Drink of the Week: The Perfect Gentlemen

The Perfect Gentlemen.Yes, Drink of the Week is back this week, but work on the new location at Drink of the Week Plaza continues and I’m really not even remotely settled in yet. Odds are, it’ll be a few weeks before I get back on a more regular, weekly boozing schedule. Even so, I was tempted away by one of my boozy benefactors to come back with a special Valentine’s Day edition of DOTW and a really delicious recipe they gave me absolutely for free. It’s a doozy.

This week’s selection is as sweet and delicious as love itself and, if you drink enough of it, is guaranteed to enlarge your heart…with cholesterol. Very honestly, however, it’s tasty enough that you may might not mind. No joke, the anonymous mixologist who developed this for the Laphroaig Scotch Whiskey people knew what the hell he or she was doing.

The Perfect Gentlemen

1 1⁄2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
3⁄4 ounce dark crème de cacao
1 1⁄2 ounces heavy cream
2-3 dashes orange bitters
Chocolate shavings (highly desirable garnish)

Combine everything but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with a ton of ice. Shake with all the vigor of a new romance, and strain into a cocktail glass. (The Laphroaig people think it should be stemless.) Top with some chocolate shavings. Toast whoever you’re looking at…and mean it, even if you’re looking in the mirror.

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Like our last great drink,  this week’s selection is a warm and loving finger directly in the eye of the idea that there are no great Scotch based cocktails. What’s really interesting about the Perfect Gentlemen is that it really does seem to be best with this very particular brand, which I’ll admit to having quite a crush on. Yes, it’s true  I got my bottle of Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky for free but the distinctively ultra-smokey flavor, with a hint of sweetness and a bit of vegetables too, has really grown on me. I might even purchase a bottle some day with my own money!

In the Perfect Gentlemen, the evocative smoke of the single malt Scotch cuts through the sweet creaminess of the crème de cacao chocolate liqueur and the heavy cream in just the right way. I tried the drink with a very decent inexpensive blended Scotch and found the results to be, relatively speaking, dullsville. I’m totally sold on the Laphroaig for the Perfect Gentlemen and would suggest you try it that way, if at all possible.

I also strongly suggest you don’t skip the chocolate shavings. This is Valentine’s Day after all, and chocolate really does seem to be related to love in some unusual way.  Cheapskates will be happy to know that you don’t necessary have to use a fancy or expensive brand. My shavings were produced by taking a dull knife to a Hershey Bar.

I do have to admit, however, that my second Perfect Gentleman was, while still delicious, ever so slightly less rapturous than my first. My measurements may have been slightly off that time because my usual measuring jigger is still packed away somewhere. Or, maybe, it’s just that there’s no topping that first blush of true romance. Happy Valentine’s Day, anyway.

  

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Drink of the Week: Blood and Sand

Blood and Sand. If you notice a sort of philosophic air to this post, let’s say that’s because life and death is swirling around Drink of the Week. People in my sphere are being born and others have made their last appearance after good and long lives, and that’s not all. This will be the final entry in Drink of the Week written before our departure from DOTW Central in exciting Van Nuys and our arrival at what we sure hope will be more permanent digs at DOTW Plaza in exotic North Hollywood.

Expect a DOTW return to a more regular schedule in a few weeks. In the meantime, here’s maybe one of the very finest and also most crowd-pleasing cocktails we’ve done here. And, yes, it features Scotch. Such things are possible.

I’ve been circling Blood and Sand, an infrequently revived classic, apparently named for the hugely successful 1922 bullfighting melodrama (viewable via YouTube), for several months. I’ve been biding my time because I had figured out a true Blood and Sand almost had to feature the juice of a blood orange, a fruit which has a relatively brief winter season. Yes, most recipes simply call for orange juice, but now it’s clear to me that the juice of the smaller purple fleshed orange, which looks exactly like grape juice, is the life’s blood of a truly outstanding Blood and Sand. Regular OJ is also definitely an option, but we’ll get to the issues around that later.

Blood and Sand

1 ounce Scotch whiskey
1 ounce fresh blood orange juice or, if it’s all you’ve got, regular orange juice
1 ounce Cherry Herring
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine the Scotch, citrus juice, Cherry Herring — a very delicious liqueur you’ll be seeing more of here — and sweet vermouth in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake as vigorously as a toreador torturing a testosterone-laden bovine and strain into a not too small chilled cocktail glass, adding your orange twist. Feel free to reduce the ingredients down to 3/4 of an ounce if  you want a smaller drink. If you’re a silent film fan, you can certainly toast the charismatic star of the first version of the movie, Blood and Sand, Rudolph Valentino, who famously had his own dance with death much too early. Or, you can simply toast getting to enjoy another day on this earth and being able to sample this super-spiffy drink.

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I’ve been doing a bit of research and it’s hard to find any solid info behind my assumption that blood orange juice was part of the original Blood and Sand, whenever and wherever it was made. The recipe that I basically stole from the prohibition-era The Savoy Cocktail Book makes no mention of blood orange, nor does Ted Haigh in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. On the other hand, the cocktail enthusiast who contributed the Wikipedia stub on the drink specifically mentions blood orange juice, as do several bloggers.

