Drink of the Week: The Nutty Professor (TCM Fest Salute #2)

The Nutty Professor.And so we continue from last week, making drinks inspired by some of the most interesting films I saw at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival.

Today’s drink is inspired by the best regarded film starring, cowritten, and directed by Mr. Jerry Lewis, a man whose legacy and contribution to the movies and show business is so complicated I don’t dare to try and contain it in my little cocktail blog. Remade in 1996 with Eddy Murphy, the 1963 version of “The Nutty Professor” is a fairly boozy film, stylistically influenced by director Frank Tashlin, with whom Lewis worked on a number of earlier movies and whose output includes two candy-colored and alcohol-soaked 1950s must sees, “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?” (The latter, a spoof of the advertising business staring Tony Randall and Jayne Mansfield, is especially recommended for “Mad Men” fans.)

For those of you who’ve never seen it, Lewis’s film is a silly yet oddly bittersweet twist on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” He plays Julius Kelp, an ultra-nerdy, ultra-lonely college professor with horrendous teeth and a worse haircut who is smitten with young Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens). In pursuit of Purdy, and some kind of a life, he concocts a potion and transforms himself into Buddy Love, a handsome, ultra-hep playboy blessed with massive confidence and a complete lack of kindness or humility.

Now, as I was looking for a cocktail inspired by “The Nutty Professor,” I could have gone with the Alaskan Polar Bear Heater, a cocktail Mr. Love orders during the film in James Bond-style detail. However, people have actually dared to make the drink not once but twice and, well, comparisons to the hindquarters of the late Ernest Borgnine were made. Like the obnoxious Mr. Love, that drink was clearly not intended to be endured by any actual, living human being.

I, however, have come up with a beverage that I think Julius Kelp, but not so much Buddy Love, would have approved of. It’s a bit literal on the matter of being “nutty” but it’s both kind of wholesome and professorial, while it’s also boozy enough to make you feel like a more charming version of yourself. Perfect for sharing with the delightful Miss Purdy. It’s also got enough ingredients to qualify as a chemistry experiment.

The Nutty Professor

2 ounces French brandy
1 ounce almond milk
1/2 ounce orgeat (almond syrup)
1 large egg white
1/4 ounce falernum
1 teaspoon absinthe
1 chopped or sliced almond (garnish)

First, combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice and shake. This is to properly emulsify the egg white; I’m sure Prof. Kelp would agree it’s the best way. Next, add ice. Shake very vigorously and strain into a good size cocktail glass. (You’ll have leftovers if you use the glasses of the sized pictured above). Sprinkle your almonds on top. Then, toast…yourself, I suppose. As Prof. Kelp says, “You might as well like yourself. Just think about all the time you’re going to have to spend with you.”

***
Let’s start with the brands. I didn’t specify them above because I wasn’t really using anything too special and I suspect other brands would work just fine, though it’s hard to be sure.

I didn’t have my usual brandy fall back, Reynal, on hand and instead used St. Remy, but I suspect any reasonably decent but understated brandy or cognac will be fine here. John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum is pretty much the only brand of that very sweet tiki standby you’re likely to find without breaking a serious sweat. (Some people actually make their own.)

My absinthe is one that absinthe fanciers look down upon, the possibly accurately named Absinthe Ordinare. (I bought because it’s also Abinsthe Reasonably Priced.) The orgeat is Torani, but I’m sure Monin’s syrup would probably be fine, too.

I’d tell you the brand of almond milk I was using if I thought that was important in any way, shape, or form. The egg whites, however, were brown, on sale, and cage free. Julius Kelp would want us to be kind to chickens.

Speaking of Prof. Kelp’s alter-ego, I was fortunate enough to see the 88 year-old Lewis, looking better than I’ve seen him look in a very long time , at Disney’s historic El Capitan theater before the screening of a beautifully restored “The Nutty Professor,” which I understand will be out in a deluxe Blu-Ray package this June. (Excerpts are on You Tube.) To be perfectly honest, I’ve had mixed feeling about Lewis for a long time and I have mixed feelings about the film, “The Nutty Professor,” which only becomes truly a film you actually need to see with the arrival of its Mr. Hyde, the vile but utterly gripping Buddy Love.

It was, therefore, definitely nice to see the man clearly enjoying himself and not really exhibiting any of the traits that have made him one of show business’s most openly prickly characters for as long as I can remember. (Was he acting at all during “The King of Comedy”?)

