Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Pub Crawling: The Alembic

There is usually a white carnation in the Colonel’s buttonhole, and almost invariably, when he is seen in public, a beer glass in his right hand. For a period before lunch, which is customarily his first meal of the day, he devotes himself to gold gin fizzes, which are made with the yolk of the egg. During this process of remedial imbibition he is morose and does not appreciate company. “I met a villain last night,” he will say in explanation of his mood, “and he led me down the path of dalliance Gambrinian.” If the bartender in setting down the shaker bangs it against the wood, the jangled Colonel will say, “Doctor, don’t cut too deep! I have been riding the magic carpet.”
—A.J. Liebling, The Honest Rainmaker

Drinking in the afternoon is one of the great pleasures of the liquor lifestyle. I’m often too busy to indulge the taste these days, which is probably a good thing, but this has been one of those weekends. There was tiki night with friends and someone’s new test batch of bitters to try, resulting in a spirited march over hill and dale in the middle of the night from which I finally floated home at 4 o’clock the following morning, decks awash. And then a wedding the next day. It was hard to work up to anything like a serious state of mind today, so I wandered over to The Alembic shortly after noon for the hair of the dog. Timothy Zohn was behind the stick, and I knew right away that I was in good hands.

The first item on the menu to catch my eye was the rye-based Evergreen, another libation featuring Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur. I’m getting to like that stuff a lot. The Evergreen was fairly dry, refreshing, and as the menu said, bracing. Almost beer-like.

For the next drink, it wasn’t hard to decide. Timothy had made a summer punch with nectarines, raspberries, lime and mint, and I wasn’t about to pass that up. Light, elegant, a little bubbly, quaffable as a punch should be. Very quaffable.

Since I had been spending a little too much time riding the magic carpet, as the Colonel put it, I asked Timothy if he could produce a Gold Gin Fizz. It sounded sorta kill-or-cure but I was ready. If it had worked for the Colonel’s delicate condition, it seemed worth the risk. And it was. The Gold Gin Fizz could restore anyone. The egg yolk made it silky, the lime and the sugar did a dance with the gin, and the siphon brought it all together. The Colonel was a genius.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bourbon Special

Beachbum Berry describes the Bourbon Special as one of “three exotics for bourbon drinkers, all circa 1950s.” Opinions might vary as to how exotic it really seems, though it has classic tiki elements, and it certainly would’ve gone well enough with the atmosphere of fantasy and escape in one of Steve Crane’s Kon-Tiki restaurants for which it was created.

Bourbon Special
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz falernum
  • 3/4 oz ginger beer
  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon
  • dash Angostura bitters
Shake with ice cubes. Pour unstrained into an old-fashioned glass.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Circus

Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don't take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.
—David Niven

The last time I made this, other than the one pictured below, was for a small party for my birthday. It’s the sort of drink that hints at its lethality by way of what you don’t taste. You don’t know where the bottom of the pool is; only that your feet aren’t on it. Normally, I don’t expose my guests to that sort of thing, but it was a special occasion and my friends are such good sports.

The Circus
  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 1 oz vanilla rum (Charbay)
  • 3/4 oz Galliano (84.6 proof)
  • 1/2 oz brandy
  • 2 1/2 oz apricot nectar (Looza)
  • 1 oz passion fruit syrup (Trader Tiki)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chimney glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish with such small fruits as are available: cherry, kumquat, lemon wedge, etc.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Black Manhattan

The famous San Francisco summer fog has me in the mood for amaro cocktails. I half-remembered reading somewhere about a Manhattan variation with Averna. While I never did find the article I was thinking of, Paul Clarke mentions having had this cocktail at Bourbon & Branch, where it was made with Eagle Rare bourbon and called the Black Manhattan. I had Eagle Rare around so that was easily settled on, and I used Angostura for the bitters. There’s a Washington Post article that suggests Regans’ orange bitters as well as aromatic bitters, which seemed a nice touch.

Black Manhattan
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Averna
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
  • 1 dash Regans' orange bitters
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

The Averna made for an attractively dark drink. This was a little heavy for me, though the housemate and I enjoyed it. We tried it 2:1 first, but it was more to my taste with 2 ounces bourbon to about 2/3 of an ounce of Averna. And maybe the bitters got lost under the weight of the Averna and I should’ve found something with more contrast. The cherry garnish was unobjectionable, but my next try will be with a twist—maybe a even a flamed orange peel would be good for this one.

QUESTIONS FROM THE BEFOGGED: Anybody have a preference for bitters for the Black Manhattan? Do you have a favorite Averna cocktail?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Philadelphia Fish-House Punch

There’s old magic in the legend of Philadelphia Fish-House Punch and the Colony in Schuylkill. It is woods and water and smoke. It is the Fourth of July, and canoes, wet bathing suits and homemade pies. It conjures the spirit of the old republic.

The first time I made this, I used the adjusted recipe from David Wondrich that calls for brandy-based peach liqueur in place of peach brandy from peaches. Since then, a great artisanal Indian blood peach eau-de-vie by Kuchan has come on the market. Either way, the effect is quite similar: sweet and heady, subtly perfumed. This is the taste of the past. The flavors are rich and very old fashioned, though the water helps keep it light. My friends and I find that we can drink it all afternoon long in a pleasant haze.

I pretty much stuck to the proportions of the old recipe, rounding only slightly down on the sugar and up on the water for easy multiplication.

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
  • 1 pint lemon juice
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 pints mixture (1 1/2 cups peach eau-de-vie, 3 cups cognac, 1 1/2 cups Jamaica rum)
  • 1 gallon water
Make a block of ice for the punch bowl by freezing water in a metal or cardboard container overnight. (Do not use glass, which will break with the expansion of the ice.) Now for the lemons. Squeezing a pint of lemon juice with a small hand press takes some patience and about 3 pounds of lemons. Before you squeeze, take off only the yellow part of the peel of 3 lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler. Muddle the peels well with the sugar.

Start squeezing lemons into a strainer over a measuring cup. Heat a quart of the water to the boiling point and pour over the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Fish out the lemon peels. Wondrich says to add the rest of the ingredients at this point and chill the whole thing, but I find that making a great vat of the stuff for a barbecue means competition with other comestibles for real estate in the refrigerator.

So I cooled it with another quart of the water, added the lemon juice, and chilled the booze mixture and remaining water separately. Assemble the punch in a large bowl over the ice block.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.