Drink of the Week: The Round Robin

The Round Robin.Are you into absinthe? I’m definitely not averse to it as a little-goes-a-very-long-way ingredient in a numerous drinks, but I can’t say that I’m a fan of it in it’s classic mode of preparation. It’s not just it’s strength and bitterness, it’s the fact that I’m not even a fan of licorice candy, let alone industrial-strength anise and fennel.

On the other hand, if there’s one ingredient I’ve found in my alcoholic wanderings that can transform a potentially repulsive drink into a taste treat, it’s a raw egg white, properly emulsified. This week’s drink, which comes I know not from where, puts that theory to the test in a big, big way. Let’s get this wormword and poultry-product party started.

The Round Robin

1 ounce brandy
1 ounce absinthe
1 egg white
1 teaspoon superfine sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. To emulsify the egg white, shake vigorously without ice. Then, add ice, shake vigorously again, and strain into a wine glass. Toast the legalization of absinthe back in the mid-2000s when people started to figure out that the stuff is no more (or less) dangerous than other types of booze. Prohibition never works.

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Well, I guess this is another vote from me for the miraculous properties of raw eggs  in cocktails as, on balance, I really like this drink. In fact, I like this drink so much that, even though I’d have a hard time finding a difference between good absinthe and bad absinthe, I’d almost spend the $70 or more it takes to buy some of the putative good stuff just to try it in a Round Robin.

Why? Well, just as an Old Fashioned humanizes even a very strong bourbon or rye, the Round Robin actually makes the bitter licorice on steroids flavor of absinthe not only tolerable but fascinating.

While I only have one brand of absinthe on hand and it’s not supposed to be that good — I gather than aficionados of the wormwood liquor find Absinthe Ordinaire to be appropriately named at a mere 92 proof — I did try different brandies out. Killing my bottle of St. Remy worked just fine but a Ile de Ré Fine Island Cognac worked even better.

However, the one big change I made from my usual habit was was using a pasteurized brand of egg white I picked up at my local Trader Joe’s (3 tablespoons of the stuff is said to approximate one egg white). While the the seemingly low viscosity of the stuff looked suspect, the fact of the matter is that it worked just as well as the stuff you get directly from the chicken…and I know my friend from the local health department would agree that salmonella is about the last thing I need right now. I’m usually not one to worry about such stuff, but if you’d been through as many perfect storms I’ve been through over the last six months, you might be a bit extra cautious yourself.

Coming up next: An adventure with pasteurized whole eggs and a coffee drink with zero caffeine and no decaffeinated coffee, either.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Dream Cocktail

the Dream Cocktail. I’m starting to write this post on the night of what sure appears to be an enormous victory for a political party that is very much not my own. So, you know I can use a drink. The only problem: I don’t actually drink while I’m writing these.

Still, talking about drinking can be more fun than actually drinking, and the Dream Cocktail is kind of easy to write about because it seems as if almost no one else has. I dug up this obscurity in my trusty Savoy Cocktail Book and, for once, I have no stories to tell about the drink’s origins or much anyone else. On line I’ve found exactly one post about the original version (kind of) and one odd but intriguing variant.

Still, I have to say that I think the the Dream cocktail is, at the very least, worth sleeping on. It’s not at all bad and, if you get it just right, it can be mildly awesome. Let’s begin.

The Dream Cocktail

2 ounces brandy or cognac
1 ounce orange curacao or Cointreau
1/4 teaspoon absinthe

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Toast the Sandman, bringer of dreams and cool early 1990s horror/fantasy comics written by Neil Gaiman.

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I tried the Dream Cocktail not only with curacao and Cointreau, but with Grand Marnier, which didn’t really blend like I’d hoped. I had the best luck, however, when I switched out the inexpensive St. Remy brandy I was using for some really high end Ile de Ré Fine Island Cognac I had left over from past adventures in tandem with my not-at-all expensive DeKuyper curacao. The blend of simple orangey sweetness and sophisticated cognac-y grit was just the thing to take the Dream Cocktail over the top into the land of Morpheus.

  

Drink of the Week: Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat.Happy Halloween!