This Jerry Lewis, I would like to make a Nutty Professor for. It’s kind of tasty. I know it’s more drinkable than, say, an Alaskan Polar Bear Heater.

  

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Drink of the Week: The High and Dry

High and Dry.Yes, Drink of the Week has been away. And, yes, we’ll be away again as we continue our slower pace while DOTW Central relocates to its new digs at DOTW Plaza. Still, I’m finding some time to work new drinks into my schedule between chats with contractors (“It’s going to cost HOW much?”) and figuring out just what an HOA actually is.

One type of drink I’ll be trying to give you more of in 2014 are tiki-inspired and rum-based drinks, at least some of the easier ones. That will partly be because my own interest has been peaked by my soon-to-be neighbors at the mostly downright excellent North Hollywood lounge, Tonga Hut, as well as the far pricier and tonier, but also pretty downright great, Cana Rum Bar in not-so-far away away Downtown Los Angeles. Towards that end, today we have a drink which has just a touch of tiki about it, and which came with a bottle of really good rum attached to it, fairly literally.

The brand is Brugal Extra Dry, the white rum relative of the outstanding Brugal 1888 we’ve featured here on a couple of occasions. It’s unusual for a white rum in that it’s flavorful enough you might actually want to drink the stuff straight on the rocks our maybe with a splash of soda. Nevertheless, we’re about cocktails here, and this particular cocktail is a really delightful tiki-esque treat that would be really easy to make if it were for the slightly tricky business of muddling an apple slice when you don’t quite have a proper muddler handy. Fortunately this drink, created by New York bartender Trevor Schneider and modified very slightly by yours truly, is worth a little effort.

The High and Dry

2 ounces Brugal Extra Dry Rum or standard white rum
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce simple syrup or 2 1/4 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 apple wedges (one for garnish)
2 ounces soda water
3 dashes Angostura or other aromatic bitters

Muddle (smash) one of your apple wedges in the bottom of cocktail shaker. Add all of the other ingredients, soda excluded. Throw in lots of ice and shake with great vigor. Strain over fresh ice into a Tom Collins or similar type glass. Top off with about 2 ounces of soda water and add your leftover apple slice for garnish. Toast the makers of fine rum, all over the world

*****

I should start by saying that my version of this recipe differs in a few minor ways from the original recipe. For starters, I interpreted the original version’s “cane syrup” to mean a simple syrup made with cane sugar, which I suspect is not precisely the same thing as cane syrup — a thought which didn’t occur to me until the point where I was just about to start writing this post. Never mind, because the results were fantastic every with plain old sugar water. When I substituted an equivalent amount of superfine C&H, the results were also just dandy; perhaps slightly sweeter.

Also, the original recipe called for just one ounce of club soda. I found that it didn’t matter whether I used club soda or seltzer water but that about two ounces produced a more enjoyably refreshing concoction than just one. Since it’s the only healthy ingredient aside from the lime juice, I saw no reason to be stingy.

All I all, I really like the High and Dry. I found it to be a very reliably refreshing concoction that goes down real easy and will be a perfect summertime libation a few months hence. My test subjects enjoyed it very much and they found the combination of sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy/complex notes to be as delightful as I did. I also found it to be the kind of drink that doesn’t completely fall apart if you screw some small part of it up. Which is my way of saying I forgot to add the bitters a couple of times, and another time was forced to use mostly flat soda water, and it was still pretty darn good.

Image ALT text goes here.Aside from the Brugal Extra Dry, the other key alcoholic ingredient in the High and Dry is Falernum. If you’re a tiki cocktail afficionado, you’re familiar with the stuff but, otherwise, probably not. It’s an extremely sweet liqueur — almost a syrup — which is no surprise as it is made from sugar cane syrup and includes a few assorted spices which wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite cookies, candies, or eggnog. I understand there are much better regarded Falernums out there if you know where to find it, and some ambitious folks even make their own. However, the standard is John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum and I think it’s pretty tasty stuff. (It’s not bad with some soda water and ice, if you’re feeling like a slightly alcoholic cream-ish soda.)

While this drink was created for Brugal Extra Dry, and it’s a truly excellent rum that’s definitely superior on its own to some of the cheaper, better known brands of white rum, I also have to admit I experimented by making a High and Dry with one of those very Brand X rums. I found the results to be about as delicious. Forgive me.

 

 

  

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