Sunday, January 6, 2013

Best of 2012

We’re a bit over three years into our cocktail archeology quest, and at some point in the coming year we’ll reach the milestone of over 1000 different cocktails that we have served. As such, 2012 was a year for rather obscure drinks. These are the ones that people liked the most or found to be the most interesting.

This menu will cover the entire month, so you can get at all the drinks of interest to you.

- communal cocktails -
Marmalade Cocktail $25 serves 3-4

From the old Savoy book, as per the original recipe for a group of 4 people: dry gin, lemon juice, and orange marmalade, up. Yes, there is actual marmalade in it, although it is an accent to the drink, lending texture and just a bit of sweetness to the lemon and a bitter orange top note.

St. Mark’s Miracle $17 serves 2-3
Martell VSOP cognac, Grand Marnier, lemon juice, and a good amount of both orange and Angostura bitters, up. Think of it as a cognac-forward Sidecar, but with plenty of bitters. “…it has an enviable record of revivition after the unwise cup on the night before. Shake briskly and strain into any sort of glass best calculated not to fall from our numb and listless clutch.” – Charles Baker, Jr.

- fortified wine -
Byrrh Cassis $6

Byrrh quinquina (a wine-based aperitif with quinine) and crème de cassis in a 3:1 ratio, with a splash of soda and lemon peel, on the rocks.

Sherry Cobbler $8
One of the few “known” drinks presented last year, the Sherry Cobbler was one of the most popular alcoholic beverages throughout most of the 19th century. It employed two new developments that destined the drink for stardom: the drinking straw and ice (crushed into ‘cobbles’). While we take these things for granted today, just imagine a time when folks did not know how to use a straw and required a bit of instruction, and that the other end of it was plunked down into the coldest beverage that had ever passed their lips. The drink itself is a simple affair – a good pour of sherry shaken up with sugar, orange slices and crushed ice, some berries on top, and that marvel of marvels…the straw.

Vermouth Cocktail á la Schmidt $8
This cocktail was American bartenders’ first reaction to vermouth when it began to be imported not long after the Civil War. It didn’t take much longer for them to begin ramping it up with whiskey or gin, thereby creating the Manhattan, Martinez and Martini. Originally this cocktail was a simple affair consisting of red vermouth and bitters, perhaps served with a slice of lemon. But for William Schmidt, perhaps the late 19th century’s most idiosyncratic barman, this was clearly much too plain - he adds a couple dashes of maraschino liqueur and a dash of absinthe. Compounded with Carpano Antica, up.

- rum -
Ankle Breaker $8

Cruzan overproof rum, Heering cheery liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, crushed ice. It’s somewhat crass, yet elemental – earthy cherry meets molasses with a tart citrus kick. As served in the 1950s at the Swamp Fox Room of the Francis Marion hotel in Charleston, SC. According to legend, the hotel’s namesake (a general in the Revolutionary War) broke his ankle after jumping from a 2nd story window to escape a party at which this drink was flowing too freely. It must have been a slightly different drink than this one, though, as Heering liqueur did not begin manufacture until 1818.

Cora Middleton $8
A late 19th century Old Waldorf creation that rests in an awkward place between cocktail families. Listed rather parenthetically as "Clover Club made with Jamaica rum," we're serving it with Appleton Estate’s Reserve 8 yr old, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and egg white, up.

Kingston Cocktail $7
Dark Jamaican rum, kummel (caraway, fennel & cumin liqueur), and orange juice, with a dash of allspice dram, up.

- gin -
Monkey Island Cocktail $8

2 parts dry vermouth (Dolin) to 1 part each dry gin and sloe gin, with a dash of khoosh bitters.

Saturn $8
Dry gin, lemon juice, orgeat and passion fruit syrups, falernum, and crushed ice. By J. “Popo” Galsini, a well-respected barman in many a Polynesian restaurant in 1960s southern California. This drink was a finalist in the 1967 IBA worldwide cocktail competition.

Toothfull Cocktail $8
The Toothfull is essentially a pre-Prohibition Perfect Martini with a couple key differences – the serving glass gets a Benedictine rinse, and no ice is employed in the mixing process. Tanqueray, Carpano, Dolin dry vermouth, Benedictine, orange bitters, neat.

Turf Cocktail $8
Two parts oude genever (Holland gin) to one part Carpano with a dash of Angostura, up. There are many variations of this drink, but this is how they did it at the Old Waldorf, and is arguably its best incarnation. The variety stems from the fact that there were “Turf Clubs” in most major cities, bars where sporting men could talk (and wager) horse racing without disturbance, and seemingly many of them came up with a house cocktail bearing this name. “At times a good half – possibly two-thirds – of the crowd in the Bar were interested in racing.”

= brandy =
Alabazam Cocktail $7

Martell VSOP cognac, Grand Marnier, a teaspoon each of Angostura, sugar, and lemon juice, up. Complex, spicy, a fine canvas for a full on punch of bitters. By Leo Engel, 1878.

Godfrey no. 1 Cocktail $10
Champagne dosed with a bit of kirschwasser and lemon juice, dashed with Angostura, orange bitters, and pomegranate syrup, up.

Jersey Flashlight $7
Lemon peel, Angostura bitters, sugar, hot water, Laird’s bonded straight apple brandy, fire. A William Schmidt creation, late 19th century.

My Hope Cocktail $8
2 parts cognac (Martell VSOP) to one part port wine, Peychaud’s bitters, and cayenne pepper, neat. This is another one from “the Only William.”

= mixed base =
Celebration Special $8

Equal parts Der Lachs goldwasser, Cointreau, and dry gin with a dash of lemon juice, up.

One Way $8
Equal parts gin, Swedish punsch, peach flavored brandy, and lemon juice, up. Dangerously delicious.

Sunray $9
Equal parts Buffalo Trace bourbon, Grand Marnier, Cocchi Americano, and orange juice, up.

= dessert =
Mi Amante $12

We’ve had several drinks that involved ice cream this past year, and this one was perhaps the best. My beloved is simply a couple ounces of "the best gin possible," in our case Old Raj, mixed with four times its measure in coffee ice cream. Charles Baker's admonition is spot on: "We tried this during a recent local heat wave [in Buenos Aires] with results entirely at odds with the first reaction to its written formula." Divine.

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