Drink of the Week: Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexander.The biggest drinking holiday of the year is tomorrow night, and I’m thinking it might be time for something really special, or at least something especially fun to cap off a long day of drinking, eating, and socializing. We’re basically talking about a pleasantly uplifting dessert in a glass that makes for a very nice egg nog alternative.

Brandy Alexander is a simple enough drink that is typically regarded as a true cocktail classic and a more cocktailian-friendly version of your Chocolate Martinis and such. It’s true that acerbic postwar cocktail scribe David A. Embury dissed it to some extent in “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” noting that it was the opposite of the appetite-encouraging, pre-dinner drinks he preferred. At the same time, even he agreed it made a grand dessert drink, even if believed those to be of a lower order.

On the other hand, this is not a drink to show off your favorite brand of super-high end Cognac or Armagnac; it appears it was developed during prohibition to hide the flavors of poor quality liquor. I should add that the original (the Alexander), although a less popular version of this drink, was made with gin. I’m not sure if was the bathtub variety but, if you’re talking Tanqueray or Gordon’s, it’s also worth a try that way. Definitely feel free to substitute your favorite whiskey or rum in this one if your New Year’s liquor cabinet is brandy-impoverished.

Brandy Alexander

1 ounce brandy
1 ounce crème de cacao (most prefer the dark colored version)
1 ounce heavy cream
Ground nutmeg (desirable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: Bobo’s Toddy

Bobo's Toddy.Christmas is, of course, just about upon us. Whether you’ve got kids and are struggling to make sure Santa arrives on schedule or a lonely singleton with enough time on his hands to fret about uncertain times (that would be me), there’s a very good chance that a warm, soothing, sweet yet far from insipid alcoholic beverage might be just the thing to relax with after a long day of holiday preparations or a long night of holiday partying. I think I’ve got just the thing.

Bobo’s Toddy is my very simple variation/simplification of Babbo’s Toddy, a drink we are told was created by New York bartender Erick Castro. It’s a very sound cold weather twist on the Boulevardier, but the original recipe calls for a healthy amount of cinnamon syrup, something I didn’t have on hand and didn’t feel like running out to buy one night not long ago when I was determined to work up a very proper Christmas cocktail. So, I found a couple of other ingredients that I thought would work just as well, and I’m happy to say I can endorse the results of what I’m calling Bobo’s Toddy… after, you know, me! It’s a drink I’m happy to put all three letters of my first name in. If this drink won’t help you wind down, you might not be wind-downable.

Bobo’s Toddy

1 ounce sweet vermouth
3/4 ounce falernum or orgeat (almond syrup)
1/2 ounce bourbon
1/2 ounce Campari
1 orange slice (highly advisable garnish)

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

The Modern Cocktail (No.2).Today, we have part three of our latest series of related cocktails with The Modern Cocktail (No. 2.) If you go back and look at the prior two (The Modern Cocktail and The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)), you’ll see that what they all have in common, aside from the name, is Scotch and number of similar ingredients measured out in dashes. The latter two appear in Harry Craddock’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” but the first is a more complete obscurity recently resurrected by cocktail historian David Wondrich. Upon reflection, I think it’s pretty clearly the best of the three.

Nevertheless, today’s selection is not a bad runner-up because, like Wondrich’s discovery, it mellows out the Scotch with a healthy amount of sloe gin. This drink, however, tamps down the whiskey somewhat and gooses up the gin-based cherry liqueur. You could say it’s on the sweet side.

The Modern Cocktail (No. 2)

1 ounce blended Scotch whisky
2 ounces sloe gin
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash absinthe
1 dash grenadine

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake — Harry Craddock and I  say you should shake this, but most cocktail snobs will prefer to stir — and strain into a well chilled cocktail glass. Congratulate yourself if you’ve ever actually eaten a sloe berry. (I haven’t.)

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail (No. 1)

The Modern Cocktail (No. 1).This might be a little confusing, but just bear with me. You see, although it wasn’t my intention, it turns out that I’ve began another of my occasional trilogies of cocktails, and these are all called “The Modern Cocktail,” though it’s hard to say what was particularly modern about them back in the earlier part of the 20th century. However, they’re unusual in that they include Scotch, rarely a go-to base spirit, though one I’m quite fond of in mixed drinks, at times.

My original plan was to simply follow-up last week’s drink, the Modern Cocktail, which was based on a surprisingly harmonious combination of sloe gin and Scotch, with the Modern Cocktail (No. 2) from 1930’s “The Savoy Cocktail Book,” which actually does not include the original 1905 Modern Cocktail recipe I went through last week. Got that? In any case, I was sidetracked by some difficulties with locating decent brands of sloe gin at my local stores.

More about that next week, but in the meantime, we’re going to go with the first drink bearing the name “Modern Cocktail” included in Harry Craddock’s epochal cocktail book. This one is sloe gin-free and a drastically different taste experience. However, the recipe is similar enough to the first Modern Cocktail that it’s tempting to wonder if the whole thing isn’t some kind of a typographical mutation. It’s close to being the same drink, minus the sloe gin or, really, any kind of sweetening.

Yes, this is a drink for a select few who really want their booze to be boozy and relatively unadorned and unsoftened. See what you think.

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Drink of the Week: The Modern Cocktail

The Modern Cocktail.Since famed cocktail super-historian David Wondrich tells us that it dates back to 1905, clearly the Modern Cocktail hasn’t been particularly modern for a very long time. Indeed, at least up to now, it’s been an absolute obscurity, one that I personally hadn’t encountered until last week. And Wondrich is definitely right that it hasn’t been making its way into your better bars the way so many other of the better rediscovered cocktails have in recent years. He seems to chalk it up to the odd hodgepodge of ingredients, and that may well be correct.

In any case, I agree with him that the Modern Cocktail might not be any more newfangled than an Old Fashioned, but it is amazingly rich and delicious. Let’s keep it simple this week and just get right into it.

The Modern Cocktail

1 or 1 1/2 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 or 1 1/2 ounce sloe gin (probably Plymouth Sloe Gin)
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 dash absinthe (I use an eye dropper; a shaker bottle might be ideal)
1 dash orange bitters
1 cocktail cherry (fun garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients and easily dissolved sugar in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake quite vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Contemplate the likelihood that even having easy access to ice must have seemed incredibly modern at some point.

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