Drink of the Week: The Monkey Gland

the Monkey Gland.Never fear, absolutely no simians were harmed in the making of today’s DOTW. The Monkey Gland is, in fact, a sly wink to a prohibition-era alleged health treatment which, for a time, was seriously in vogue with the (maybe not so) smart set. It did, in fact, call for the transplantation or grafting of the testicular tissue of a presumably very unhappy primate onto the testicular tissue of a slightly less unhappy primate, i.e., a male human being. Say what you will about modern day snake oil supplements and the like, they rarely cause intense groin pain.

What drew me to today’s cocktail was not any interest in the potency properties of primate parts, but in finding another drink where I could substitute my new bottle of raspberry syrup for grenadine after last week’s adventure with Dr. Cocktail’s Blinker. I admit to having enough of a sweet tooth that I was contemplating using my Smucker’s syrup in lieu of jam by soaking pieces of bread with it. Better by far to use a much smaller amount of it as a sweetener in a drink I’m going to be consuming anyway.

That’s not to say I didn’t give a fair hearing to the more traditional choice of grenadine, but let’s just say I was prejudiced in favor of the old school substitution.

The Monkey Gland

2 ounces London dry gin
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/4 ounce (1 1/2 teaspoons) grenadine or raspberry syrup
1/4 teaspoon or 1 dash absinthe
1 orange peel (desirable garnish)

Combine all your liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, perhaps stirring first if your using the kind of thick, cold raspberry syrup I was. Shake for a good, long time and strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add your orange peel and toast our much maligned cousins in the animal kingdom. Yes, we are related to them. Admit it, you resemble monkeys and apes at least as much as you resemble your uncle who always smells vaguely of fried eggs.

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This version of the Monkey Gland comes to us primarily from cocktail super-maven Robert Hess, who — and I mean this in the most flattering way possible — has always struck me as Martha Stewart’s boozier, slightly more relaxed twin brother. The drink in its updated version appears in Hess’s truly essential The Essential Bartender’s Guide, as well as in one of Mr. Hess’s eminently watchable online videos. It’s creation is usually credited to Harry¬†MacElhone of Paris’s legendary Harry’s Bar. Mr. Hess, however, says the Monkey Gland was first mixed by Frank Meyer, the almost as legendary bartender at the nearby Hotel Ritz.

The original Monkey Gland called for equal parts gin and orange juice and commensurately less sweetener. I was tempted to give that a try but then I wouldn’t be using so much of my raspberry syrup up, and we couldn’t have that. Also, I’ve been enjoying my bottle of Tanqueray and who needs to cover that colossus of London gins up with too much OJ? Nevertheless, I did also try this drink with cheaper, merely 80 proof, Gordon’s Gin, and it was a taste treat in it’s own right.

The difference was actually more pronounced between the Monkey Glands I made using my default Master of Mixes grenadine and the raspberry syrup. It produced a gentler, subtler, slightly sweet taste I really enjoyed, especially when paired with the a-little-goes-a-super-long-way annis/licorice flavor of absinthe. So, yes, once again, advantage Smuckers.

And one final note, there’s also a South African barbecue sauce which goes by the name of Monkey Gland. It’s also 100% primate free but also contains no gin. You win some, you lose some.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Boulevardier

The BoulevardierIf you’re reading “The Sun Also Rises” right now, this may be the drink you want to put you in the apposite booze addled/jaundiced frame of mind. In fact, it was actually invented at the famed Hemingway hang, Harry’s Bar. If you’re going to overdo it the way the characters in the book do, you could do a lot worse.

Moreover, if today’s beverage¬† reminds you a little bit of the Negroni, then count yourself among the cocktail elect as this drink basically is that cocktail classic, but substituting whiskey — usually bourbon but some recipes say you can do it with rye and possibly even Canadian — which makes it also a bit like a Manhattan.

Still, while some writers have wondered out loud why this semi-forgotten prohibition era beverage is less well known than those undisputed classic beverages, I can see why it hasn’t become a household name. While I find the Negroni and the Manhattan difficult to mess up and nearly always amazing, the Boulevardier is more elusive. On the other hand, if you manage to get it really right, it can be pretty darn nifty — especially if you like whiskey and the powerful bitter-sweetness/sweet bitterness of Campari as I much as I do.

