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 Rye Sierra

The Great Unnamed Beer and Rye Cocktail. It’s just possible that it has escaped your attention up to this moment, but today is International Beer Day. Of course, for many people, truly every day is International Beer Day, or at least every Sunday during football season.

The ironic thing is that beer, which was once just about the least respected of alcoholic brews in the United States, has achieved more of its props with the rise of craft beer, microbrews and what not. These days, many people who wouldn’t know the first thing about a genuine Old Fashioned or Sazerac and who might freak out if confronted with the ultra-bitter/ultra-sweet flavor of Campari, included in this week’s DOTW, have no problem with the more familiar but no less bitter flavors of some dark beers.

Be calm, however. There’s no need for conflict as I’m happy to say that beer and cocktails are proving to be two great things that, if handled properly, can go great together. Today’s beverage is a delightfully refreshing case in point.

Though it came to me without a name, like the good native son of the West that I am, I have christened today’s beverage the Rye Sierra, after its two main ingredients. It comes courtesy of a mysterious benefactor connected to the makers of the very excellent Templeton Rye Whiskey. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale gets a plug, too — even if I had to spring for my own bottle.

My first attempt at this drink was a true delight, but you’ve got to be certain you don’t fall from a great height with this one. Just make sure you bring plenty of ice and don’t overuse the swizzle stick.

The Rye Sierra

1 ounce Templeton Rye Whiskey
4 ounces Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the rye, lemon juice, and Campari in a double rocks glass (i.e., like a regular Old Fashioned tumbler, but about twice as big). Stir, and add plenty of ice. Top off with four ounces of the very lovely Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — resist any urges to stir it again at this point. Just let the brew site on top of the summit where it belongs. Salute the mountain range of your choice.

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If ever there was a drink perfect for a hot day where you’re allowed to eat nothing but popcorn, salted nuts, and wasabi peas, this might well be it. Still, I must reiterate that you are to use plenty of ice and zero stirring is allowed after you have added the beer. Much in the way an Irish Coffee must only be enjoyed through its cap of heavy cream, the rye, Campari, and lemony goodness must only be enjoyed through the ale.

Finally, I realize that a lot of you out there don’t have any double rocks glasses. I actually ran out and bought a couple myself for $3.99 each. That’s because I’m a professional. You amateurs out there can simply cut the proportions in half and drink this out of a regular rocks glass, even if you’re buzz will take twice as long that way.

Also, you have my permission to try this with other brands of rye. I did — and I bet it would have worked great too if I didn’t find out too late someone in my house had Bogarted most of the ice.

  

Drink of the Week: The Jupiter

the Jupiter. Sometimes the hardest thing about writing and preparing for DOTW is simply picking out the drink. I can spend, it seems, many hours online trolling for a cocktail that won’t take hours to make and where I won’t have to spend an arm and a leg buying several expensive ingredients I barely have room for at stately DOTW Manor.

So, I alway love it when some cool person suggests a possible mixed drink or cocktail (people I read keep telling me there’s a difference) for me to try. In fact, if anybody would like to  come up with a suggestion for a drink that hasn’t been featured before in comments or e-mail, I promise to give it a fair hearing.

In this case, the cool person suggesting the drink was the highly esteemed Christopher Tafoya, Facebook friend, mutual real life friend with other real life friends, and cocktail enthusiast. Christopher provided an interesting find that’s forcing me to diverge from orthodoxy just a bit, while only forcing me to purchase one very interesting and odd new ingredient. It’s also got a name with just enough of a touch of science fiction to it to make it semi-appropriate for the week of Comic-Con. That’s where I’ll be by the time you read this, and also the reason this series will be taking a break next week. Anyhow, here’s this week’s cosmic selection.

The Jupiter

1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1/2-3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon parfait amour

This one’s as easy to make as they come. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into a cocktail glass. Sip, preferably while listening to the music of the spheres or at least Richard or Johan Strauss.

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Remember when I implied my take was a bit heretical? Well, credit for the revival of the Jupiter in recent years goes mainly to the revered Ted Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, who picked the drink out from a number of older tomes. He, however, declared that it was the one drink in his entire book requiring the most precision. Depart by even the difference between a measuring teaspoon and a dining teaspoon and, as far as Haigh is concerned, the drink is mostly done for.

