Drink of the Week: The Casino

Image ALT text goes here.As start to I write this, I’ve just finished watching the third presidential debate and I’m contemplating the power of the Etch-a-Sketch. Just as Mitt Romney somehow made a significant slice of the electorate forget everything that happened prior to debate #1, now left-leaners like your humble tippler are hoping debates #2 and #3 will make everyone forget that first one.

And what does this have to do with today’s Drink of the Week? Well, let’s just say that after what I’ve been through the last few weeks, it’s time to move on — from the bourbon drinks I’ve been promoting here week after week and lots of other things besides. Also, this week, I’ve personally paid for every single ingredient. For this week, at least, we’re freebie free.

Today’s drink features a base spirit so classic it had all but disappeared until a few years back, and it’s one I’ve been dying to try for ages: Old Tom gin. It’s London dry gin’s much sweeter cousin which apparently includes a bit of simple syrup in the mix. Original Old Tom gins were apparently mostly gins that had sugar added to them to cover up some nasty flavors. Today’s very nice version — which really isn’t bad on its own — is from Hayman’s Distillers.

I was also rather taken with the name of today’s cocktail. I’ve been feeling like it’s time for a long-delayed return trip to my one-time near-second home of Las Vegas. If things go badly at the 21 and craps tables for me, and well they might, this drink could certainly help remove some of the sting.

The Casino

2 ounces Old Tom gin
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1 lemon twist (garnisth)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with lots of ice and stir vigorously. (You can shake if you like, and you know I usually like to shake, but here I really don’t find it necessary.) Pour into a chilled cocktail/martini glass, add lemon twist, and drink a toast to the right kind of big changes and better luck.

***
First of all, since I haven’t seen it in too many other places, I pretty much followed the lead of a 2008 blog post on Old Tom gin by England’s Jay Hepburn, but it should be noted there are other versions of this drink, in fact it can be tinkered with quite a bit.

For example, I know from my own experiments that this drink can also work very nicely with regular gin (I was using Beefeater), though I’m not sure if you still want to use the bitters. On the other hand, there is a super dry version of this drink that uses only dashes of the lemon juice and maraschino but throws in a cherry as the garnish. I’m sure that could work too and I might try it that way sometime.

On the other hand, the first time I made this, I forgot to use bitters with both the Old Tom and my London dry gin version and found it extremely drinkable. The casino seems to be a drink that can take an awful lot of abuse and not really be harmed. More proof that the house always wins.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Great Migration

The Great Migration

Today we present the second part of what’s going to be trilogy of posts featuring the beguiling and bewitching new Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur. Last week, I discussed the seductive sweetness of the concoction in context with the Mariposa Mojito.

Now, we move on to a sweeter territory with a drink that’s been heavily promoted by Mariposa’s masters over at Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. It’s something like a gin sidecar, but slightly more sugary — that’s not always a bad thing — and using a liqueur that I personally dig more than most. I have to admit the historical connections of the drink’s name have me at something of a loss, however, though it’s clear there was more than one great migration. Some of you might also want to have more than one of the libation of the same name.

The Great Migration

1 1/2 ounces dry gin
3/4 ounce Mariposa Agave Nectar Liqueur
3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4  ounce simple syrup
Turbinado/raw sugar
Lemon twist (garnish)

Rim a cocktail glass with raw sugar — It’s very possible that the plain old white stuff might work almost as well — by wetting the edges and dipping it into a plate full of the sweet stuff. Take your rimmed glass and stick it in the freezer to get it nice and chilled while you make the rest of the drink.

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. If you don’t have simple syrup on hand, you can probably dissolve some superfine sugar in a little bit of room temperature water and use that instead. Shake vigorously and strain into your now well chilled rimmed cocktail glass.

Engage in the magical process old school/artisanal bartenders call “expressing” the lemon twist which is crucial to drinks like the Sazerac. It involves twisting a very thin — as in rind-free — strip of the lemon’s skin; the act of twisting is thought to spritz a tiny but notable amount of lemon oil into the drink. Drop the skin into the drink and sip away at the sweetness.

