Drink of the Week: The Blinker (Duffy’s Version)

the Blinker.The Blinker was one of the many moribund beverages revived by Ted Haigh in his epochal 2009 book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Haigh, in turn, found the drink in a 1934 tome by a Patrick Gavin Duffy but found it “unremarkable” and he therefore messed with it. We’ll try Haigh’s messed with version later, but we start with the unvarnished original.

The Duffy Blinker might not have knocked my socks clean off, but it really is a very nice drink enlivened by a generous portion of fresh grapefruit juice. I have to admit that the fact that I still had some extra-large citrus around after last week’s drink was my primary motivator for choosing the Blinker. I never used to like anything grapefruit but, by god, the bittersweet fruit is really growing on me. It’s certainly tasty enough in this beverage.

The Blinker (Duffy’s Version)

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce grapefruit juice (preferably fresh)
1 teaspoon grenadine
1 lemon twist (desirable garnish)

No surprises here. You guys probably have this drill memorized by now, but here it is again…

Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker with an excess of ice. Shake most vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add your lemon twist if you’ve got one handy. As for the toast, let’s mix things up and salute, heck, Ethel Barrymore. I just saw her for the first time in 1948′s “Portrait of Jennie” (ask your neighborhood movie geek/film buff, or your great-grandmother) and she was extremely good in it. As a Barrymore, I’d like to think she might have tried a Blinker.

******

This drink worked very nicely with the two different bourbons I had time to try before I was briefly sidelined by a small cold. (As I write this, I’ve been dry for a shocking four days!) Wathen’s Kentucky Bourbon made a fine, sweet base spirit, but there was more 100 proof, bottled in bond, punch when I killed my bottle of good ol’ Old Fitzgerald’s (my favorite bourbon bargain up to now).

I will also add that I suspect it’s probably very important to use a decent grenadine in the Blinker. Ted Haigh, you see, felt the need to make a substitution for this ingredient. He might have been partly moved by the fact that so many commercially available grenadines are hard to distinguish from any other high fructose corn syrup based concoctions.

At the same time, while it’s great to spend extra dough and go gourmet, or go crazy and make your own grenadine, as some bloggers insist, there is another option. Take a little time and find a reasonably priced product that includes a little real juice, pomegranate most importantly. Master of Mixes grenadine includes pomegranite and cherry juice; it has served me well for some time and it only costs a few bucks…and, no, they haven’t been sending me free bottles in the mail. Not yet, anyway.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Ideal Cocktail

Image ALT text goes here.A long time ago, a boss of mine was discussing an upcoming project and said something to the effect that “in an ideal world, we’d complete this task in two or three days.” I said, something like, “No, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have to work at all; we’d be romping with bunnies wearing nothing but flowers and praising the Lord.”

In other words, of course, the ideal cocktail doesn’t exist. Thanks to the miracle of proper names, however, the Ideal Cocktail does exist. It’s not ideal but it’s definitely not bad. It did, though, require a bit of futzing with the proportions based on the somewhat vague instructions in the most reliable source for this early 20th century tipple, The Savoy Cocktail Book. I’m very okay with the rather stiff beverage I came up with based on Harry Craddock’s prohibition-era recipe, with just a little bit of bloggy help.

The Ideal Cocktail

2 ounces London dry gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
1 grapefruit twist (desirable garnish)

Combine the gin, vermouth, juice, and bittersweet cherry liqueur in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Toast the reality that, in all likelihood, there’ll never be an ideal anything. After all, if we all knew how to make the perfect cocktail, cook the perfect steak, make the perfect movie, or find the perfect love, life would either get really dull, or we’d all explode or something.

***

Harry Craddock’s recipe is a bit vague by modern standards as it calls for 1 part vermouth to two parts gin, but specifically tells us to add a tablespoon of grapefruit juice regardless of how big our “parts” are. It also calls for an incredibly frustrating three dashes of maraschino, which can be anything.