Part of the reason for that is Parfait Amour. This somewhat obscure and not too easily found liqueur, extracted from exotic oranges and vanilla pods, is both very sweet and very purple. It also gives the Jupiter it’s slightly grey, otherworldly hue. I can’t disagree with Haigh that a little goes a long way, but I’d like just a little more, proportionally speaking.

So, when Mr. Tafoya let me know that a slightly different recipe existed — I’d looked in a number of places and had seen exactly the same recipe he first gave me — I had to give the alternative version a try. What a shock that it turned out to be, to my taste buds, quite a bit better. Basically, I found that a quarter of an ounce less vermouth made for what I found to be a brighter, more enjoyable beverage.

So, dear readers, I’m giving you a choice: 1/2 or 3/4 ounce of dry vermouth. Which drink would the evolved Dave Bowman choose?

See you in two weeks, star children.

  

Drink of the Week: The Old Pal

the Old Pal.Can a drink be like an old friend? Should a drink be like an old friend? It’s way too late as I’m writing this to even begin answering those questions, but I can tell you I much prefer the older version of this prohibition era cocktail to more recent iterations.

I actually first found this one in my copy of 1930′s The Savoy Cocktail Book but it appears to date back several years prior. However, later versions that are supposed to be adjusted to modern day tastes failed to impress my personal tastebuds as much as this very simple and basic drink, a rather close relative of the Negroni and the Boulevardier. Still, like an old pal, the appeal of this drink is rather simple and easy to understand – with my favorite brand of wonderfully value priced Canadian whiskey and dry vermouth lightening up my favorite controversial cocktail ingredient, oh-so-bitter, oh-so-sweet Campari.

The Old Pal

1 ounce Canadian Club Whisky
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 ounce Campari
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Stir or shake vigorously – I lean slightly toward stirring on this one, for some reason – and strain into our very old pal, the chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add your lemon twist and toast, I imagine, an old pal.

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If you don’t like Campari, it’s likely that the Old Pal will be no friend of yours. While the bourbon and sweet vermouth in the Boulevardier puts up a decent fight against the Campari, Canadian Club whisky — which is very specifically called for in the original recipe — and dry Martini & Rossi or Noilly Pratt is simply no match for its undeniable  flavors. Even adding a solid, high proof rye whiskey like Bulleit, and increasing its proportion, didn’t change the Old Pal nearly as much as you might think. When I tried the more recent variation, which calls for 1 ½ ounces of rye to ¾ of an ounce of Campari and vermouth, it was still very much a Campari-forward drink, only less bright, less crisp.

I should have known, you simply can’t change your Old Pal. Not that you should ever want to.

  

The Bulleit Rye Mint Julep for Derby weekend

Bulleit Rye Mint JulepWe love celebrating the Kentucky Derby, and one critical component has to be enjoying a Mint Julep which is the drink you’ll see everywhere during Derby weekend.

Here’s a great recipe:

Ingredients:
1.5 oz. Bulleit Rye
2 oz. Stirrings Simple Syrup
Fresh mint leaves

Preparation: Muddle mint leaves, Stirrings Simple Syrup and crushed ice in rocks glass. Add Bulleit Rye and fill glass with ice. Pour into cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and serve in rocks glass with fresh mint garnish.

Of course, a big part of Derby weekend is betting on the race, and the folks at Bulleit teamed up with professional handicapper Tony Gold to give us six tips on picking a Derby winner:

1. Peaking performance: The most important rule of all is to find the horse that will peak in the Derby meaning, look for horses who improved with each race with either a strong first, second or third finish after a long layoff, with more room to improve. You can eliminate half the field simply by doing this.
2. Age factor: If the horse is two years old and hasn’t raced, the chances of it winning are slim. These are not fully mature horses and getting to a mile and a quarter requires much conditioning.
3. Time comparison: Log resulting times from each horse’s last prep race with the rest of the board.
4. Prep race outcomes: Look at what prep races historically produce the most winners.
5. Jockey experience: Consider the jockey’s skill set from previous races. The derby is a large field and a good experienced jockey can position a horse well early and avoid trouble, which can make or a break a horse’s chances.
6. Tactical speed: A Derby winner will jump early and can be found somewhere from mid-field to the second or third place by halfway around the course.

Of course, your girlfriend might do better just picking based on a cool name, but that’s what makes this race so much fun. Enjoy!

  

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