****
If you like your drink very sweet indeed, you can make the accidental alteration I did while preparing this drink for some cooperative test subjects. Having forgotten the complete recipe, I actually doubled the amount of simple syrup to an entire half ounce — but I forgot about the turbinado rim. That made for a somewhat less complicated beverage that, for me, wasn’t as good as the recipe proper. However, it went really down really well with my willing guinea pigs and might work better for a lot of people who are less frequent boozers.

  

Drink of the Week: The Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club CocktailYou all probably know the one-liner, developed by Groucho Marx and reiterated by Woody Allen in “Annie Hall,” about not wanting to belong to any club that would have the speaker for a member. At this point, I have to admit that I certainly don’t feel like a member of the Pegu Club whether or not they’d have me. Of course, as I’m not a Britisher hanging around Rangoon circa 1920-1930, I wouldn’t expect to be had.

You see, the Pegu Club Cocktail, which apparently was favored by English imperialists messing about in Burma, aka Myanmar, has defeated me. I’ve tried it in a number of permutations and none seem to work. Sure, I still don’t have as much time at present as I’d like to experiment, but no amount of adjusting the proportions of ingredients made this thing come together for me and I have a feeling I could work with it for an entire month and not have much more luck. I’ll give you some leeway and maybe you’ll do better. It’s not like there’s anything wrong with the ingredients separately.

The Pegu Club Cocktail

1 1/2 – 2 ounces gin
1/2 – 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 – 1 ounce orange liqueur (Orange Curacao, Triple Sec, Cointreau, etc.)
1-2 dashes Orange Bitters
1-2 dashes Aromatic Bitters (Angostura, etc.)

Combines ingredients in a cocktail shaker and pour into a chilled cocktail shaker. I’d suggest you toast Aung San Suu Kyi but, in my opinion, she deserves a better balanced drink.

****
Do I sound bitter? Well, after finding myself underwhelmed by The Maiden’s Prayer a couple of weeks back, I’m just starting to wonder how debilitating Project Empty My Liquor Cabinet Pre Moving is going to continue to be. Well, the good news is that it will be over soon. Drink of the Week Central looks to be moving from Northwest Orange County to the central San Fernando Valley community of Van Nuys within a matter of weeks. Huzzah.

Nevertheless, I will offer one suggestion should you be curious to try this one for yourself: be darn sure not to forget your bitters. As it is, the orange liqueur or the lime juice has a tendency to completely dominate this drink depending on your proportions and never in a particularly good way, no matter what my choice of liqueur seemed to be. (I didn’t, however, try Grand Marnier, so who knows.) Without bitters, as my old buddy Kevin learned one Sunday recently, this can be on freakin’ syrupy drink if you lean on the liqueurish side of the spectrum. Serves me right for effectively celebrating British adventurism so close to the 4th of July.

I guess that’s it. I wonder if any great cocktails were invented in Van Nuys. No doubt we’ll be finding out the answer to that one together.

  

Drink of the Week: The Maiden’s Prayer

The Maiden's Prayer

C. K. Dexter Haven: The moon is also a goddess, chaste and virginal.
Tracy Lord: Stop using those foul words. – “The Philadelphia Story” (1940)

Let’s face it. Sex sells, now and forever. If anything, it sold even more so in the earlyish 20th century when there wasn’t quite such a glut on the market. In those days, the idea of visions of actual coupling — and tripling and quadrupling — of every imaginable sort being but a few mouse clicks and keystrokes away was beyond the imagination. Way beyond.

In those days even the absence of sex could be read as hot, hot, hot because, of course, it implied the theoretical presence of sex.  Then as now, of course, a drink or two or three was often a prelude to the actuality of carnal knowledge. Birth control might not have been as widely available back then but, well, there’s a good chance that going back a generation you — who knows, maybe even I — might owe our very existence to that fact. (Great-Grandma, how could you??) In an era when alcohol had more of a forbidden frisson than it might today, all the more so.

In any case, this is all a long winded way of delaying my admission that I’m actually not all that wild about today’s Drink of the Week, though you might feel differently. For one thing, time simply didn’t permit me to try out something different before my deadline on account of my current hectic schedule and the fact that one or two drinks a night is my limit most of the time. (There are times when not being more of hardcore boozer is an absolute handicap in this here booze blogging game.)

