Drink of the Week: The Lucien Gaudin

The Lucien Gaudin Last week, I decided it was time to finish off my Campari bottle in preparation for my upcoming move. I have now completed what I started — not the move, but the Campari bottle — with a really tasty classic cocktail featuring three other somewhat more common cocktail ingredients. Made correctly, this simple yet exacting cocktail named for a once world-famous fencer can parry the tastiest thrusts of all but the sharpest competitors.

The Lucien Gaudin

1 once gin
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
Lemon twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice, preferably crushed or cracked, and stir — stir, I tell you — vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add lemon twist. En garde!

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According to some older hands at the cocktail blogging game, not to mention Encyclopedia Brittanica, the late Mr. Gaudin apparently suffered from a much too sensitive ego. The story goes that the 1928 Olympic French gold medalist committed suicide in 1934 after receiving a presumably not so grievous thumb wound from a non-fencer in the course of a duel.

How much more would the champion’s ego have been hurt to find that the relatively obscure drink named after him seems to be the subject of vastly more Internet posts that his actual life or accomplishments? To be fair, it is also rumored that Gaudin, who was a banker by trade, suffered some financial reversals during those middle years of the worldwide great depression. Even so, it’s a shame he couldn’t have pulled it all back together somehow, if only for the cocktail’s sake.

Well, at least the Lucien Gaudin is a dandy drink. Just be sure to be as accurate with your measurements as a duelist needs to be with his thrusts. When I strayed even slightly and by accident from the proportions listed above, the cocktail was nowhere near as refreshing.

Oddly, I also found that, while the common reasoning given for stirring rather than shaking the drink is strictly aesthetic, it also seemed to taste a lot better without the “clouding” that so bothers boozy aesthetes. I’ve no idea why that would be, though I suppose the emphasis on presentation in cocktails has some solid psychological underpinnings. I did find, however, that while Cointreau yielded the more interesting flavor,  a version made with far cheaper Bols Triple Sec was also extremely nice. So, there’s that much leeway, at least.

In any event, even if the late Mr. Gaudin has gotten the short of the stick both from himself and from sporting history, we at least remember him here.

  

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Drink of the Week: Income Tax

Income TaxI was born on April 15, which means that, most years, when my birthday doesn’t fall on an Easter Sunday it falls on the United States anti-holiday that is income tax day. Being an ides of April baby also means that each and every year I am also reminded of the sinking of the Titantic and the death of Abraham Lincoln.

This year, we all get until 4/17 to turn in our taxes. However, as Saturday becomes Sunday 4/15, I’ll be at the Turner Classic Movies festival in Hollywood where I’ll have a choice between an actual movie about the sinking of the Titanic (1958′s “A Night to Remember”) or I can contemplate my mortality via an avant gardish science fiction movie in which character actor John Randolph has a mid-life crisis and becomes Rock Hudson. (That’s John Frankenheimer’s 1966 “Seconds.”) Movies are about escape, you know.

All of which is a long-winded and self-indulgent way to get to this week’s cocktail, named for a day most of us agree is far worse luck than a Friday the 13th like today but which most of us agree is necessary in some form. Thus, the cocktail classic represents the healthy orange sweet of it — the roads, bridges, schools, fire and police protection we get in return for our taxes — and the bitters of actually paying them. If you note a strong similarity to another drink covered here, you aren’t hallucinating. Believe it or not, Income Tax is both the bitter and the better of the two.

Income Tax

2 ounces gin
1 ounce orange juice (fresh squeezed, for sure)
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1-3 dashes aromatic bitters
1 orange slice (optional garnish, but since you’re squeezing the orange already…)

As with the Bronx, people are over the map on proportions, and I certainly encourage readers to experiment to their heart’s content with more or less sweet and dry vermouth, OJ, and gin. Nevertheless, especially with the addition of bitters, I found this easy to remember and straight forward version was actually quite the best.

A few notes on ingredients. I’m using Tanqueray (94.6 proof) right now, though I’m sure this will work as well with most other high proof gins such as Bombay Dry or Beefeater. With an 80 proof gin like Gordon’s, it might be a bit sweeter which can either be a good or bad thing. I tried making my Income Tax using both traditional Angostura bitters as well as Fee Brother’s aromatic bitters and it came out fine with both.

I even ran out of my usual Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth — which for some reason Bev-Mo in Orange County, CA has stopped carrying, darn them — and went to an inferior brand that I had sitting around. Still very nice. Like tax day itself, this drink can be attacked but it will never be killed. Would that that were true for the folks on the Titanic and, of course, Old Abe. Fortunately, the magic of cinema can take care of that.