When first trying this drink out, I took my cue from Erik Ellestad’s 2009 post on his Savoy Stomp blog. He interpreted 3 dashes of maraschino to equal a teaspoon of the bittersweet cherry liqueur. He also — reasonably enough — called for 1 1/2 ounces of gin and 3/4 ounce of sweet vermouth, with him using the pricey (and admittedly fantastic) Carpano Antica. I liked his orthodox take on the drink which differs from the very few other versions of this you’ll find online.

I chose my fall-back sweet vermouth, Noilly Pratt and started with Mr. Ellestad’s proportions, using a bottle of Tanqueray I’ve been itching to work with. I dismissed his suggestion to stir, not shake, the drink out of hand, however. Though I tend to be generally highly skeptical of the booze snob ban on stirring many cocktails for fear or spoiling the beauty and booziness of the drink, in this case most c-snobs actually have my back; conventional wisdom supports shaking any drink with citrus juice in it. I think it’s a necessity here.

In fact, even vigorously shaken, the Ideal Cocktail came out a bit cloying to my tastebuds at those proportions. After experimenting with both Maraska and Luxardo brands maraschino, I decided that, this time, Luxardo was definitely the better choice, justifying it’s higher price tag. More importantly, I finally settled on upping the amounts of the Tanqueray and Noilly Pratt I was using. The results were bracing and just sweet enough, though I admit that it’s a pretty stiff drink.

In an effort to make it a hair less stiff, I switched from the 94.6 proof Tanqueray  to value price, 80 proof, Gordon’s. Not bad, if less than ideal.

 

 

  

The Selvarey Chicago Fizz

Selvarey Chicago Fizz. Today’s drink is the most deliciously nutritious and possibly (though not definitely) the last of the cocktails we’ll be featuring here with a base booze provided by the skilled distillers of Selvarey White Rum. If you missed my earlier experiments with this brand, all I can say is that it’s a genuine Panamanian treat from a company which also boasts darn good taste in cocktails.

The Selvarey Chicago Fizz differs from most of the other Chicago Fizz recipes you’ll find online in that’s it’s made with Selvarey White Rum, instead of a sweeter dark rum. The result is a beverage that’s almost perfectly balanced between sweet and tart flavors. I’m not sure about actually curing a hangover, but if you’re determined to have a cocktail in the morning, which means you’re either drinking too much, on vacation, or both, this may be the most outstanding choice possible.

The Selvarey Chicago Fizz

1 ounce Selvarey White Rum
1 ounce tawny port wine
3/4 ounce lemon juice
1 raw egg white or 1 ounce of pasteurized egg white
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
Soda water

Combine all the ingredients except the soda water in a cocktail shaker, without ice. “Dry shake” without the ice to emulsify the egg. Then shake again, very vigorously and now with plenty of ice. Strain into a chilled Tom Collins-style glass. Top off with that soda water (preferably chilled) you’ve been holding back and you’ll find yourself with a nice “head” on your fizz. Sipp and salute the concept of carbonated water, without which life would be just a little bit more flat.

*****

I usually talk about ingredients in this section, but this time I’ll offer a note about your bartending equipment first. You’ll likely have better results with your Chicago Fizz if you use an old fashioned separate cocktail strainer like the pro bartenders use, rather than the built in kind. The pre-fizz portion of the drink is thick enough that’s it’s tricky to get out of those tiny holes at the top of the shaker. Regular readers will remember that I’ve made many drinks with egg whites, but this seemed to be more of an issue this week than with other egg white cocktails — either that, or I’m just losing my patience.

Fizzes are an entire mixed drink category I’ve barely touched on. What’s interesting is that the inclusion of relatively small amount of soda water renders a pretty massive change, and I don’t just mean bubbles.

A cocktail featuring an egg white usually has a lovely, soft and milky texture. Adding the fizzy water, however, causes the egg white to separate from the rest of the drink, which produces a head which is similar to what you might find in root beer or, even more to the point, that non-alcoholic New York/Jewish deli favorite, an egg cream. (If you know your deli beverages, you’re aware that an egg cream  contains chocolate syrup but no egg and no cream, but it has a very nice foamy head owing to the presence of milk and seltzer.)