I think it’s very safe to figure that the original Blood and Sand had some real blood orange in it and it makes an enormous difference. The tangier flavor of the blood orange, which has a hint of grapefruit to it, is just the perfect balance for the sweeter ingredients, particularly the Cherry Herring. Although my picture doesn’t do it much justice, it also looks vastly better this way — a deep red, as opposed to a muddy orange.

Speaking of Cherry Herring, it is typically used for the cherry brandy mentioned in a lot of recipes. This is confusing because brandy is usually a distilled spirit that’s a million miles from a liqueur. Apparently, somewhere along the way, cherry brandy, cherry flavored brandy, and cherry liqueurs have all become oddly interchangeable with, I guess, the exception of cherry-derived kirsch, or kirschwasser, brandy. In any case, Cherry Herring, a standby cocktail ingredient you’ll be seeing here again, has become the standard for a Blood and Sand.

Getting back to my own adventures with this drink, whenever I used the blood orange, I found it pretty indestructible — sweet, of course, but with a nectar-of-the-gods sort of complexity to it. For my Scotch, I mostly used Grant’s, a very good, basic choice for this type of drink. (I’m sure any standard brand — Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, etc. — will also work just great.) Though some discourage the use of smokier Scotchs, I also found that the strong smoke flavor of Laphroaig 10 Year Old, featured here previously, added a very nice undercurrent to the drink; it also saved an unblooded Blood and Sand from being even slightly cloying when I tried it with regular orange juice.

But that still left the problem of what to do with the still enjoyable, but arguably overly sweet flavor, of the non-blood orange Blood and Sand when you’re using a less smokey Scotch. One decent solution comes from Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. He reduces all the ingredients, save the OJ, to 3/4 of an ounce, making for lighter, more refreshing but still darn sweet concoction. (He also flames the orange twist…but then DeGroff always fires up his orange peels.)

Ted Haigh proposes a slightly boozier alternative which I haven’t had a chance to experiment with as yet. He proposes an ounce each of juice and Scotch, but reduces the cherry liqueur and sweet vermouth down to 3/4 ounce, while adding a super-sweet cocktail cherry to the mix. Let’s all give that one a try when blood oranges finally go out of season.

  

Drink of the Week: The Laphroaig Scot’s Cider

The Laphroaig Scot’s Cider. Cynics and other smart people out there might be forgiven if they assumed that drinks prompted by free booze and recipes provided by the liquor industrial complex were slightly less good than the more classic cocktails that make up the bulk of our work here at DOTW central. The fact of the matter, however, is that — for the most part, anyway — the drinks I’m pitched are crafted by some pretty talented mixologists who are using some very good products. Also, I wouldn’t be including them here if they sucked.

My personal seal of complete non-suckage very definitely applies to our first hot drink of this cool weather season, The Laphroaig Scot’s Cider. It takes the pleasantly woody and lightly smokey flavor of the rather lovely single malt Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky and builds on it with a very pleasant and easy to make toddy. It’s even easier if you leave out the fancy garnish, which is nice but not essential.

The Laphroaig Scot’s Cider

2 ounces Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Scotch Whisky
1 ounce DeKuyper Mixologist Series Ginger Liqueur
6 ounces hot apple cider/apple juice
1 lemon wedge, studded with cloves (highly desirable, but not essential, garnish)

Preheat your favorite coffee mug with hot water. I simply put a cup of tap water in the microwave and zapped it for a couple of minutes as I was getting my ingredients together. (If you want a more modest, less caloric, drink and are halving these proportions, a small cup will do very nicely.)

Then get your apple cider very very hot, just about boiling even, because you’ll be adding some unheated ingredients. Empty the hot water out of the mug and replace it with your hot cider. Then add the Laphroaig, the ginger liqueur, your garnishes (if any) and sip. Toast something Scottish…Sean Connery, new Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, or poet Robert Burns, it doesn’t matter. This drink won’t gang aft agley.

(Just one question: Why are nearly all world famous Scottish celebrities men? Is being called “lass” all the time bad for your self-esteem? Weird.)

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A word about garnishes. The original recipe for this drink calls for fresh ground cinnamon. If you’ve got some of that around, definitely give it a try. But I’m personally much too cheap and lazy to mess with that right now. However, I tried a little bit of the cheap supermarket cinnamon I had on hand and, frankly, it didn’t help. And, while I love lemon and cloves, this may be a case where a little garnish goes a long way. Some of my drinks sort of got taken over by the lemon wedge and, really, I think the Scot’s Cider works pretty well without any of the garnishes because the Laphroaig brings plenty of its own complexity.

Of course, I can’t stop you from using other brands of Scotch, or going with a liqueur brand other than the very tasty DeKuyper ginger liqueur, which was also supplied to me by the benevolent booze bribers. It might work pretty well, or it might be merely sweet.

One final point. This recipe originally called for nonalcoholic “apple cider” but, as far as I can tell, there is no clear and meaningful difference between apple juice and un-fermented cider, apart from marketing. By some definitions, including some legal ones in some states, unfiltered (cloudy) apple juice is “cider” but, here in California anyway, that’s also sometimes sold as simply “unfiltered apple juice.” I’m sure using a good, fresh unfiltered apple product will improve this drink. On the other hand, I wouldn’t waste one second worrying about whether it’s apple juice or apple cider. My educated hunch is that there is absolutely no consistent difference between the two.

  

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