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.

 

  

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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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