Drink of the Week: The Conhattan

The Conhattan. With St. Patrick’s Day 2013 nearly upon us, we’re featuring the second of two cocktails that claim some sort of association with the Emerald Isle and it’s descendents in the vast Irish diaspora. Last week, we had the delightful, but in no way particularly Irish, Shamrock Sour.

The Conhattan was suggested to me by a representative of a newish brand of Irish whiskey which has divided critics to a certain extent and actually boasts a connection with the town of Livermore. Livermore is not, I must tell you, located near Dublin or in County Cork, but in County Alameda in Northern California, a relative stone’s throw from Oakland and San Francisco. Aside from being the home of the famous/notorious nuclear weapons laboratory, it’s also the home of Concannon Winery, which is legitimately Irish-American but also, well, a winery.

This whiskey is made in Ireland, of course, by a distiller who finishes the whiskey in actual petite sirah barrels from Cali. As for the taste, it might not strike everyone as particularly Irish. While this video argues differently, to me, Concannon Irish Whiskey is probably best enjoyed by those who lean toward Scotch and find Jameson and Bushmills a bit overly soft. It’s very decent, but a bit astringent like a Scotch, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In fact, I think the astringency may just be essential to today’s drink, a very sweet variation on a Manhattan but which differs a great deal from the more classic Irish Whiskey Manhattan, which we featured last year at this time. This time, this whiskey is mellowed not by sweet vermouth, but by a very popular cocktail ingredient we’ve never featured here before — St. Germain elderflower liqueur. Anyhow, let’s get started with a concoction created for Concannon by Dublin mixologist Gillian Boyle.

The Conhattan

1 1/2 ounces Concannon Irish Whiskey
1 ounce St. Germain
1 teaspoon Noilly Prat dry vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 orange twist (garnish)
1 cocktail cherry (somewhat optional garnish)

Put all liquid ingredients into a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Ms. Boyle would have stir just until the drink is “evenly diluted” but I say stir as long as you like, or be a heretic like me and shake the thing. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add the orange peel and, if you like, the cherry, and toast your favorite Irish or Irish-American person, real or imagined.

****

I often strip out most of the brand names from my recipes because I like to offer readers the freedom to try out drinks with their own brands and not feel tied to what I happen to be using. This time, however, I really think it’s best to mostly stick with the script as provided by Boyle. I haven’t actually had the opportunity to try the Conhattan with other products, but I strongly suspect this drink would completely fall apart if you attempted it with say, Bushmills or Jameson’s. Much as I adore those highly approachable whiskeys, I strongly suspect that they wouldn’t stand up to this much St. Germain, which is complex but also extremely sweet. Also, you’d have to change the name (“The Bushhattan”??). You could probably cheat by using another brand of dry vermouth than Noilly Pratt, but since it’s been a favorite go-to brand of mine for years now, I see no reason to diverge there.

On the other hand, I am offering readers the option of raising or lowering the amount of St. Germain, for a very simple reason. Very frankly, though I am no stranger to the tooth that is sweet, I found the original recipe, which called for a full ounce of liqueur, overly sweet — good enough for DOTW but very far from a personal favorite.Reducing it to 1/2 ounce, however, produced an extremely nice cocktail on which I’m proud to place my personal stamp of approval. At that amount, the light touch of the elderflower is just sweet enough to properly soften the kick of the Concannon without muffling it outright.

It’s all about balance. Indeed, there’s a place for sweetness on St. Patrick’s Day, as director John Ford — the ultimate Irish-American mythmaker — undoubtedly would have agreed.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Drink of the Week: The Shamrock Sour

the Shamrock Sour. Okay, we admit that St. Patrick’s Day is nearly a fortnight away, but the tireless promoters of the alcoholic industrial complex have been hard at work plying me with bottles of top-quality hooch and some intriguing holiday themed recipes to go with them. In this case, we’re talking about my personal favorite member of the Jim Beam Small batch family, Basil Hayden’s. Yes, it’s only 80 proof and therefore less overtly flavoriffic than a typical high quality bourbon, but it mixes so harmoniously, I really can’t say anything bad about it. It’s definitely one bourbon that’s worth trying with just a bit of cold water or maybe some ice cubes. Sort of like a sweeter version of a very nice Scotch.

Nor do I have anything but nice things to say about the Shamrock Sour, a lively variation on a timeless tonic developed by New York mixologist and proprietor, Julie Reiner, who appears to be something of a budding superstar in the bar game. I can’t think of a better final chapter to wrap up the quartet of delicious sours I’ve been featuring in recent weeks.

Now, I would agree with naysayers that the Irish/St. Patrick’s Day bonafides of any bourbon-based beverage are very seriously in doubt — it’s not like Kentucky is any kind of Irish-American enclave. On a more superficial level, the Shamrock Sour isn’t even particularly emerald colored, a bit of very expensive but worth it green chartreuse notwithstanding. Still, if the choice is between good taste and thematic consistency, I have to go with the taste. On the other hand, we’ll be trying out another drink using actual Irish whiskey as the big boozing day approaches. For now, however, I wholly endorse the Shamrock Sour for St. Patrick’s Day, or any other day. Authenticity, be darned.

The Shamrock Sour

2 ounces bourbon (preferably Basil Hayden’s®, naturally)
1/2 ounce green chartreuse
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grapefruit juice, preferably fresh
1/4 ounce agave nectar
1/4 ounce water (to mix with the agave nectar)
1/4 ounce egg white
1 lemon wheel (highly desirable garnish)
1 sprig of fresh mint (even more desirable garnish)

Combine bourbon, chartreuse — a highly distinctive a-little-goes-a-long-way liqueur whose complete formula is known only to a pair of monks in France’s Chartreuse Mountains — and juice in a cocktail shaker. Mix the agave nectar with an equal amount of water to make 1/2 ounce of agave syrup. Add the egg white and, as usual with egg cocktails, shake vigorously before you have added ice.

Then, add ice, shake again very vigorously and pour over fresh ice into a fairly good size rocks glass. Add a lemon wheel and mint sprigs, which I think is actually an important part of the flavor here, particularly the mint. Toast the people of Ireland (who gave us James Joyce), the people of Kentucky (who gave us two of my favorite character of recent pop culture, Raylan Givens and Abraham Lincoln), and why not throw in those Carthusian monks and Julie Reiner while you’re at. I know I’m grateful to all of them.

****

This really is an especially well-balanced whiskey sour variation. Aside from the good booze, the agave, and the all important (though viscous and therefore tricky to measure out), egg white, the secret ingredient in here is the grapefruit. In fact, I have to credit this drink for dispelling my childish dislike of the bittersweet citrus fruit with legendarily healthy properties. I hated the stuff as a child and always remembered it as just bitter and ultra tart. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t tried eating the stuff in years. Apart from this drink, I find I now am increasingly tolerant of the stuff. It’s actually about as sweet as it is bitter, sorta kinda like the citrus equivalent of Campari or Aperol.

It’s healthy too. In fact, now I understand that grapefruit might actually help fight type 2 diabetes, an illness genetics — and my outsize enjoyment of food and drink — suggest I might fall prey to. Is it possible this is a drink that could save my life? Well, I’m definitely going to use that excuse the next time I make it.

  

Related Posts