide the flavors of poor quality liquor. I should add that the original (the Alexander), although a less popular version of this drink, was made with gin. I’m not sure if was the bathtub variety but, if you’re talking Tanqueray or Gordon’s, it’s also worth a try that way. Definitely feel free to substitute your favorite whiskey or rum in this one if your New Year’s liquor cabinet is brandy-impoverished.

Brandy Alexander

1 ounce brandy
1 ounce crème de cacao (most prefer the dark colored version)
1 ounce heavy cream
Ground nutmeg (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: Bobo’s Toddy

Bobo's Toddy.Christmas is, of course, just about upon us. Whether you’ve got kids and are struggling to make sure Santa arrives on schedule or a lonely singleton with enough time on his hands to fret about uncertain times (that would be me), there’s a very good chance that a warm, soothing, sweet yet far from insipid alcoholic beverage might be just the thing to relax with after a long day of holiday preparations or a long night of holiday partying. I think I’ve got just the thing.

Bobo’s Toddy is my very simple variation/simplification of Babbo’s Toddy, a drink we are told was created by New York bartender Erick Castro. It’s a very sound cold weather twist on the Boulevardier, but the original recipe calls for a healthy amount of cinnamon syrup, something I didn’t have on hand and didn’t feel like running out to buy one night not long ago when I was determined to work up a very proper Christmas cocktail. So, I found a couple of other ingredients that I thought would work just as well, and I’m happy to say I can endorse the results of what I’m calling Bobo’s Toddy… after, you know, me! It’s a drink I’m happy to put all three letters of my first name in. If this drink won’t help you wind down, you might not be wind-downable.

Bobo’s Toddy

1 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce falernum or orgeat (almond syrup)
1/2 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce Campari
1 orange slice (highly advisable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

The Modern Cocktail (No.2).Today, we have part three of our latest series of related cocktails with The Modern Cocktail (No. 2.) If you go back and look at the prior two (The Modern Cocktail and The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)), you’ll see that what they all have in common, aside from the name, is Scotch and number of similar ingredients measured out in dashes. The latter two appear in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” but the first is a more complete obscurity recently resurrected by cocktail historian David Wondrich. Upon reflection, I think it’s pretty clearly the best of the three.

Nevertheless, today’s selection is not a bad runner-up because, like Wondrich’s discovery, it mellows out the Scotch with a healthy amount of sloe gin. This drink, however, tamps down the whiskey somewhat and gooses up the gin-based cherry liqueur. You could say it’s on the sweet side.

The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

1 ounce blended Scotch whisky
2 ounces sloe gin
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash absinthe
1 dash grenadine

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake — Harry Craddock and I  say you should shake this, but most cocktail snobs will prefer to stir — and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Congratulate yourself if you’ve ever actually eaten a sloe berry. (I haven’t.)

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