Drink of the Week: El Presidente

El PresidenteThe name of today’s DOTW notwithstanding, this post is not brought to you by the ongoing Republican primary or anything else happening in the world of U.S. or Latin American politics. Instead, we all should thank the good people of Denizen Rum. As always, I appreciate the free bottle but I also appreciate the very reasonable price tag for a fifth which, depending on taxes in your area, might give you enough change from a $20.00 for a Double-Double at In ‘n Out. That’s something because this is tasty stuff, a bit more sophisticated and complex than your standard Bacardi, but in the friendliest way.

On to the cocktail, which was supposedly invented by a Yankee bartender working in Cuba. As per Wayne Curtis, back when little Fidel Castro was not even old enough for his first game of sandlot baseball, Cuba’s somewhat beleaguered President Gerardo Machado, offered one of these to our own el presidente, Republican Calvin Coolidge. Silent Cal remembered that there was this thing called prohibition going on and politely declined.

Nice story, but my first attempt at the drink seemed to explain why El Presidente has become a relic stateside. I found the classical recipes to be sweet to the point of being cloying — and that’s something considering my sweet tooth.

I therefore followed the lead of booze blogger Matt Robold and halved one sweet ingredient, orange curacao, at his suggestion. I liked that version better but I decided to also halve the amount of grenadine he suggested. I found something close to perfection when made with the Denizen rum. This version works slightly less well with plain old Bacardi, but it’s still very nice.

El Presidente (impeached, but not deposed)

1.5 ounces white rum
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce orange curacao
1/4 teaspoon grenadine
1 orange twist (garnish)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you want to be traditional, stir for a very long time over crushed or cracked ice, or you can do like I do and shake it vigorously, though the drink might not look as pretty if you do. Your call.

Strain into our old friend, the chilled martini/cocktail glass. Fire up original mambo king Perez Prado on the music player of your choice, imagine a day when Cuban cigars are no longer contraband, and have a sip.

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If you want to go more traditional/way sweeter, the classic version offered by cocktail super-historian David Wondrich simply doubles the amount of curacao, and I think 1/4 of a teaspoon is probably the same as the “dash” of grenadine he suggests. I will say that, while I loved my version of the drink, at no point was I able to achieve the orange color the drink has in most (but not all) photos. Mine was more of a pale pinkish hue somewhat as you see above, even with just a tiny amount of very sweet, very red grenadine. It tasted amazing, so I can live with that.

One quick suggestion, if you are determined to go with the full 1/2 ounce of orange sweet stuff, you might do as some have suggested and substitute Cointreau for the curacao. It’s not bad.

 

  

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Drink of the Week: The Margarita

the margaritaYou may wonder why I waited so long to take on this most popular of cocktails. I may wonder why. No, it’s not cocktail snobbery, although it’s true that the margarita hasn’t always been admitted to the most exclusive cocktail clubs.

You see, a long time ago, I was a pretty ordinary occasional social drinker who never thought much about cocktails, though I’d sip the occasional vodka martini. (I love olives and figured Ian Fleming knew more about booze than I did). I certainly never thought much one way or the other about margaritas, which I associated with the blended, ultra-sweet, mix laden concoctions that are good for benders at Acapulcos.

Then, one night in Las Vegas, I and a friend were lured into the oddly deserted, and now long gone, Las Vegas branch of the famed Santa Fe eatery, Anasazi, with the promise of free drink with our dinner. I chose a prickly pear margarita on the rocks, because I wondered what prickly pear juice tasted like.

One day, I’ll have to see about recreating that eye-opening concoction, which first taught me that a cocktail could be a lot more than just booze and that blended margaritas were for the birds. The classic margarita made simply, however, is a thing of beauty it itself. Step away from the blender, abandon the mix, and make yourself an amazing drink.

The Margarita

2 ounces tequila (clear/silver)
1 ounce triple sec
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
Salt (extremely necessary garnish to rim the glass)

Salt the rim by wetting the rim of your cocktail glass either with water or a bit of lime juice and placing the rim onto a plate covered in salt. Many recipes specify coarse or kosher salt; go for it if it’s handy and you want to go the classic route, but ordinary table salt works about as well. Place glass in the freezer for a minute or two at least (longer is better) to chill, if you haven’t already. Combine tequila, triple sec and lime juice in shaker with lots of ice. Shake like your life depends on it. Strain and pour into cocktail glass. As implied above, the margarita may also be made very respectably on the rocks and built in an old fashioned glass.

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Up to now, I haven’t had much luck with the brand of triple sec I’ve been using, but lime juice and tequila appears to be the perfect antidote to what ails my particular brand of this very sweet liqueur. I understand the drink will be even better with Cointreau (i.e., expensive triple sec) but it’s hard to imagine it getting that much better because this drink is amazing, especially considering how inexpensive its basic ingredients are, including the Sauza tequila I used.

If you really want to go the extra mile, however, try using the juice of several key limes, which are more sour and do an even better job of counteracting the ultra-sweet triple sec than standard fresh lime juice. Still, those key limes are tiny little buggers and a hassle to squeeze by hand.

Finally, since it seems mandatory to mention it, I should add that legend tell us that the margarita was developed somewhere in Baja California — either Ensenada or closer to Tijuana — and named after a young German or American woman whose name was either Margaret or Marjorie. Nobody seems to believe these stories very much, and the margarita is similar to so many other drinks that no such story is really necessary. I will say that whoever thought of salting the rim was pretty clever.

  

Drink of the Week: The Canadian Cocktail

the Canadian CocktailLike the nation for which it is named and the spirit with which it is made, this week’s selection is often overlooked and highly underrated. Indeed, at least on the web, it’s almost unheralded among cocktails, classic or otherwise. Still, it’s a pretty delightful variation — I’d say improvement — on a whiskey sour with a bit of classic margarita thrown in.

As the name would indicate, the Canadian Cocktail is definitely an enjoyable way to enjoy Don Draper and Nucky Thompson’s underrated favorite, Canadian Club, or, if you’re feeling like something a bit more complex, the new Canadian Club Classic 12 (as in 12 years-old). It’s part of a new wave of high end Canadian whisky and a beverage we’ll be returning to elsewhere.

The Canadian Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Canadian whisky
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange curacao or triple sec
1-2 dash bitters (Angostura or orange)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar (highly optional)
1 maraschino cherry (garnish, fairly optional)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you’re adding sugar dissolve it. Add ice, shake like the dickens and strain into a chilled and preferably smallish rocks/old fashioned glass, perhaps one in which you’ve already tossed a maraschino cheery if you’ve skipped the sugar. Sip in a leisurely manner while watching a “Kids in the Hall” rerun or a Guy Maddin flick.

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There are other versions of this drink floating around the net. Some dispense with the lemon juice, which might work if you’re using a really good triple sec or a very small quantity of it. Some call for you to peel an entire orange rind to make a gigantic orange twist. I’m sure it’s a fine touch, but I haven’t learned to do that yet without threatening myself with major harm. I would, however, counsel cocktail cheapskates to use orange curacao, which should have a slight edge of bitterness. On the inexpensive end of the liqueur landscape, it brings a much more interesting and less insipid flavor to the drink.

  

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