Also, it’s hard to ignore the name and the fact that the Maiden’s Prayer was apparently positioned ironically as a possible corrupter of young ladies of virtue. This is a men’s magazine blog after all. It’s certainly a simple enough concoction and all the ingredients separately are quite nice, I just don’t find it particularly seductive. On the other hand, the art of love and the craft of cocktails have a thousand pathways.

The Maiden’s Prayer

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Work out your frustrations by shaking the drink as vigorously as you can manage. Pour it into a chilled cocktail shaker and give to the nearest corruptible member of the opposite sex who isn’t too fussy about cocktails.

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The provenance of this one is apparently related to a now obscure song hit about the virtues of not doing what comes naturally. Fine, but all I know is that, if I were the maiden in question, I’d be praying for a swain with better taste in drinks. It’s just kind of overly simple, even using Cointreau was only a very slight improvement over triple sec.  Better, I think, to be corrupted by a Manhattan or a Bronx or a swoon-worthy Mary Pickford.

Whatever you do, if you are serving this to an actual maiden who knows the name of the drink, I would be careful about garnishing this one with a cherry. Safer to stick with a lemon or orange twist.

  

Drink of the Week: The Corpse Reviver #2

The Corpse Reviver #2What we have here, my friends, is a failure to be creative. In my ongoing quest to deplete my liquor supplies in advance of an impending move, while also trying to keep my cocktails simple on account of my current hectic schedule, I attempted my favorite vermouth-heavy martini variation; unfortunately, it seemed that  my home supply of Noilly Prat had gone slightly off due to old age. Then I tried making up my own simple drink using an awful lot of Lillet Blanc — an underrated type of fortified wine that’s like a sweeter version of dry vermouth — and gin. The result was not so good.

Finally, I happened upon this week’s tasty yet macabre selection, but forgot to include one key ingredient. Was this the sort of accident which could lead to the creation of an entirely new drink? Alas, no. Sans fresh lemon juice, the Corpse Reviver #2 is more of a coma inducer. Fortunately, with lemon juice, this certified cocktail classic‘s certainly good enough for any living being. I just can’t claim any credit for it.

The Corpse Reviver No. 2

1 ounce gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1-3 drops absinthe (you might be able to substitute other anise flavored liqueurs such as Pernod, Anisette, or pastis)
cocktail cherry or lemon twist (pretty optional garnish)

Combine your ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake loudly enough to raise the dead and strain into a cocktail glass that itself is as cold as death. Add the cherry or lemon twist, if you like. Toast the resurrection of your own choosing. (Fellow nonbelievers may feel free to apply the concept to their favorite sports team or political candidate.)

Alternatively, you can set the absinthe aside and add the drops of anise-flavored bitterness directly to the glass for a somewhat more pungent beverage.

***
Despite the name — we’ll eventually get around to Corpse Reviver #1, I’m sure — this is a simple, sturdy, and pleasurable drink. The absinthe, which is not a personal favorite of mine, nevertheless acts as a very solid alternative to bitters and opens up the drink while the lemon juice balances out the sweetness of the Cointreau/triple sec and the Lillet Blanc. The fresh citrus might not actually bring anyone back from the grave, or even do anything for a common cold, but it is healthy and 100% guaranteed to prevent scurvy, of course.

By the way, the Corpse Reviver’s name actually comes from the fact that this was considered a “morning after” drink and/or a great a.m. pick-me-up. No comment. The first to widely document and popularize the drink was booze pioneer Harry Craddock and a key name in its more recent history is revivalist Ted Haigh, aka “Dr. Cocktail.”

If you’re looking for someone to raise to your corpse reviving glass to, one person whose done his share of onscreen corpse revival — and much more corpse creation — is the great character actor and eternal heavy Christopher Lee of “Horror of Dracula,” “The Wicker Man,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “The Man With the Golden Gun” to name only a very few. Having recently turned a still-going-strong 90, he’s in no need of revival. On the other hand, this does seem like an ideal time to give him his say on the topic of cocktails.

  

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