Tag Archives: brandy

Cocktail of the hour — the Harvard

Photo credit to Brent Beachtel

Photo credit to Brent Beachtel

Before high fructose corn syrup was king, colleges had cocktails. Not the sugar-soaked-violently-neon-OMG-Spring-Break cocktails, but more sippable drinks that packed a wallop. During the early 1900s, the Harvard was one such cocktail. This cognac-based Manhattan variation has a rich, earthy and spicy from the brandy that’s balanced by the warmth and sweetness of vermouth.

The Harvard first appeared in print in George Kappeler’s 1895 Modern American Drinks. Like the Manhattan, the Harvard’s original recipe calls for equal parts liquor and vermouth. After these ingredients are mixed, the Harvard’s recipe diverges with a splash of soda water. In the original proportion, the brandy gets lost under the additional dilution.

Within the first 20 years of the 20th century, this cocktail was rebalanced to be more spirit-forward. This newer recipe has endured to present, and changes the ratio to two parts cognac to one part vermouth. Changing the ratio balances the liquor content with both the vermouth’s sweetness and prevents over dilution, leading to a much more balanced drink.

Interestingly, Harvard variations including Chartreuse, citrus juice, maraschino liqueur and other sweeteners are occasionally mentioned in pre-Prohibition documents. That said, these Fancy (or Improved) Harvards have mostly been lost to history. Besides, this solidly balanced cocktail needs very little tweaking; it’s lush and delicious in its original form.

Recipe
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz sweet vermouth

2 oz brandy

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 12-17 seconds or until well combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with some club soda. Garnish with an orange peel if feeling citrusy.

3 Comments

Filed under Cocktail of the Hour

Cocktail of the Hour — the Champs Elysees

Yum.

Yum.

If you’ve ever taken a French class, chances are that your teacher made you sing the song called “Champs Elysées.” When I first stumbled across the Champs Elysées cocktail on drinkboy.com, I couldn’t get the song out of my head for weeks.

Tasting this drink made the earbug worth it. As a Sidecar variation, this brandy-based beverage is at once herbaceous, bold and delicately balanced. By most accounts, it’s a cocktail that’s remained largely obscure since it first appeared in Henry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. In this edition, the recipe calls for Chartreuse, while elsewhere the green or yellow is specified. This ambiguity allows the bartender (or home bartender) some room to play, so use whichever you prefer.

So little is known about this drink’s history that, much like the Last Word, ordering it is a pretty easy way to demonstrate interest in classic cocktails. It’s also worth noting that brandy-based cocktails are sometimes viewed as foreign but are actually as old (if not older than) some of the most revered whiskey cocktails.

Recipe:

1 dash Angostura bitters

.5 oz simple syrup

.5 oz (green or yellow) Chartreuse

.75 oz lemon juice

1.5 oz brandy

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and add ice. Shake for 13-16 seconds or until combined. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and enjoy.

2 Comments

Filed under BlogLikeCrazy, See Clair Mix