Drink of the Week: The October Surprise

the October Surprise.Halloween, at least officially, is on Monday, so I have a seasonally appropriate drink of my own creation. It does not reference anything supernatural, but it does reference something scary and monstrous. I speak, of course, of the presidential election. I call it the October Surprise.

If you follow politics at all, “October Surprise” is a familiar phrase, particularly beloved by conspiracy theorists of varying stripes, that refers to pre-election October shocks that can change November outcomes. Arguably, we’ve had quite a few in 2016, though I personally think the only real surprise is that a reality TV star, known to have very poor impulse-control and no understanding of government or anything else of importance, ever got this close to the White House. Truly scary.

Anyhow, I’ve come up with a drink that’s a sweet and rich autumnal twist on a flip but contains a hot and spicy kick that could be deemed surprising and way more savory than your typical political surprise.

The October Surprise

1 1/2 ounces apple brandy, applejack or standard brandy
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1 slice persimmon
1 small slice of manzano chili pepper
1/2 whole egg
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
Grated nutmeg (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Buster Brown

The Buster Brown.If you’ve heard the name “Buster Brown” at all, you’re probably thinking of a line of kids’ shoes. However, you may not know that these shoes were not named for the guy who started the footwear line. Buster Brown was a popular comic strip character from the early 20th century created by Richard F. Outcault, a comics pioneer who’s perhaps slightly better remembered by modern graphic storytelling geeks for the Yellow Kid.

The character was a dandyish youngster whose angelic looks belied a strong mischievous streak, resulting in frequent corporal punishment at the hands of his mother. I’ve never actually read the strip, but I assume no boozing was involved as Buster was obviously much too young. So, as with last week’s drink, we have another cocktail named for a presumed teetotaler.

Indeed, while cartoonist Richard Outcault licensed his character to the shoe brand, there is really no apparent connection between the name and drink itself. Still, it’s a very nice variation on a whiskey sour. The only real difference is that the Buster Brown is a true cocktail in the original sense as, unlike most sours, it containsĀ bitters.

The Buster Brown

2 ounces bourbon (possibly rye)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (possibly 2 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar)
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and contemplate how to do mischievous things without getting spanked.

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Drink of the Week: The Douglas Fairbanks

The Douglas Fairbanks.For those of you who don’t know your early Hollywood history, Douglas Fairbanks was probably the first real superstar action hero and, like Buster Keaton in his own day and Jackie Chan many years later, a superb stunt performer. He played the dashing, ultra-athletic lead in some of the earliest film versions of “The Thief of Baghdad,” “The Mark of Zorro” and “The Three Musketeers,” among many other productions. He was also — and I believe this is a DOTW first for a celebrity-named cocktail — a teetotaler.

Maybe, then, there’s a certain irony in that the flavor of the drink is, despite the presence of a very sweet liqueur, quite dry and tart. Meanwhile, the drink named after Fairbanks’ fellow silent-era superstar and reputed one-true-love, Mary Pickford, is quite sweet. Conversely, she is said to have had an extremely serious drinking problem.

So, yes, we’re talking extremes. You’d better like dry and tart because, even an ounce of a sweet liqueur and egg white can’t make the Douglas Fairbanks into anything but a drink for people who like ’em on the austere side. You’ve been warned.

The Douglas Fairbanks

2 ounces gin
1 ounce apricot brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lemon or lime juice
1/2 egg white (1 1/2 tablespoons of packaged egg white)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you are using fresh egg white (i.e., out of an actual egg), first shake it without ice to emulsify the egg, being mindful of the mildly explosive properties of un-iced egg white. Next, add plenty of ice and shake again very vigorously. Strain the result into large chilled cocktail glass. Prepare for tartness!

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Drink of the Week: The Cold Brew Negroni

The Cold Brew Negroni.Long before my serious cocktailing days, boozy drinks that featured coffee were a go-to for this caffeine addict. Then and now, I’ve found the effect both invigorating and relaxing and, let me tell you, drinks that are insults to the good name of Irish Coffee have gotten me through a great many long night/morning at the craps table.

So, when shadowy forces who, as far as I can tell, are either in the employ of Big Coffee or Big Italian Digestif, sent me today’s drink, a clever and direct twist on a true cocktail classic, I decided to break my rule against home-made infusions. Today’s selection sounded just good enough, and just simple enough, to make it a worthy DOTW. Let’s see what you think.

The Cold Brew Negroni

1 ounce cold-brew coffee infused Campari (see below)
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce gin
1 orange slice (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Fancy Free Cocktail

The Fancy Free Cocktail.I love cocktails, but after an exceptionally tiring day, I don’t always love making them, so it’s nice to have a few options that require minimal effort. While the Old Fashioned, a Martini, and a Manhattan are all great possibilities on such an evening, they all also involve endless questions and debates regarding the right way to make them and innumerable, mostly valid, interpretations. Sometimes, you don’t want a drink with an interesting backstory, much less one offering endless iterations. Sometimes, you just want a sweet something to help you relax and nothing else.

Yes, the Fancy Free Cocktail, which I discovered via Robert Hess’s “The Essential Bartender’s Guide” (you can also see him making one circa 2009 here) is accurately named. You can serve it up (i.e. in a cocktail glass with no ice), but if you’re even lazier, you can build it in a glass and have it on the rocks. Garnishes are entirely optional, in case you can’t bring yourself to grab a fruit peeler or drop a cocktail cherry in. But you’d better like your drink strong and sweet.

The Fancy Free

2 ounces bourbon (rye may be an acceptable substitute)
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1 dash Angostura/aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters
1 orange twist or cocktail cherry (entirely optional garnishes)

Method 1: Add the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Stir or shake (this is another one I personally prefer stirred) and strain into our old pal, the well-chilled cocktail glass. Add the garnish if you so choose.

Method 2 (the more fancy free Fancy Free): Add all the ingredients to a rocks/old fashioned glass with plenty of ice. Stir a lot and then add the garnish if you’re in a garnishing mood. Drink nice and slow.

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