Saturday, February 25, 2012

Exhibit #91: Doin' It with Dubonnet! Plus a tropical controversy

The French aperitif Dubonnet is a blend of fortified wine, herbs, spices, and quinine. It was introduced in 1846 in response to a contest held by the French government to create a beverage that would make quinine (an anti-malarial agent) palatable to members of the French Foreign Legion. In cocktails, it most often steps into red vermouth’s shoes, playing that supporting role of adding sweetness and complexity. The majority of tonight’s drinks is generally unknown, and did not get republished by subsequent authors after their first appearances. They mostly date from the 1920s-1940s.

Don’t Give Up the Ship $8
Dry gin, Dubonnet, Fernet Branca and Grand Marnier in 6:2:1:1 proportions. There’s some precedent here – the nearly-as-obscure Napoleon cocktail (Savoy) which suffices with dashes of the secondary ingredients. It’s got Fernet in it, so you know it’ll be a ride for your palate.

Goody Goody $9
What a terrible name! Small wonder this one did not survive. Dry gin, Dubonnet, yellow Chartreuse, and lemon juice in a 4:2:1:1 ratio. A little on the sweet side, but Chartreuse and lemon always make for wonderful guests at the gin party.

Home on the Range $8
Buffalo Trace bourbon, Dubonnet, Cointreau, Angostura bitters, up. Essentially a Manhattan variation, jacked up with some orange from the Cointreau.

Leg Before Wicket $8
Perhaps someone who knows cricket could explain the name for us? Pleasingly dry and alcoholic: dry gin, Dubonnet, Campari, and lime juice, up. Gin leads the charge with the secondary ingredients standing back at a respectful distance – they’re both colorful enough to not be lost. Dubonnet and Campari get along quite well, with complementary orange notes and a yin/yang mirror image in their bitter / sweet profiles.

Nightmare $7
Not to be confused with the modern drink which seems to include everything from coconut rum to Jagermeister. Dry gin, Dubonnet, Heering cherry liqueur, and orange juice, up. Think of it as a second cousin to the Blood and Sand.

Q.B. Cooler $9 vs. Mai Tai $9
Long story short… Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic were the two titans of tiki. Although the latter was inspired by the former, Vic’s drinks certainly are of arguably equal merit, and he did have his own style. Both men claimed to have invented one of the best known tiki drinks, the Mai Tai, with Vic eventually settling the matter in court successfully in 1972. Privately Don asserted that the Mai Tai was an effort to re-create his Q.B. Cooler. Here’s your chance to try them side-by-side and decide for yourself.
Q.B. Cooler: 3 rums (light Puerto Rican, gold Jamaican & demerara), falernum, lime and orange juices, club soda, honey, ginger syrup, Angostura, crushed ice.
Mai Tai: 2 rums (dark Jamaican & Martinique), curacao (we’ll use Grand Marnier), lime, orgeat and simple syrups, crushed ice.

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