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Drink of the Week: The Brooklyn Cocktail (Second Attempt)

The Brooklyn. If at first you don’t completely succeed…

Last week’s DOTW was based on Dale DeGroff’s recipe which, in turn, seems to be largely drawn from Harry Craddock’s ultra-old school The Savoy Cocktail Book. Both of those recipes start with Canadian Club whiskey for the base spirit and use miniscule amounts of Amer Picon and maraschino liqueur. Part of the problem may be that only the maraschino appears to be much the same today as it was back in 1930 when Craddock’s book came out.

I have great affection for Canadian Club but, like all the big corporate boozes, it seems, its recipe has changed slightly over the decades. I know this for a fact because my late mother — no boozer, but a very good hostess — had some 1980s CC at her place which had been neglected by her guests but which I eventually polished off only a couple of years back while she was in the hospital.

As I was grateful to note during that difficult time, 1980s vintage Canadian Club was at least 3% more soothing than today’s Canadian Club, in that it was 86 proof, not the 80 proof version you’ll find now. It’s possible that was the version Mr. DeGroff was used to, and it might have worked better. Who knows what the stuff Harry Craddock was using might have done for the drink. Amer Picon as noted last week, doesn’t really exist at all these days, here or in Europe — unless you make your own. More about the many possible substitutions after the recipe.

Today’s version of the Brooklyn is my take on a number of online recipes I found. They all begin with rye whiskey as the main ingredient and contain significantly larger proportions of the maraschino and Amer Picon substitute — 1/4 ounce might not seem like very much, but it’s a lot more than last week’s 1/4 teaspoon. Anyhow, I like this version quite a bit, even if I suspect it could be even better still.

The Brooklyn Cocktail (Second Attempt)

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce Torani Amer or other Amer Picon substitute (see commentary below)
1 maraschino cherry (optional garnish)

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with quite a bit of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass with your cocktail cherry, which I rather like. Sip, enjoy, and try not to think too hard about all the hard to find brands I’m going to be complaining about, starting right about…



Yes, this week is a tale of many brands and making do with second best. For starters, I talked last week about the sudden appearance of Noilly Pratt “Extra Dry,” the temporarily discarded and probably inferior Americanization of the classic French brand. It turns out my beloved Noilly Pratt “Original Dry” is no longer being stocked by BevMo in these parts, so I made do with Martini & Rossi’s Extra Dry, which I think I somewhat prefer to the simplified Noilly.

Moving on, I started out making this week’s drink with the contemporary standard for maraschino liqueur, Luxardo, but the beverage mysteriously evaporated and I had to get some more. It’s a very old brand but, since I had a hard time finding it my local BevMo and I felt like saving ten bucks, I decided to go with it’s best known competitor, Maraska. On it’s own, its a nice but less delicious liqueur than Luxardo’s maraschino, but it worked very well in the context of the Brooklyn.

The real drama came when I decided to find an alternative to the easiest to find alternative to Amer Picon, Torani Amer. Most recipes suggest either Ramazotti Amaro or, as I was reminded by Facebook friend Christopher Tafoya, Amaro CioCiaro. Still, despite some very sincere attempts to be helpful by employees of West L.A.’s excellent The Wine House, the Northridge location of Total Wine and More, and even
Cavaretta’s Italian Deli in Canoga Park — which doesn’t even stock liquor — I was unable to find a bottle of either product in time for this post. There seems to be something of a temporary Amaro drought here in SoCal land.

What cannot be cured must be endured. So, what if BevMo has recently taken it upon itself to stop stocking my beloved Rittenhouse Rye…not to mention the correct style of Noilly and did I mention they’re dropping Old Fitzgerald Bourbon?…

Well, I’m trying to forgive and forget and find more reasons to drive out to West L.A. or Northridge. At least I happen to dig Bulleit’s new rye and the results with it were, on the whole, very good. I think I’ll continue to purchase it at Trader Joe’s, where it’s cheaper and I’m less annoyed.


