No need to go into details about the geekiness that brought me there, but this last Easter Sunday found this very secular Jew in downtown L.A. Not wanting to waste an opportunity to hit one of the countless outstanding bars in my town’s ever-cooler civic seat, but also being only too aware that it was a pretty major holiday, it appeared that my best bet for a DTLA libation was the relatively new E.R.B., aka Everson Royce Bar, a recent outgrowth of Pasadena’s noted Everson Royce wine and spirits emporium.
And that’s how I encountered today’s drink, the creation of the ERB bartender who calls himself Jonathan B. Jonathan had come up with the drink the night or two before, and he suggested it when I told him I was up for just about anything good. It’s a rich, strong concoction that I pronounced nifty on the spot.
Since there’s already a drink on the ERB menu called the Gold Line, referring to the commuter train that can take you from Pasadena to the downtown L.A. arts district, I suggested naming this drink after the slightly further afield Red Line, which would soon take me back to my North Hollywood home via nearby-enough-for-a-cheap-Uber ride Union Station. Yes, L.A. is finally starting to have decent public transit, just like we already have more than our fair share of good bars.
Shake or stir the contents in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Add the orange twist, and toast our nation’s great cities and the creative bartenders who inhabit them.
There’s a movie out right now called “Paris-Manhattan” but that is actually just a pretty massive coincidence. I haven’t seen this French homage to the films of Woody Allen, but I’m certainly willing to piggy-back on it by accident. What actually happened was I was looking for a cocktail that justified the big bottle of rather expensive St. Germain elderflower liqueur I’d recently sprung for. The Paris Manhattan is what I found.
As it happens, this drink is not an ancient classic like its antecedent, the Manhattan, but was developed in the mid 2000s, reportedly by famed cocktail writer and entrepreneur Simon Difford. (As far as I know, no relation to the very talented Chris Difford of the band, Squeeze.)
Difford apparently was somehow involved in the creation of St. Germain, which has become the go-to elderflower liqueur for almost everyone, and he therefore has a vested interest in this cocktail. Indeed, I personally think he put just a bit too much of it in his drink. No worries, though, because I’ve fixed it!
The Paris Manhattan
2 ounces rye, Canadian, or bourbon whiskey
3/4 ounce St. Germain/elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
2 dashes of aromatic/Angostura bitters
1 cocktail cherry or orange twist (garnish)
Combine the liquid ingredients in cocktail shaker or mixing glass and stir vigorously. Strain into glass and add the cherry or orange twist garnish of your choice. Drink to Paris, Manhattan, some other city, or just drink. You’ll be fine.
I actually tried shaking this one, but it really didn’t work. The extra water and ice crystals simply didn’t add anything, while nevertheless detracting from the flavor. More importantly, I found that I thought the original recipe, which called for a full ounce of St. Germain, was too sweet — though I liked the results better with the remainder of my nearly consumed Templeton Rye than with Old Fitzgerald bonded bourbon. Oddly enough, no recipes I found online called for any less of the very sweet, you might say honeyish, liqueur.
I nevertheless tried it with only half an ounce of the elderflower liqueur, and that was a major disappointment. It didn’t taste any less sweet but was just kind of sharp in an unpleasant way. Then, I tried only 3/4 of an ounce with the rye and — because I was running out, just a whiff of Canadian Club Sherry Cask. Bingo.
Like most Americans, I’m not exactly a polyglot. Four years of junior high and high school Spanish have been of great assistance in helping me to order items at taco trucks; three quarters of college French allow me to chuckle knowingly to myself when “merde!” is translated as “damn!” in subtitles. So, I can’t properly pronounce the name of the Vieux Carre, but I can tell you it means “old square.” That square, as it turns out, is off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and this is another fine cocktail associated with America’s most intriguing cocktail capital.
Quite obviously, however, this is not in the same category as a Hurricane and it’s not the one of the scary, gigantic green drinks featured on this year’s season premiere of “Bar Rescue.” While, for me, the Vieux Carre doesn’t quite achieve the classic cocktail nirvana of a Sazerac, this is one beverage that actually gets tastier the longer you let it sit. It’s perfect for a long conversation and, by the end of it, even ever-so-justifiably-furious bar rescuer John Taffer might get mellow enough to maybe stop shouting for just a second.
Making this drink is about as easy to make as it is to get a buzz going in the French Quarter. Build over some ice cubes in a rock glass, stir, and add the lemon twist. Toast whatever or whomever you like, but do so slowly.
