Drink of the Week: The Red Line

The Red Line.No need to go into details about the geekiness that brought me there, but this last Easter Sunday found this very secular Jew in downtown L.A. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to hit one of the countless outstanding bars in my town’s ever-cooler civic seat, but also being only too aware that it was a pretty major holiday, it appeared that my best bet for a DTLA libation was the relatively new E.R.B., aka Everson Royce Bar, a recent outgrowth of Pasadena’s noted Everson Royce wine and spirits emporium.

And that’s how I encountered today’s drink, the creation of the ERB bartender who calls himself Jonathan B. Jonathan had come up with the drink the night or two before, and he suggested it when I told him I was up for just about anything good. It’s a rich, strong concoction that I pronounced nifty on the spot.

Since there’s already a drink on the ERB menu called the Gold Line, referring to the commuter train that can take you from Pasadena to the downtown L.A. arts district, I suggested naming this drink after the slightly further afield Red Line, which would soon take me back to my North Hollywood home via nearby-enough-for-a-cheap-Uber ride Union Station. Yes, L.A. is finally starting to have decent public transit, just like we already have more than our fair share of good bars.

The Red Line

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Cynar
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud’s or Scrappy’s Orleans bitters
1 orange twist (desirable garnish)

Shake or stir the contents in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Add the orange twist, and toast our nation’s great cities and the creative bartenders who inhabit them.

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Drink of the Week: The Chatham Cocktail

The Chatham Cocktail.Looking up “Chatham” on Wikipedia, I can count some 15-plus municipalities in the United States and Canada with the name, alongside numerous neighborhood and towns with the word “Chatham” in them. Also, legendary British PM, William Pitt the Elder, who I sorta kinda remember from my AP European History class, was the first Earl of Chatham.

I very briefly wondered if it was possible that today’s drink could be remotely related to a long-closed West L.A. restaurant I remember my mom taking me to in my childhood. Well, for starters, the Chatam closed in 1987, and I don’t think they made cocktails. Yes, they did make the Chatam Special, a sandwich with turkey, swiss cheese, coleslaw…maybe some ham. In any case, what of that missing second H?

So, all I really know of the Chatham Cocktail’s origins is that one of the world’s most important cocktail gurus, L.A.’s own Ted Haigh of the oft-mentioned-here “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” sent it to another key cocktailian, Gary Regan of Regan’s Orange Bitters #6 and “The Joy of Mixology.” It was in that book — a really good 2003 cocktail and bartending primer from 2003 aimed primarily at people in the booze business, but definitely of interest to us hobbyists — that I found this very simple, very sophisticated, and really quite altogether decent drink. It’s more than worth a try if you have the ingredients available to you.

The Chatham Cocktail

2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce ginger liqueur or ginger brandy

Combine the liquids in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Think about why most English names don’t really mean anything…except for Baker, Butcher, Carpenter, and Smith, anyway.

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Drink of the Week: The Waldorf Gloom Lifter

The Waldorf Gloom Lifter.Last week found me possibly a dollar short and definitely a day late for St. Patrick’s Day, but at least the drink was good. The Gloom Lifter was essentially a whiskey sour with egg white, made with Irish whiskey rather than the more cocktail-typical North American varieties. Now, we have the Gloom Lifter’s more upscale cousin, the Waldorf Gloom Lifter, which is essentially a Clover Club with Irish whiskey and a bit of brandy standing in for gin.

If you want to find the original source of today’s drink, you’ll have to pick up a copy of “The Old Waldorf Astoria Bar Book,” a book dating back to the pre-Prohibition era which I don’t currently own. The recipe, however, is floating around the Internet in a number of iterations, now including this one.

If you found the Gloom Lifter a bit on the dry/overly simple side, this is a drink for you. It’s also a drink I’m willing to bet you might have a hard time getting at today’s historic and pricey Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, as it’s not on any of their online menus. If you did, it would likely cost you about $20.00, plus tip. Lucky us, you can make this one at home for probably less than a buck and enjoy a bit of bygone elegance on the cheap.