Drink of the Week: The Brooklyn Cocktail (First Attempt)

The Brooklyn Cocktail. If you don’t think cocktails can be austere, then you’ve obviously never tasted a dry martini. It might be hard to believe for cocktail old timers but, to a newcomer, a dry gin martini is as forebidding as a Bartok quartet, a Maoist-period Jean-Luc Godard film, or a Jackson Pollack painting. If I wasn’t a born olive lover — and if I didn’t feel wonderfully tipsy after drinking them — I might never have discovered martinis myself.

Other drinks can offer more stylistic possibilities. A Manhattan can be as inviting as a Capra comedy or, if you seriously dial back the sweet vermouth, as demanding as Thomas Mann’s Dr. Faustus — a book I actually read and can almost remember. I’m guessing the Brooklyn Cocktail, a definite member of the Manhattan family, might be in that category, as the proportions vary really dramatically.

Today’s NYC-centric drink is another recipe I found in Dale DeGroff’s seminal The Craft of the Cocktail. It’s part of the some cocktail catching-up I’ve been inspired to do by the likably imperfect documentary, Hey Bartender. The film on the still nascent craft cocktail scene will be starting a very slow roll-out today (6/7/13) in New York, and then the following Friday in Los Angeles, and a few other odd cities. Stayed tuned here for an interview featuring a major player in the film.

In the meantime, I present the cocktail I’ve been struggling with this week, and I do mean struggling — though I think this one can be really good if you make sure the stars align properly. I only managed it once. That’s why I’m just watching “Hey Bartender,” and not appearing in it.

The Brooklyn Cocktail (modified DeGroff version)

2 ounces Canadian Club whiskey
1 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
1/4 teaspoon Torani Amer (or Amer Picon, if you’ve somehow got it)
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine everything but the lemon twist in a cocktail shaker. Add lots of ice and then do what the Good Lord put cocktail shakers on earth for, and shake the darn thing. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and toast the best bartender you know, who probably will get better results than you with this drink.


My first Brooklyn Cocktail turned out to be my best, though I diverged from Mr. DeGroff’s recipe in one major, but respectful, sense. Instead of classic Canadian Club, I used some of my prized small batch Canadian Club Sherry Cask with the last of the dry Noilly Pratt I had on hand.

DeGroff’s original recipe, published in 2002, calls for a “dash” of the maraschino liqueur and the Amer Picon digestif. Aside from the fact that Amer Picon is not actually available in the U.S. these days, I have no idea how you’re supposed to properly get a dash out of a bottle that doesn’t have a spout on it. So, in this draft, it’s 1/4 of a teaspoon of maraschino and Torani Amer, an alleged replica of Amer Picon.

So far so good, but I thought there was room for improvement and I┬ástill hadn’t tried it with standard Canadian Club, a brand I actually kind of love. First, however, I had to get myself some more dry vermouth. When I went for my beloved Noilly Pratt at BevMo, I failed to properly register the different coloring of the cap. Turns out, I was purchasing something called Noilly Pratt “extra dry.”

A little research showed that the French dry vermouth I’ve fallen in love over the last few years is, indeed, the original Noilly Pratt recipe that goes back to 1813 — but one that’s only been available in the States since 2009. It seems we vulgar Americans weren’t good enough for the original stuff during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and we had to be given a drier, simpler vermouth until we were deemed ready for the real thing. Now, that Americanized and simplified (I don’t want to say “dumbed down”) vermouth is back on the market.

I was ready to march right back to BevMo and swap it out for an (easier to keep fresh) half-sized bottle of Martini & Rossi, until I theorized that the recipe was written in 2002, and probably used many years prior to that. Perhaps the extra dry Noilly Pratt was actually what Dale DeGroff used. I definitely prefer the older French recipe, but cocktails are always much more than the sum of their parts, and that’s why I love them.

So, I made my next Brooklyn Cocktail with Canadian Club and the extra dry Noilly Pratt. Disappointingly, the austerity of the drink wasn’t really enlivened by much of anything else. It wasn’t bad, just not terribly enjoyable. Still, that version was much better than what I got when I tried doubling up on my dashes of maraschino and Torani Amer. That drink actually was downright disappointing and a bit mediciney.

What now? I’m going to try the more traditional recipe I’ve seen online, which called for rye whiskey instead of Canadian Club…and I’m going to see if I can’t find my beloved NP “original dry,” damn it, at a local liquor store. Stay tuned!