I’m very sorry to say that this week’s post completes my trilogy of drinks of cocktails featuring Camus’s Ile de Ré Fine Island Cognac. Sadly, that’s the case because I polished off the bottle last night. No disrespect to my value-priced go-to brandy, Reynal, but there’s a reason the Camus people get to charge the big bucks for this stuff. It’s great in a cocktail and remarkably easy and pleasurable to drink neat. Good thing I still have a few airplane bottles of various Ile de Ré expressions in my alcohol laden larder.
My rye for this double-base spirit cocktail was another new freebie favorite we’ve featured here before, the lovely Templeton Rye, previously featured in the Capone. I usually lean towards higher proof ryes like my old pal, 100 proof Rittenhouse, but that might have been a bit much in this context; Templeton’s more mellow flavor makes it a pretty perfect match for a Vieux Carre.
I experimented quite a bit with the other ingredients. Many recipes call for more booze and somewhat less of the Benedictine — a very sweet herbal liqueur which famously mixes well with brandy. I also tried three different sweet vermouths, all favorites. The lightest was Noilly Pratt, which was very nice, but an even better result was achieved with the greatness that is Carpano Antica. (Yet another freebie previously featured here).
I also tried it with another great product I’ll be featuring later, Punt e Mes. In that instance, it sort of dominated the cocktail but, since I love, love, love me some Punt e Mes, I didn’t really mind.
One final note, apparently to really do the Vieux Carre right, some people suggest you should make it with just one very large ice cube. Sounds cool, but I guess I need to find an ice cube tray that make 3″x 3″ ice cubes.
I’m not sure if it’s a good omen that the first DOTW of 2013 is celebrating Al Capone. Especially considering what we’re all about here, we might be prone to forgive the bootlegging and the gambling the man was involved with, but his probable involvement in mass murder is something we have to come down a bit harder on here at DOTW Central. On the other hand, it appears he had good taste in rye whiskey.
This week’s drink was suggested to me by a mysterious — though, I’m sure, entirely law-abiding — benefactor who was kind enough to send me a bottle of what we are told was the real original Scarface’s favorite whiskey and “the good stuff” well-heeled folks might have enjoyed at a real Chicago speakeasy during prohibition days. Made in nearby Iowa, Templeton Rye alleges itself to be a recreation of what my long-deceased reprobate Great Uncle Ben might have personally swilled at certain Chi-town establishments.
I have no idea whether or not that’s true, but I do know that this is some very good rye whiskey. A bit less peppery and less reminiscent of the stuff I eat with yellow mustard and pastrami than other ryes, it nevertheless sports a delightful potpourri of flavors with a bit more bourbon-esque sweetness than is usual. The fact that it’s 80 proof probably helps allow for a bit more gentleness than in your bonded 100 proof ryes.
As for the cocktail the Templeton people have created in the name of Al Capone, it’s much nicer than the man most people assume was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre must have been.
This is a pretty easy one. Combine your liquids in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Rim the glass with a very thin slice of lemon peel (none of the white stuff) and “twist” it over the drink to express the lemon oils into the drink. (This is actually standard practice with a twist of lemon, but I’m going into detail because it’s more important than usual.) Toast whomever you like when you sip this, but do me a favor and consider making it something or someone other than Mr. Capone. I’m going out on a limb here and expressing my vehement opposition to organized crime.
Very, very observant readers might note here that I’m going against my usual practice and actually suggesting you use only Templeton Rye in making this particular drink. Far be it from me to curtail experimentation, but I have to say that I actually tried this drink first with a different brand of rye, a fun-size bottle of Korbel I happened upon, and Cointreau in lieu of Grand Marnier. It was nasty.
Here’s where I have to thank my benefactors again who went well above and beyond the call of duty and, in response to some of my habitual whining, actually sent me some Grand Marnier (which is very tasty but not cheap, hence my whining) as well as some very quaffable Yellow Tail Sparkling White Wine. Sure, Australia is a long way from the Champagne region of France, but it did just fine.
While the Capone turned out very nicely using the more or less originally specified ingredients, there is some wiggle room here as far as your choice of bitters goes. Your standard classic Angostura works just fine here, but there was a slight aftertaste of the wrong kind of bitterness I wasn’t overly fond of. Using the kinder, gentler Peychaud’s bitters yielded a nice enough result, however. I also had decent luck with Regan’s Orange Bitters, which I think worked nicely with the Grand Marnier.
Still, for all of that, I’m so taken with Templeton Rye, it’s reputed evil origins notwithstanding, that I’m expecting even better results when I try it in something where it can really stand out on it’s own. I’ll be having that Templeton Old Fashioned I think. Right…about…now.