The cocktail is an art form that peaked in the middle of the 20th century and has been in rapid decline since. As a young lad, I was schooled in the fine art of cocktailing by my father and grandfathers, I learned many valuable lessons that I plan to pass on. I also want to resurrect some of the old classics that vastly surpass the sugary & fruity concoctions made today with their simplicity, elegance and bold flavors. Most of the time I will focus on one drink, and to provide, at least in my opinion, the definitive recipe, but hope to expand to other related topics as I see fit. Please mix yourself a cocktail, read, drink, and enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Old Fashioned (No Garbage)

The most glaring omission in my ongoing attempt to educate is perhaps my absolute favorite cocktail, so it has pained me greatly to let it sit idly by and not be recognized as the amazing drink that it is. The reason for my reluctance to add the Old Fashioned to the canonical record stems from my inability to decide whether the fruit belonged in the drink or not. I finally had an epiphany on this matter and am ready to pass on my wisdom (and hedge my bets). I realized that both variants have their place and that there is room in every bar for two Old Fashioned recipes, one made simply without fruit and another with fruit. I am going to start with the first, but will be adding the second in the very near future.

The Old Fashioned is perhaps the most bastardized cocktail I have ever come across. Depending on where you get your recipe you will see soda, sprite, ginger ale and many other preposterous ingredients that I refuse to even reference for fear of aiding in the destruction of one of America’s greatest inventions.

The Old Fashioned originated in the 1880s, at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. More importantly it is considered the first cocktail as defined by the The Balance And Columbia Repository in 1806, as spirits, bitters, water, and sugar.  Following this definition to the word, the Old Fashioned is made up of bourbon, angostura bitters, water and sugar. In lieu of water and sugar separately, I use simple syrup because it makes the drink easier to make and prevents any un-dissolved sugar from sinking to the bottom of the glass.

While many of the drinks highlighted here have many steps and tools involved this one is as simple as it gets. Start with an old fashioned glass filled with ice, add 3 oz. of your favorite bourbon (I like Woodford Reserve for this drink), 2 dashes angostura bitters, and 1 oz. of simple syrup. Stir and serve, that’s it!

This is one of those cocktails that most people have heard of, but few have tried. It can hold its own in any situation as is. If you feel the need for a simple garnish, use an orange twist. You can also use orange bitters to add a slight citrus flavor.

Old Fashioned
3 oz bourbon
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 oz simple syrup
Fill an old fashioned glass with ice.  Add the bourbon, bitters and simple syrup. Stir and serve a piece of cocktail history.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Satan's Whiskers

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that gin is an area of cocktail knowledge where I am severely lacking for recipes that I really enjoy. I partially blame my devotion to bourbon for this deficiency; I also blame the fact that I have not taken the time to get past the very basics. To remedy this misfortune, I have committed to trying at least one new gin based cocktail per week for the next eight weeks. I was hoping to find three or four that are suitable for publication; on my first dive into the gin filled pool, I came up with a winner. With a name like Satan’s Whiskers how could I have gone wrong!

The earliest reference I could find to this cocktail is the original Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930. Craddock’s recipe is slightly different from mine; I prefer a little less orange juice and a little more Gran Marnier. I was worried that the orange flavor would overpower the rest of the drink, but the gin and sweet vermouth have a nice presence and provide good balance.

This is a fairly straightforward cocktail to make. Since juicing the orange is the only step that requires any effort that is where I like to start. I tried this using both Plymouth and Hendrick’s gin and preferred the flavor of the Hendrick’s, but with all of the other flavors going on, any decent gin should yield favorable results.

One note of caution, this is one of those drinks that can really sneak up on you!

Satan’s Whiskers
¾ oz gin
¾ oz dry vermouth
¾ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz gran marnier
½ oz orange juice
2 heavy dashes orange bitters
Put all ingredients into an ice filled shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with cherries and serve.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Well Stocked Bar

I am often asked about where to start when it comes to stocking a bar. I had to put some serious thought into an answer since I have been slowly building up my collection of glassware, tools, liquors, mixers, etc. for the better part of two decades. Let’s start with the most important part, the booze.

At a minimum I would have a solid mid-to-high-end bottle of each of these fine spirits on hand. These six are the cornerstone of any well stocked bar. They make up the base of most mainstream drinks. Only a really pompous asshole would not be able to find a cocktail to their liking with this selection.
  • American Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Scotch
  • Rum
  • Tequila
Moving on to mixers, flavoring agents and garnishes. This list is pretty extensive, but most of the items will last you for a very long time, with the exception of the fruit. Realistically, this list is the one that will probably grow as you explore different cocktails. This is a comprehensive list that will not only see you through most any cocktail party, but impress your guests as well.
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Simple Syrup
  • Club Soda
  • Tonic
  • Ginger Ale
  • Coke
  • 7-Up
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Cherries
Glassware and tools round out this discussion and is the area with the most flexibility. In a pinch any glass will work and basic kitchen utensils will fill in for the tools. I will list them in the priority that I would acquire them but you could probably get by with whatever you have in your cupboards right now.
  • Old Fashioned Glasses
  • Cocktail Glasses
  • Tom Collins Classes
  • Various size Jiggers
  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Citrus Juicer
  • Muddler
  • Strainer
This is a good place to start and there is infinite room to grow in all three areas. But before you print this off and rush out and run up your amex card make a list of the five drinks you and your friends drink the most often. Make sure that everything you need to make them is on this list, particularly for your favorite drink. Also keep in mind I did not include any beer or wine on this list, but they are always good to have on hand as well.

Your bar will continue to grow and within a few years you will surely have an obscure bottle of something that sits in the back gathering dust just waiting for someone to use it. A good method for using these up and expanding your horizons is to use the bottle that has been pushed to the very back at least once a month. Pull out the bottle, see what it is and search this site or use another reference to find a recipe that uses it to try. Who knows you may find your next favorite drink!