And, because I actually want you to enjoy this holiday devoted to all that pleasurably perturbs us, I’ll spare you my original selection for this week, the Aqua Velva. That very blue creation was the source of the best joke in David Fincher’s fact-based creepfest, “Zodiac” — which would have been fun to talk about as I’m old enough to have had childhood nightmares about encountering the all too real Zodiac Killer. The only problem is that gin, vodka, Sprite and blue curacao taste horrifying together and I’m not here to terrify your tongue!

It was pretty much too late for me to switch gears and finally take on the Zombie — which I know I kind of owe you guys — but I was lucky that a well-timed publicist’s e-mail brought along a very tasty treat from the clever people behind Laphraoig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whiskey and I still had my last free bottle from them on hand. They have once again come up with a really delightful drink that creates a lovely counterpoint comprised of a sweet taste we all remember from childhood and the very adult pleasures of a very smokey Scotch.

Trick or Treat

1 1/2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
3 ounces apple cider (or, really, apple juice)
1 ounce fresh lemon sour (1/2 ounce lemon juice, 1/2 ounce simple syrup)
Lemon slice (garnish)

You can build this one in a more slender style Tom Collins-like glass or, as is my preference, a double sized rocks/old fashioned glass. Start with plenty of ice, and add each ingredient precisely in order. Believe it or not, it’s important.

This means, you’ll start out with the very smokey, very evocative, Laphroaig Scotch over your ice. Next, the apple cider or juice. (I say this because there appears to be no real difference between the two, if you’re talking non-alcoholic beverages.) Finally, dump in a one-ounce solution of 50% fresh lemon juice and 50% simple syrup…do not stir, shake or otherwise mix in any way. The laws of physics will give you all the mixing you need on this one. Also, give this one a second to get cold and cold. It’s better that way. Sip and salute the scary movie performer or actress of your choice. This week, I’m feeling a bit Karloff.

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I experimented with this drink to see if I could depart from the Laphroaig recipe at all. I’m sure they’ll be relieved to read that I really couldn’t. Shaking it rendered it dull and ordinary. Switching out the single malt for a decent Brand X Scotch rendered it equally bleh.

Once again, it’s clear the Laphroig people understand counterpoint, as their smokey, very unsweet beverage really blends nicely with the simplest, sweetest of all-age liquid pleasures. I’d really forgotten how much I love apple juice, not to mention how much weight I’m likely go gain from knocking back too much of the stuff straight this week. It’s basically just fruit sugar water, but what sugar water!

Of course, it’s best with the Scotch and the other stuff. I drank this alone, but I imagine it would be even better with a friend. I’m sure the late Mr. Karloff would agree.

  

Drink of the Week: The Knickerbocker

The Knickerbocker.In terms of nomenclature, today’s drink is a nice segue from our last drink of the week, the Algonquin. That drink was (probably) named for the historic Manhattan hotel and its bar. The Knickerbocker is named for the archaic nickname for all New Yorkers, i.e., a Knickerbocker was once to NYC as a Hoosier is to Indiana. If you’re a tri-state area basketball fan, you probably know all this already.

On the other hand, it’s also the completion of something of a trilogy with two other recent posts, the Blinker and the Monkey Gland. The common thread in these three drinks is a revived cocktail sweetener I’ve only recently become aware of: raspberry syrup. We’re not talking about just any raspberry syrup but specifically the stuff that’s manufactured by purveyors of jams and jellies and intended mainly to be poured over ice cream.

The Knickerbocker always seems to feature gold rum and raspberry syrup but, beyond that’s it’s another one of those drinks where the recipes vary so greatly they’re barely the same drink. Here’s the version I went with, which I pretty much ripped off entirely from cocktail superhistorian David Wondrich. See what you think.

The Knickerbocker

2 1/2 ounces golden rum
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons raspberry syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange curacao
1 spent lime wedge and whatever berries you can find — interesting but not necessarily essential garnishes

Place the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake very vigorously. Dump the contents, ice and all, into a double-sized rocks/old fashioned glass. Add the garnishes listed or other fruits of your choice if you’re feeling adventurous. Toast whatever you like, I’m out of ideas this week.

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I actually started my Knickerbocker holiday with the version featured in Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, which drew me into my raspberry syrup madness in the first place. That one featured an entire ounce of lemon juice with more sweet ingredients to compensate. I found it both too sweet and too sour.