The Boulevardier

1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Stir if you must be a classicist, but I say you should shake this drink, damnit. Whichever you choose, strain into our old friend, the chilled cocktail glass or — especially if it’s as hot where you are as it is right now at DOTW Central — into an ice-filled rocks glass. Imbibe this beverage sure in the knowledge that you don’t really have to watch the rather turgid 1957 film version of Hemingway’s aforementioned novel with Tyrone Power and an all middle-aged-ish cast, which is dead wrong considering that “The Sun Also Rises” is kind of a higher quality early draft of “Less Than Zero” with booze, booze, and more booze substituting for booze, coke, Quaaludes, and more booze and a higher species of jerkwads for characters. Where was I? Oh, yeah, cocktail blog.

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The earliest version of this drink actually calls for equal parts bourbon, Campari, and vermouth. While I’ve found it works just dandy for a Negroni, that wasn’t the case here. Even using my go-to 100 proof Old Fitzgerald’s bourbon, I found the sweetness a bit overpowering despite the bitter Campari comeback, especially when I tried this one stirred. Things were much improved when I went with a more contemporary version which upped the proportion of bourbon.

I was concerned that the merely 80 proof Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey featured here just last week would prove too delicate to stand up to the Campari and vermouth. However, I once again badly underestimated this subtle yet powerfully flavorful Jim Beam high end brew. The resulting Boulevardier was subtly complex, with just the right level of sweetness to bitterness and with a few of the more savory-ish notes of the Basil Hayden mellowing things out.

I’m going to try this one with rye pretty soon, but that brings us awfully close to another drink, the Whiskey Rebellion inspired 1794, which I’m saving for another occasion.

  

Drink of the Week: The Sidecar

Sidecar cocktailAllegedly dating back to the days of World War I and Papa Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris (that would be Harry’s, of course) and apparently invented either by or for a motorcycling serviceman with a sidecar on his vehicle, this is a drink that is being revived more and more often these days. As with most of the other classic cocktails, there is a pretty huge amount of variation in the proportions of what boils down to being a delightfully simple drink. However, after looking at a number of recipes from different sources, there are two basic variations.

The Sidecar (modern day)

2 ounces cognac or brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 – 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake very vigorously, and pour into a pre-chilled glass. Some bartenders garnish with a lemon twist. Others rim the glass with sugar by wetting the edge of the glass with lemon juice and placing the glass on plate of bowl of sugar. However, serving this drink garnish free in simply a chilled glass will do just fine.

Now, some recipes from less reputable sources might also suggest you could use any brand of triple sec — Cointreau is the relatively pricey “original” triple sec and is drier than the garden variety. After experimenting all week with a cut rate version using a decent but basic brand of the orange liqueur, I’m here to tell you that simply doesn’t work in the above recipe. Even with an entire ounce of lemon, it was way too insipidly sweet if I used the smaller amount of lemon juice for me, and I have more of a sweet tooth than most hardcore cocktail aficionados. Even with more of the super tart juice, however, the darn thing simply failed to come together, which I guess is why everybody in the booze world I respect implies it’s either Cointreau or the highway here.

However, there is an older version of the beverage which is an entirely different story and great news for us impoverished cocktail hounds

The Sidecar (original)

1 ounce brandy or Cognac
1 ounce Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice

Again, this is prepared by simply shaking very vigorously and lengthily and pouring into a chilled martini glass.

While this is a bit less stiff than the drink above and in theory should be more sickeningly sweet, the cocktail alchemy seems to be entirely different and the arguably excessive sweetness of the triple sec and the tartness of the lemon juice counterbalance each other quite beautifully with the brandy acting as an effective moderator. I can’t wait to try this and the above recipe with Cointreau. Maybe somebody will send me a free bottle…

As for brandy vs. Cognac, I’ve had Cognacs that were not as good as the inexpensive French brandy (Raynal) I’ve had great luck with on other drinks, but just be aware that Cognac is simply a more expensive type of grape brandy made in a specific part of France. If anyone wants to send me some Cognac, they’re naturally welcome as well.

  

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