Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

The Modern Cocktail (No. 1).This might be a little confusing, but just bear with me. You see, although it wasn’t my intention, it turns out that I’ve began another of my occasional trilogies of cocktails, and these are all called “The Modern Cocktail,” though it’s hard to say what was particularly modern about them back in the earlier part of the 20th century. However, they’re unusual in that they include Scotch, rarely a go-to base spirit, though one I’m quite fond of in mixed drinks, at times.

My original plan was to simply follow-up last week’s drink, the Modern Cocktail, which was based on a surprisingly harmonious combination of sloe gin and Scotch, with the Modern Cocktail (No. 2) from 1930’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which actually does not include the original 1905 Modern Cocktail recipe I went through last week. Got that? In any case, I was sidetracked by some difficulties with locating decent brands of sloe gin at my local stores.

More about that next week, but in the meantime, we’re going to go with the first drink bearing the name “Modern Cocktail” included in Harry Craddock’s epochal cocktail book. This one is sloe gin-free and a drastically different taste experience. However, the recipe is similar enough to the first Modern Cocktail that it’s tempting to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of a typographical mutation. It’s close to being the same drink, minus the sloe gin or, really, any kind of sweetening.

Yes, this is a drink for a select few who really want their booze to be boozy and relatively unadorned and unsoftened. See what you think.

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail

The Modern Cocktail.Since famed cocktail super-historian David Wondrich tells us that it dates back to 1905, clearly the Modern Cocktail hasn’t been particularly modern for a very long time. Indeed, at least up to now, it’s been an absolute obscurity, one that I personally hadn’t encountered until last week. And Wondrich is definitely right that it hasn’t been making its way into your better bars the way so many other of the better rediscovered cocktails have in recent years. He seems to chalk it up to the odd hodgepodge of ingredients, and that may well be correct.

In any case, I agree with him that the Modern Cocktail might not be any more newfangled than an Old Fashioned, but it is amazingly rich and delicious. Let’s keep it simple this week and just get right into it.

The Modern Cocktail

1 or 1 1/2 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 or 1 1/2 ounce sloe gin (probably Plymouth Sloe Gin)
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 dash absinthe (I use an eye dropper; a shaker bottle might be ideal)
1 dash orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (fun garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients and easily dissolved sugar in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake quite vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Contemplate the likelihood that even having easy access to ice must have seemed incredibly modern at some point.

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Drink of the Week: The Smokey Martini

The Smokey Martini.It’s the day after Thanksgiving or Black Friday, if you must. That means you’ve likely overindulged in fowl, carbohydrates and possibly heated political arguments with family members. You also might have had a drink or two, but if you’re reading this, you’re definitely on your way to contemplating another one. It’s possible you’d rather have something that wasn’t too caloric, a bit dry and potent but also kind of interesting.

Well, maybe it’s a good day to consider one of the simplest of drinks I’ve ever presented here. It’s definitely more of a classic martini than, say, a Chocolate Martini or, lord help us, an Appletini. Basically, we’re talking about two great hard liquors that go surprisingly great together. This one’s only for grown-up boozers.

The Smokey Martini

2 1/2 ounces dry gin (vodka might also work)
1/2 ounce Scotch
1/2 ounce dry vermouth (very optional!)
Lemon twist, olive, or cocktail onion (desirable garnish)

Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and stir — or shake if you must go full Ian Fleming, but I can’t say I suggest it. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how a cocktail can be both simple and challenging at exactly the same time.

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Drink of the Week: The Communist

The Communist.Okay, so we’ll conclude our series of politically themed drinks with, er, the Communist. And yeah, I forgot this was going to be my last post before Thanksgiving. I won’t even try to connect this one to the holiday.

Indeed, I’m really not in a mood to explain just what a communist is and how that’s not the same thing at all as being a socialist like H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw or Bernie Sanders. Suffice it to say, I’m pretty strongly opposed to Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist-type communists (there are a million other flavors, some of which may be more benign) and I pretty much am a socialist. You can look up the rest for yourself. I’m frankly exhausted and a little bit nervous, though hopefully the turkey and starch will be calming me down next week.

Fortunately, we have a drink that could be just the right thing for a case of nerves and for health, whatever it might be called. It’s got a relatively high fresh juice content with a fairly modest amount of sugar and less alcohol than your average classic-era mixed drink. This one comes directly from the pages of “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails” by Ted Haigh, aka Dr. Cocktail. During this still somewhat tense and unwholesome week, it might be just what the doctor ordered.

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Drink of the Week: The New Deal

The New Deal.I begin writing this week’s post just a couple of days before an election that will probably increase the per-capita liquor consumption nationwide among a great many of us, myself very likely included. Even in this cocktail column, I’ve never kept my political leanings any kind of a secret and I’m certainly not going to start now. Don’t worry, though, I’m not about to go into some political tirade — you can see those on my Facebook page any time you want! — but just to say that, among the things I am going to keep fighting for is the ability to enjoy your life as you see fit. Cocktails are a part of that.

The name of today’s cocktail, the New Deal, almost certainly comes from the name given to the various efforts by Depression-era U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt to make for a society less controlled by the highest realms of the economic system. The idea was to fight the extreme poverty of the time, but also to head off more radical proposals coming from both the far left and the far right. These changes included the creation of Social Security, the longevity of which will definitely impact your life if you live in the United States, and if you live long enough.

Sadly, I don’t know anything about why today’s cocktail in particular is called the New Deal. It comes to us, once again, from “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks.” It’s true that New York attorney David Embury’s 1948 cocktail classic comes from the time when the country was first getting to truly enjoy it’s post-World War II prosperity. Beyond that, however, I haven’t a clue where the drink comes from or what about it might have seemed like it was somehow related to FDR’s famed preference for Keynesian economic policies. I do know, however, that it’s a dandy drink that will appeal to those of us who like our beverages sweet but with a hint of floral bitterness.

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