The Waldorf Gloom Lifter

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 egg white (1 ounce of packaged egg white)
1/2 ounce grenadine or raspberry syrup

This one has egg white again, so the drill is pretty much the same as always. Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice for the so-called dry shake. Watch out for the interesting chemical reaction which can cause the top of your shaker to pop off. In any case, if you’re going the safe route and using a pasteurized, packaged egg white — and I’ll note that I haven’t noticed any decline in the quality of the final product whatsoever while doing this — you won’t have to shake it for more than a few seconds for the egg white to be fully emulsified.

Next, add plenty of ice and shake again, vigorously as always, and strain it into one of your larger cocktail glasses. This is a big drink that needs a big glass.

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Drink of the Week: The Gloom Lifter

The Gloom Lifter.David A. Embury opened his epochal “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” with these words: “Anyone can make good cocktails.” It’s clear that you don’t need to be a genius to do it, and I have often proven that point through some very non-genius behavior. Most recently, I seem to be unable to read a calendar, because I’ve been congratulating myself that today’s dandy Irish whiskey-based recipe would be just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. It was only when it was much too late that I realized this week’s DOTW post would be appearing on March 18th.

Anyhow, today’s drink does indeed come to us directly from Mr. Embury’s 1948 classic. It’s basically just a very simple take on a Whiskey Sour using Irish whiskey. Still, these very specific proportions seem to suit perhaps the most weirdly underused of all the most popular base spirits.

Indeed, I really don’t see any reason at all why Irish whiskey isn’t used more often. At least to my palette, its always agreeable taste profile is a hair less mellow than Canadian whiskey but definitely gentler and far more easily mixable than Scotch. It definitely works in my personal prescription for any lingering post-St. Paddy’s depression.

The Gloom Lifter

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup or 1 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1/2 ounce egg white (1 ounce of packaged egg white)

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. First, shake the ingredients to properly emulsify the egg white, being careful to keep a good seal while you do so; the albumin in egg white can make for a potentially messy chemical reaction on the so-called dry shake. Next, add ice and shake vigorously. Embury tells us that 15 seconds is about the right amount of time for most drinks. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how perfect this drink might be on March 17, 2017… which will fall on a Friday, so I’ll presumably be right on time for a change with a holiday-appropriate beverage.

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Drink of the Week: The Applejack Rabbit

The Applejack Rabbit.So, if you’ve been wondering when I’d finally get around to finding a source for cocktails other than Harry Craddock’s 1930 “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” this is your week, more or less.

Like Craddock’s book, “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” by David A. Embury is one of the ur-texts of today’s cocktailian scene. Still, it is a different animal than Craddock’s tome because it’s much more than a recipe book.  Embury, you see, was not a bartender at all and, apart from this book, was not really a professional author either; he made his living as a tax lawyer. His book is essentially a lengthy and extremely opinionated exploration of the best ways to prepare and consume mixed beverages from the point of view of an enthusiastic bar patron and home booze hobbyist. Before the appearance of such latter day booze historian/philosophers as David Wondrich and Ted Haigh, there was pretty much this one single book, and — at least to my very limited knowledge — not much else if you really wanted a thoughtful look at what makes a good drink a good drink.

First published in 1948 and last updated in 1956, a lot of Embury’s book is obviously dated and/or downright inaccurate. Embury finds most tequila to be an abomination, while having some surprisingly kind words for Southern Comfort. He was absolutely certain that alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver were unrelated illnesses. He also has a reputation for suggesting drinks that can be almost ascetic in their boozy severity.

For all that, the guy clearly knew his mixology, and this week’s drink is proof. It is actually the right amount of sweet, sour and boozy. As a non-bartender myself who is roughly the same age today as Embury was in ’48, respect must be paid, and one way to do it is with this concoction, a tasty delight that people of all cocktail denominations can love.

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