Drink of the Week: The Countess Tracy (TCM Fest Salute #3)

The Countess Tracy.If you head over to Bullz-Eye’s James Bond Fan Hub, you may notice that the writer behind the painfully in-depth explorations of the Sean Connery 007 films is the same guy bringing you these beverage recipes week after week. So, of course, when I attended this year’s TCM Fest, I was going to make it a priority to finally check out the 2012 restored version of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on the big screen.

Though originally regarded as something of a disappointment largely due to the replacement of Connery by George Lazenby, an unknown whose performance remains controversial (I’m not a huge fan), there is a small but growing community who argue it’s the best film in the entire series. My position is that it’s pretty great and very likely would have topped even “Goldfinger,” if only Connery had, in fact starred opposite the film’s actual leading lady, Diana Rigg, who very definitely is the greatest of all Bond girls.

Lazenby aside, OHMSS remains a mighty entertaining piece of work and by far the most faithful to any of the 007 novels, a most romantic and strangely melancholy tale for all its Bondian absurdity. (For more background information, feel free to check out my brother in Bondage Ross Ruediger’s fine ONHMSS exploration for Bullz-Eye.)

Today’s drink is devoted to easily the most complex and affecting leading lady in the Bond cannon so far. Teresa Draco, later the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, and ultimately simply Tracy Bond. Especially as played by Diana Rigg, Tracy is no mere Bond girl. No, for all her girlish beauty, she’s really a full-fledged Bond woman who is more than capable of saving a superspy’s life after he saves her from death by suicide in the film’s opening.

My liquid take on OHMSS and Tracy Bond is an homage and update to the Vesper, Ian Fleming and bartender Ivar Bryce’s tribute to the first of Bond’s lost loves from “Casino Royale.” And, yes, the Countess Tracy features bourbon, not gin. In the novels, Bond drank it probably more than anything else, and that meant he drank an awful lot of it.

The Countess Tracy

1 1/2 ounces Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce Smirnoff 100 proof vodka
1 orange twist (desirable garnish)

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and, yes, shake this drink vigorously and never, ever, stir it. Ian Fleming hated ALL stirred drinks and his smirky, snobbish ghost will haunt you forever should you ever consider stirring any drink remotely related to him.

Anyhow, once you’re done shaking your drink as if being chased by the nefarious twosome of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Irma Bunt, strain it into a chilled cocktail glass (coupe or standard martini style). Add the orange twist and toast Diana Rigg. The adorable and entirely first-rate actress who played Tracy and also, of course, the greatest of all filmic female superspies, Emma Peel.

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I selected Basil Hayden’s bourbon because A. I had it in the house and B. It’s a damned fine bourbon of which I’m sure Bond and Fleming would have approved. Though named for an 18th century distiller, the brand wasn’t introduced until about three decades after Fleming’s untimely death. It was nevertheless featured, I understand, in the 2011 James Bond novel by Jeffery Deaver, Carte Blanche.

My selection of Campari was directly inspired by the choice of beverage of Tracy’s beloved father, benevolent criminal mastermind Marc-Ange Draco. In the movie (and the book, if memory serves), he drinks the very sweet/extremely bitter liqueur straight while serving Bond one of his shaken martinis.

Finally, the Lillet Blanc and the 100 proof vodka are pretty obviously ripped off from my explorations of the Vesper. I believe David Wondrich assumed the original Vesper used 100 proof Stolichnaya. I used Smirnoff because, well, it was in front of me. Today’s Lillet is apparently a fairly far cry from the Kina Lillet of Fleming’s day, and is one of the many reasons a modern-day Vesper needs to be modified a great deal to work properly. However, Lillet Blanc is a very lovely product in its own right, and it adds needed sweetness and light to the Countess Tracy.

As for the drink as a whole, I think I did good this time. It’s a bittersweet and very tasty tribute to the only woman, save Moneypenny, James Bond ever truly loved. Like Tracy, it’s refreshing and bold, with more than a hint of darkness. It’s a drink for which, you might say, I have all the time in the world.

  

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More Spirits for the Holidays

Booze is always an essential part of the holidays. People want to have fun this time of year, so naturally we love to enjoy some drinks and holiday cheer. Forbes recently did a survey on the subject and the results were pretty interesting.

Heavy Holiday Spender: More than three quarters of male respondents estimated that they spend more than $1,000 on alcohol during the holiday season!

Food or Booze? Holiday Indulgence Priorities: More than 70% of respondents revealed that if they had to cut down on either their holiday food or alcohol consumption, food would be the first to go.

Get the picture? People take their booze seriously this time of year, especially guys. That’s why we always include some liquor suggestions in our holiday gift guide in the “Guy Stuff” section.

If you’re throwing a party, the booze is critical. If you’re going to a party, you better not arrive empty handed. There’s nothing like a nice bottle of good stuff to make everyone happy. Also keep in mind that it’s always a great idea to have some special cocktails ready for a party, and you can get some great ideas, including holiday drinks, from our Drink of the Week series.