By comparison, Mr. Wondrich’s version was a bracing, somewhat macho, treat, which makes sense as Ted Haigh tells us the full name of the drink is the Knickbocker a la monsieur — apparently there’s a Knickerbocker out there that was originally intended strictly for les mesdames. (I’d probably love it, I’m a girl-drink drunk at heart.)

While there may be tons of variations of the Knickbocker out there, anytime I tried to vary the Wondrich recipe ever so slightly, I came up a loser. Deciding to switch my ultra-thick Smuckers raspberry for the more easily dissolved Torani raspberry syrup yielded an unpleasant medicinal taste. Chastened to some degree, I experimented with an additional half teaspoon full of the Smuckers. Another bust that actually tasted less sweet; I don’t even know how that’s possible.

I did have fun throwing in various kinds of (overpriced but tasty) berries into the drink. They are such a part of this particular iteration of the Knickerbocker that Dave Wondrich actually suggests serving the drink with a straw and tiny spoon for the berries…personally, I can see the spoon but I’m not a big fan of straws with this sort of beverage. I want the ice to be a bit more forward, I guess.

I also learned something new. You must refrigerate your supermarket raspberries and never, ever leave them in your car for a few hours on a 70+ degree afternoon, unless you like your berries better after they’ve grown fur.

  

Drink of the Week: The Algonquin

the Algonquin.As a teenager, I found myself seriously infatuated with an older women. So great was the age difference that she had actually been dead since I was in kindergarten.

Legendary wit and poet laureate of dissipated enlightenment, Dorothy Parker was probably the most interesting of the literary lights that graced New York’s Algonquin Hotel’s famed round table of notable quipsters. The informal gang o’ pals also included humorist Robert Benchley (Parker’s platonic bff), and critic Alexander Wolcott. Another great wit in the group, Harpo Marx, like Teller after him, never said a word when the cameras and microphones were on, but apparently could chat up a storm on his own time.

Now, to be honest, while the Algonquin crew and especially the wondrous Ms. Parker definitely enjoyed more than their share of cocktails, there’s no evidence they actually ever sipped a single Algonquin. Still, they should have. It’s a dry, sophisticated drink, a fruity twist on the Perfect Manhattan that’s a really solid addition to the cannon of Prohibition-era beverages.

Yes, we have no indication that they ever had the drink, but also no proof that they didn’t. I chose, therefore, to print the legend. Let’s just assume that the woman who we are told said ““If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised” and the man who opined that “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” enjoyed an Algonquin together. It’ll taste better that way.

The Algonquin

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)
1 mint leaf (optional, but intriguing, garnish)

Combine your whiskey, juice, and vermouth in a mixing vessel with the usual ton of ice. Some think you should stir it, but I say they’re wrong. Shake the dang thing vigorously and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. If you want smaller portions, or have small cocktail glasses, simply use 1 1/2 ounces whiskey to 3/4 ounce each pineapple juice and vermouth. Toast which ever Algonquin Round Table member you choose, but I choose the amazing Dorothy.

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The particular example of an Algonquin pictured above was not crafted by your humble boozescribe, but comes courtesy of ace mixologist, Ian, at my neighborhood watering hole, Tonga Hut. Following my instructions, Ian added a high-end Luxardo maraschino cherry and threw on a mint leaf on top, departing from the classic recipe with a Tonga Hut trademark.

Making the drink at home, I had good luck with a number of different brands. Like Ian, I found that using 100 proof Rittenhouse Rye yielded an excellent result. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Old Overholt — increasingly the default rye at craft bars nevertheless — but it still yielded a decent, if slightly more astringent, beverage. I also enjoyed killing my bottle of sweet Redemption Rye for an Algonquin’s sake.

As for vermouths, I vacillated between your basic Martini and the fancier Dolin’s. The former was smooth and relaxed while the latter added a bit of spice. Oddly enough, I think I lean towards a simpler, dryer rye for an Algonquin.

The most dramatic difference, oddly enough, was between two different brands of canned pineapple juice. (It’s against my religion, Lazy Bumism, to actually cut up and juice an whole pineapple.) There was a fairly precipitous drop in the quality of my drinks when I switched from Trader Joe’s shockingly delicious not-from-concentrate, which brags that it tastes like it would if you squeezed it yourself, to your basic Dole’s. I’m not an expert on the finer points of pineapple juice but I can tell you that the better tasting pineapple juice resulted in the better tasting Algonquin.

  

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