Friday, May 14, 2010

Exhibit #31: Fizz 101

"Fizz 101" (May 16 & 23)
9pm-close, at the bar

Of all the versatile, any-spirit-will-do drink paradigms that flourished before Prohibition - the Sling, Flip, Fix, Shrub, Sangaree, Toddy, Crusta, Cobbler, Smash, Julep - only three had widespread currency after Repeal: the basic Cocktail (Old-Fashioned), the Fizz and the Sour. The Sour remains with us, especially its whiskey incarnation; the Cocktail lives on in its bastardized fruit cup variation; but the Fizz hasn't been asked for much since the 1950s. Certainly they were still made afterwards - a Gin Fizz was the Curator's first legal drink in 1984 - but one would only find Fizzes on offer in older establishments with long memories, and even then usually in mangled form (sour mix...).

That the Fizz was very popular for a good long stretch, say 1880 to 1940, there is little doubt. One way to gauge a drink's popularity is to look at the amount of variation that took place. You can see the truth of this with the Martini and the Manhattan - endless minor tweaks produced "new" drinks. Neck and neck, or even beyond, you'll find the Fizz. There are easily at least 100 different Fizzes in the cocktail archives, if not double that. I've written about it before, so forgive the repetition, but a good deal of 19th century drinking revolved around the hangover cure, and the Fizz was the champ of the genre. The effervescing soda water expedited delivery of the alcohol payload, and buoyed by refreshing citrus, complex sugars, and in some cases, energizing egg proteins, the thing really worked, and quite well at that.

Given the staggering number of Fizz variations, I am setting a challenge. Over the next several months, we will offer at least a few fizzes on each menu, working our way up to 100 in total. Once that number is reached - sometime next winter I imagine - we will have a special party: the Night of 100 Fizzes, where every one of them is on offer. We'll have a bunch of bartenders around, and there will no doubt be some honest-to-goodness shaker lines formed to crank out the Fizzes.

So we are going to need to some fizz glasses. A fizz glass is narrow and short, about 1.5" in diameter and holds a volume of approximately 6 ounces (a little smaller is ok, too). You may know the type as a "juice glass." Bring in one of these for us to borrow until/through the big party, and you will receive an as-yet-undetermined reward in return for the loan. Right now I am thinking it is a special, "secret fizz" at the party, or perhaps admission to a more intimate version of the same event for regular museum patrons, or some other gift. It's early stages yet, and all this must be discussed further with the powers-that-be.

Brandy, Gin, Rum or Whiskey Fizz $5
Spirit, club soda, lemon juice, sugar, up. The gin incarnation gathered the most adherents, but early on other liquors were commonly employed. If you've ever drank a Tom Collins, you've kind of had a Gin Fizz. They are basically the same drink, the only difference is a Collins is built in a tall glass over ice, contains more soda, and is a cooler for slow sipping, while a Fizz is always shaken, served without ice, and is smaller for quick dispatch. There is no egg in a basic Fizz.

Silver Fizz $6

Old Tom gin, club soda, lemon juice, sugar, egg white, up.

Golden Fizz $6
Bourbon, club soda, lemon juice, sugar, egg yolk, up.

Diamond Fizz $7
Old Tom gin, champagne, lemon juice, sugar, up. In terms of ingredients, the mirror image of a French 75 - but with more gin and citrus, and a bit less champagne.

Jasper's Rum Punch $5
A non-gin drink is needed on the menu, so let's have at this one. As served by noted Jamaican bartender Jasper LaFranc of Montego Bay's Bay Roc hotel in the 1960s and 1970s. Several years ago rum collector Steve Remsberg was able coax the recipe for Jasper's Secret Mix, which makes this punch sing, from the retired barman. Wray & Nephew Overproof rum, lime juice, sugar, with a good amount of fresh nutmeg and Angostura bitters, on the rocks.

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