Here we’ve added some more suggestions for gift ideas and to stock a holiday party bar.

Smirnoff Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow

The first thing to consider is DON’T FORGET THE LADIES! Women like to drink as well, so make sure you have some special drinks available for them, particularly if you’re throwing your own party. One thing to consider is flavored vodka. Women love this stuff and you can make all sorts of cool cocktails. Smirnoff has come out with two very sweet options with their Whipped Cream and Fluffed Marshmallow flavors (see image to the right). This stuff tastes so good that you can easily drink it straight on the rocks. Pair them up with orange juice or orange pop and you’ll have a creamsicle for adults.

The key to your booze selection for a party is to have something for everyone, and these flavored vodkas are a great addition to any party.

Ron Abuelo’s Aged Rums

Everyone appreciates a good rum. It makes the setting even nicer when you’re partying in the tropics, and it makes a cold winter night a little warmer when you’re partying up north. Ron Abuelo rum produced entirely from estate-grown sugar cane in Panama by the family-owned Varela Hermanos. The company dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela established the first sugar mill in the recently-formed Republic of Panama, the San Isidro Sugar Mill. Almost 30 years later, Varela began the distillation of alcohol from their sugar cane crop in 1936. Currently run by the third generation, Varela Hermanos has approximately 1000 hectares of land devoted exclusively to the cultivation of sugar cane. Today, the range is composed of four authentic dark oak-aged rums: Añejo, 7 Años, 12 Años and the limited edition Ron Abuelo Centuria.

We tried the 7 Años rum with a nice cigar and loved it. Sip it straight or make up some killer cocktails. Either way this stuff is a great addition to you holiday bar.

Van Gogh BLUE

Everyone loves a good Martini, especially the ladies. So check out our article on Classic Drinks Every Guy Should Know How to Make and then pick up some Van Gogh BLUE vodka.

This is the world’s first vodka made from three international wheat sources (central France, southern Germany and Zeeland in Holland). Hand-crafted in Holland, this triple distilled, triple wheat vodka has an exceptionally smooth, polished taste with a neutral flavor full of subtle nuances from the three European grains. It’s a great gift idea for vodka lovers and it’s naturally a great addition to your holiday bar. The bottle also looks very cool and everyone will wan to try it! You’ll find vodka at every party, but it’s always cool to bring something new and interesting, so people will appreciate trying a new and interesting alternative.

So drink up, be safe and enjoy the holidays!

  

Drink of the Week: The Moscow Mule

Moscow MuleSummertime weather has kicked into high gear much earlier than usual in the greater Los Angeles area and it’s hot as we write these words at Drink of the Week Central. So, it’s as good a time as any to celebrate an appropriately cold and refreshing, and actually perfectly delightful, semi-classic cocktail that was invented in New York but popularized in what is now incorporated West Hollywood. Moreover, while the name of this drink might have once hinted at anti-capitalist subversion, this is one beverage with a history that any U.S. captain of industry or Russian oligarch can appreciate.

The Moscow Mule was developed by East-coast based Smirnoff manufacturer Heublein in the 1940s to help popularize vodka, then a poor seller in the U.S. market. The new drink hit it big, however, with the movie-star heavy clientele at the Cock ‘n Bull pub on the Sunset Strip. The pub’s owner, it turns out, also was the president of Cock ‘n Bull Products, which manufactured the drink’s other main ingredient, ginger beer. Since cocktails made with ginger beer or ginger ale were commonly called “bucks” or “mules” and Smirnoff was a Russian-derived vodka, the name must have been easy enough to invent.

Here’s the recipe:

The Moscow Mule

2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 spent lime wedge (garnish)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
Approx. 3 ounces ginger beer
1 dash Angostura bitters

Dissolve sugar in lime juice, bitters, and vodka. Add plentiful ice to Tom Collins glass or large metal mug. Top off with ginger beer. Throw in one of the lime wedges you used to produce the lime juice. Stir with a bar spoon or swizzle stick and toast the Cock ‘n Bull, which tragically closed down forever in 1987. (It’s now a car dealership.)

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The above recipe is actually our distillation of a number of recipes we found online. So, be aware that it’s entirely okay to use an entire ounce of lime juice or up to three or four dashes of bitters, though that will add perhaps more piquancy than some might be prepared for while giving it the same pinkish hue as the picture we’re using this week. (If you’re big into bitters, Moscow mules have also been made with Fee Brothers’ Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters.) You can also use the minimum amount of lime juice and dispense with the sugar and bitters entirely. Still, when all was said and done, the version above produced a really well-balanced beverage that a drinking newbie can easily love and cocktail connoisseur can, at the very least, respect.

Ginger beer, by the way, is fairly similar to ginger ale, just a little bit, or a lot, heavier on the ginger, depending on the brand. We haven’t tried it, but real cheapskates may consider experimenting with plain old Vernors or Canada Dry. Ginger beer can be more expensive than some brands of actual beer.

  

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