In the case of the Selvarey Chicago Fizz, or the Jacques Straub 1914 take on the Chicago Fizz to the boozy historians, the result is fruity, not too sweet and — relatively speaking — not too heavy on the booze. In fact, it’s so not too sweet that I wouldn’t blame you if you amped up the amount of simple syrup or sugar.

Finally, it is definitely permissible to try this with other brands of white rum. I gave it a shot with a far older premium brand and, while I preferred the lighter, sweeter touch of the Selvarey, it wasn’t bad with Brand X. In any case, using a rum to your liking, not to mention a good tawny port (not my particular area of expertise; I used a brand called Almiro), will likely yield a better drink. Follow your instincts.

  

Drink of the Week: The Liberal (modern style)

The Liberal.Yes, it won’t be shock if you’ve been paying close attention, but I’m a liberal. Not a Noam Chomsky-style ultra-progressive or a concern-trolling Tom Friedman/Joe Klein style enabler of everything that sucks. Nope, I’m just a plain old liberal with a mad crush on Rachel Maddow, personal liberty, ethnic/religious/sexual equality, not starting wars every alternate Thursday, and the concept of a mixed economy like they still have in Canada and Europe.

Why bring that up now? Well, most of us at least know that on Memorial Day, we’re really supposed to be honoring on our war dead, and Veteran’s Day is obviously about veterans, but few people of any political stripe consider that Labor Day is really supposed to be about people who have to work for a living for other, richer people. In other words, most of us. Unions are a real thing and if you like things like a 5 day week or overtime pay, you should be for improving them AND for growing them, not dismantling them.

So, since labor and liberal politics really do together, now more than ever, I can’t imagine a better drink for Labor Day weekend than the Liberal. Now, it’s not at all clear why this particular drink is called the Liberal and not the Libertarian or the Nonpartisan, but it’s definitely a drink that will make you feel like sharing the wealth, just a little. Let us begin.

The Liberal (Modern Style)

1 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Torani Amer
1 dash orange bitters
1 lemon twist or maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine your whiskey, vermouth and your amaro digestif (that’s the Torani Amer) in the mixing vessel of your choice with a liberal amount of ice. Stir very vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. I’m usually very shaking-friendly, but I really don’t suggest shaking this one as it seems to come out surprisingly watered down and deflavorized if you do.

Add a decent maraschino cherry or very thin lemon twist. Since I’m a small-l liberal as well as big-L liberal, I’ll allow you to toast whomever you like. I, however, might suggest George Bernard Shaw, Molly Ivins, Groucho Marx, or Abe Lincoln, the originator of that long-dead breed, the liberal Republican.

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A brief note: today’s version is, as is so often the case, just one of a number of different recipes with wildly differing proportions. This version appears to be of more recent vintage, but I hope to be giving an older version of it whirl fairly soon. The modern Liberal is pretty nice, if you’re not allergic to cocktails that flaunt their booziness. Nevertheless, it is a drink with issues.

The first problem some of you are going to encounter is finding Torani Amer. It’s fairly easy to dig up here in lefty-coastal California at your local high-end or big box liquor emporium such as Total Wine & More or Bev-Mo, I understand, however, it’s hard to find elsewhere. I guess you’ll have to buy it online until the revolution comes.

The second problem is that nobody’s really that crazy about Torani Amer. The thing is, in some drinks, it’s just the best ingredient you’ll find. The original version of the Liberal, in fact, called for Amer Picon, a product that really doesn’t exist anymore no matter where you live. (You can still find something with that name in Europe but, by all accounts, it’s changed dramatically.)

I actually tried this drink with the far more well-liked sister beverage to Torani Amer and Amer Picon, Amaro CioCiara, and it was actually too sweet. Torani Amer it is. It’s a fact of modern liberal life that, all too often, you have to accept damn near unacceptable compromises.

