Drink of the Week: The Algonquin

the Algonquin.As a teenager, I found myself seriously infatuated with an older women. So great was the age difference that she had actually been dead since I was in kindergarten.

Legendary wit and poet laureate of dissipated enlightenment, Dorothy Parker was probably the most interesting of the literary lights that graced New York’s Algonquin Hotel’s famed round table of notable quipsters. The informal gang o’ pals also included humorist Robert Benchley (Parker’s platonic bff), and critic Alexander Wolcott. Another great wit in the group, Harpo Marx, like Teller after him, never said a word when the cameras and microphones were on, but apparently could chat up a storm on his own time.

Now, to be honest, while the Algonquin crew and especially the wondrous Ms. Parker definitely enjoyed more than their share of cocktails, there’s no evidence they actually ever sipped a single Algonquin. Still, they should have. It’s a dry, sophisticated drink, a fruity twist on the Perfect Manhattan that’s a really solid addition to the cannon of Prohibition-era beverages.

Yes, we have no indication that they ever had the drink, but also no proof that they didn’t. I chose, therefore, to print the legend. Let’s just assume that the woman who we are told said ““If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised” and the man who opined that “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” enjoyed an Algonquin together. It’ll taste better that way.

The Algonquin

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)
1 mint leaf (optional, but intriguing, garnish)

Combine your whiskey, juice, and vermouth in a mixing vessel with the usual ton of ice. Some think you should stir it, but I say they’re wrong. Shake the dang thing vigorously and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. If you want smaller portions, or have small cocktail glasses, simply use 1 1/2 ounces whiskey to 3/4 ounce each pineapple juice and vermouth. Toast which ever Algonquin Round Table member you choose, but I choose the amazing Dorothy.

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The particular example of an Algonquin pictured above was not crafted by your humble boozescribe, but comes courtesy of ace mixologist, Ian, at my neighborhood watering hole, Tonga Hut. Following my instructions, Ian added a high-end Luxardo maraschino cherry and threw on a mint leaf on top, departing from the classic recipe with a Tonga Hut trademark.

Making the drink at home, I had good luck with a number of different brands. Like Ian, I found that using 100 proof Rittenhouse Rye yielded an excellent result. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Old Overholt — increasingly the default rye at craft bars nevertheless — but it still yielded a decent, if slightly more astringent, beverage. I also enjoyed killing my bottle of sweet Redemption Rye for an Algonquin’s sake.

As for vermouths, I vacillated between your basic Martini and the fancier Dolin’s. The former was smooth and relaxed while the latter added a bit of spice. Oddly enough, I think I lean towards a simpler, dryer rye for an Algonquin.

The most dramatic difference, oddly enough, was between two different brands of canned pineapple juice. (It’s against my religion, Lazy Bumism, to actually cut up and juice an whole pineapple.) There was a fairly precipitous drop in the quality of my drinks when I switched from Trader Joe’s shockingly delicious not-from-concentrate, which brags that it tastes like it would if you squeezed it yourself, to your basic Dole’s. I’m not an expert on the finer points of pineapple juice but I can tell you that the better tasting pineapple juice resulted in the better tasting Algonquin.

  

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Drink of the Week: The Mary Pickford

The Mary PickfordIt’s Oscar weekend and the modern day quasi-silent film, “The Artist” is looking to take many, if not most, of the little gold men. It’s therefore kind of hard think of a better selection than this delightfully subtle and sweet, if now obscure, classic named for the single most famous woman in the silent cinema. It’s true that few of Mary Pickford’s hits — the ones that haven’t been lost, anyway — are often watched today, even by many crazy cinephiles like me. Indeed, as far as I can figure out not even the wondrous and far more classic-cinema knowledgeable Self-Styled Siren, Farran Smith Nehme, nor the sharp witted and more free-roaming Marilyn Ferdinand have written much about her films.

Nevertheless, Pickford’s legacy looms large in Hollywood even nearly 120 years after birth. She was, if nothing else, one of the co-founders of United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin, director D.W. Griffith, regarded as the inventor of the movies as we know them, and her then husband, Douglas Fairbanks, the movies’ first true action superstar.

Less fortunately, Mary Pickford was also known to partake a bit too much. If you’re going to be gossiped about for your drinking, the least they can do is name a really good drink for you, and this one is really good.

A word of warning for the deeply insecure: Writer Wayne Curtis, who enjoyed today’s DOTW in the city where it remains most popular, Havana, Cuba, described it thus: “Another lost cocktail of Prohibition, which is pink and ladylike and served with a large wedge of pineapple.” Okay, so this is a rather delicate drink, and this a blog post for an online men’s magazine, but this is one beverage that proves the value of staying in touch with your feminine side. It’s extremely good.

The Mary Pickford

1 1/2 oz. white rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 tsp grenadine
1/4 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 piece pineapple (optional garnish)

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and maraschino liqueur in a cocktail shaker. Shake like crazy and strain into a cocktail or wide-mouthed champagne glass. You can serve the pineapple on the side, or be crazy like me and drop a chunk into the actual drink. Be sure and toast America’s sweetheart when you take your first sip.

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First of all, I’d like to give props to my friends representing Denizen Rum for suggesting this drink. It’s not just because they were nice enough to send me a free bottle and plenty of recipes that I say this drink worked probably especially well for me because of the Denizen I was using. (I was all out of the other stuff.) There’s nothing wrong with Brand X, but I really do think the somewhat zippier flavor of Denizen is adding a little extra something to my Mary Pickfords. (Though, after writing that, I feel as if I should be looking into a camera and holding up the bottle as I remind you that Denizen is available online for an extremely reasonable price here.)

Some quick words about the other ingredients. Whatever you do, don’t confuse maraschino liqueur with the maraschino syrup that drowns the unnaturally red cherries we all know. It’s an entirely different animal and a lot more interesting. I was using Luxor Maraschino. I’m not sure if there any other brands widely available.

Also, if you like a redder drink that looks more like the one in the picture, there’s an alternate recipe which is a bit sweeter but also very good attributed to the New York bar, PKNY, which boosts the ingredients up slightly to 2 ounces of rum, 1 1/2 ounces of pineapple juice, and a quarter ounce each of the maraschino and grenadine. (Naturally, they make their own grenadine and use freshly squeezed pineapple juice, though I didn’t and it was still good.) If you enjoy the Mary Pickford, you might also want to take a look at El Presidente, which we covered a few weeks back.

Finally, If you’re curious to get a glimpse into what the big deal with Mary Pickford was, you can see her accepting her special Oscar in 1976. It’s worth a look and only a touch “Sunset Boulevard“-esque.

  

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