  

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.

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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: El Presidente

El PresidenteThe name of today’s DOTW notwithstanding, this post is not brought to you by the ongoing Republican primary or anything else happening in the world of U.S. or Latin American politics. Instead, we all should thank the good people of Denizen Rum. As always, I appreciate the free bottle but I also appreciate the very reasonable price tag for a fifth which, depending on taxes in your area, might give you enough change from a $20.00 for a Double-Double at In ‘n Out. That’s something because this is tasty stuff, a bit more sophisticated and complex than your standard Bacardi, but in the friendliest way.

On to the cocktail, which was supposedly invented by a Yankee bartender working in Cuba. As per Wayne Curtis, back when little Fidel Castro was not even old enough for his first game of sandlot baseball, Cuba’s somewhat beleaguered President Gerardo Machado, offered one of these to our own el presidente, Republican Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal remembered that there was this thing called prohibition going on and politely declined.

Nice story, but my first attempt at the drink seemed to explain why El Presidente has become a relic stateside. I found the classical recipes to be sweet to the point of being cloying — and that’s something considering my sweet tooth.

I therefore followed the lead of booze blogger Matt Robold and halved one sweet ingredient, orange curacao, at his suggestion. I liked that version better but I decided to also halve the amount of grenadine he suggested. I found something close to perfection when made with the Denizen rum. This version works slightly less well with plain old Bacardi, but it’s still very nice.

El Presidente (impeached, but not deposed)

1.5 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce orange curacao
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you want to be traditional, stir for a very long time over crushed or cracked ice, or you can do like I do and shake it vigorously, though the drink might not look as pretty if you do. Your call.

Strain into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Fire up original mambo king Perez Prado on the music player of your choice, imagine a day when Cuban cigars are no longer contraband, and have a sip.

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If you want to go more traditional/way sweeter, the classic version offered by cocktail super-historian David Wondrich simply doubles the amount of curacao, and I think 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably the same as the “dash” of grenadine he suggests. I will say that, while I loved my version of the drink, at no point was I able to achieve the orange color the drink has in most (but not all) photos. Mine was more of a pale pinkish hue somewhat as you see above, even with just a tiny amount of very sweet, very red grenadine. It tasted amazing, so I can live with that.

One quick suggestion, if you are determined to go with the full 1/2 ounce of orange sweet stuff, you might do as some have suggested and substitute Cointreau for the curacao. It’s not bad.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Rob Roy

The Rob RoyFor the second week in a row, I’m revisiting classic variations of classic cocktails that have been mentioned here before but not fully explored. Though supposedly created by an anonymous bartender at New York’s Waldorf Hotel and named for the legendary hero of Scottish folklore, the Rob Roy is a pretty clear case of cocktail plagiarism at its finest. All it really is the Manhattan but made with Scotch rather than with rye, bourbon, or Canadian whisky. Still, as I noted in the second edition of DOTW, a Manhattan is really just a martini made with whiskey and capitalizing on the natural sweetness of rye, bourbon and Canadian whiskey, as opposed to the dry tang of modern day gin.

I also said at the time that I hadn’t figured out yet how to make a Rob Roy taste any good. It did take some time to revisit some recipes and experiment a bit with the more smokey and biting flavor of the Scottish brew in comparison to the sweeter rye and the almost-candy-like-in-comparison bourbon. Here’s the trick as I see it right now: We still use bitters, but we use them more sparingly.

The Rob Roy

2 ounces Scotch whisky
1/2-1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 dash bitters (angostura or orange)
maraschino cherry or lemon peel (garnish)

Add Scotch, vermouth, and bitters — using a light hand on the bitters — in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake most vigorously and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail class and sip, preferably while pouring over a volume of Robert Burns’ poetry.

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It’s true that the best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, and the hole in my plans was that I ran out of my beloved dry Noilly Pratt and forgot to try the dry version of the Rob Roy, which appears to be more popular than the less frequently discussed dry Manhattan. Both drinks simply use dry vermouth in place of the sweet variety and, traditionally, change the garnish from the cherry to a lemon peel or, if you’re me, an olive. If so, I would be extra careful with using Angostura bitters especially as Scotch is already a relatively harsh brew compared to North American whiskeys.

In general, though, to reiterate, the major distinction I would make between the Rob Roy and the Manhattan is that I strongly counsel being stingy with bitters on a Rob Roy, while I counsel greater generosity with them on Manhattans. Scotch is a pretty tough form of booze all on its own.

  

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