  

Drink of the Week: The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

Selvarey Hemingway Daquiri.It’s a good drink, a true drink, an honest drink. Okay, I’ll skip the lousy Hemingway parodies from now on, but you should be nevertheless be prepared for a bit of extra exuberance as this week’s selection is a genuine treat, which is no surprise as it’s one of many versions of a true cocktail classic. It also comes with a dandy free bottle of very good rum for yours truly.

In case you out of touch with the latest in the booze world, fine rums are all the rage right now and Selvarey white rum is one tasty example. (DOTW already featured its delicious sister chocolate-infused cacao rum a couple of weeks back.) Moreover, just as Avion tequila benefited from an endorsement from the fictional movies stars of “Entourage,” Selvarey has a little bit of star appeal of its own, courtesy of the involvement of singer-songwriter Bruno Mars.  Don’t think for a minute, however, that this is just a matter of so much fake alcoholic tinsel. As Oscar Levant would say, underneath the fake tinsel you’ll find the real tinsel and Selvarey is the real deal, a flavorful but straightforward and smooth white rum that’s definitely at least one or two cuts above what you’re probably used to.

As good as the booze is, this week’s cocktail is even better. I’m actually pretty new to the Hemingway Daiquiri. A regular daiquiri — made with fresh juice, a little sugar, and no blender — is a delight. A Hemingway daiquiri is, however, something else. I can see why the great novelist might have dug this drink when it was first made him for him by Havana bartender Constantino Ribalaigua. At least in the Selvarey version, it’s a terse rhapsody in a glass.

The Hemingway Daiquiri (a la Selvarey)

1 1/2 ounces Selvarey white rum
3/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 grapefruit slice or decent maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake as vigorously as Mr. Hemingway searched for just the right words, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass (coupe or martini style). Toast your favorite Hemingway novel or film adaptation. (In my case, I guess that would probably be “A Farewell to Arms” for the book and “To Have and Have Not” for the film adaptation…even if Hemingway himself hated the book and I’ve never read it, it’s damn fine movie.)

*****

If you’ll look online you’ll see that the basic ingredients of Hemingway Daiquiri almost never vary, but the proportions are constantly in flux. It’s a great excuse for me to revisit this drink later on so I can try messing with the proportions myself.

Nevertheless, this time around I stuck with the Selvarey basic recipe, but I messed around a bit with the brand names. For starters, I was so bold as to try a couple of very well known Brand X rums — one a super-reasonably priced big name and the other a premium brand, beloved of cocktail classicists. Predictably, the latter was somewhat superior to the former, but I’m sure the Selvarey people will be delighted to hear that their rum really did produce the best result of all, smoother, more complex and flavorful.

The really interesting result, though, was when I switched out the brands of maraschino liqueur…which I once again remind you is in no way to be confused with the red syrup in a bottle of supermarket maraschino cherries. Luxardo is the brand of choice these days for the wondrous very sweet, slightly bitter cherry liqueur and it works just great in a Hemingway. However, since I also have a bottle of value-priced Maraska maraschino on hand, I was duty bound to give that a whirl. It was even nicer when I departed from Selvarey’s recipe and substituted the grapefruit slice garnist for a much better than average maraschino cherry (Tillen Farms Merry Maraschino).

Though the consensus among cocktail cognoscenti appears to be strongly in favor of Luxardo, I’ll be damned if the version with Maraska wasn’t notably superior. It was already a highly refreshing, almost perfectly balanced bittersweet beverage, but now there was something more. I’d say it added a lovely, slightly sweet, indescribable sheen that took the Hemingway daiquiri to a whole new level. Not bad, considering I purchased my Maraska, which is admittedly not always easy to find, for about half as much as the $30+ you’ll usually pay for Luxardo.

Life, as Hemingway might, say is full of surprises. Actually, it’s possible he’d never say that but, in this case, it would be true.

  

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